[knowledgelab] Re: hacklab - too technical?

Harry Halpin hhalpin at ibiblio.org
Tue Nov 15 02:38:04 GMT 2005

Actually the original use of the word hacking is simple an elegant and 
clever solution to a problem - involving usually some quick and ad-hoc
thinking, often under time and resource constraints. One tends to do this
thing sort of a lot in computer programming - although one is often left
with the "kludge" - a not clever brute force solution instead sometimes.
The use of the word "hacking" to mean "breaking into computer systems"
is a corruption of the original usage by the media more or less. Although
a clever and elegant system break-in would qualify as a hack.

Still, there is nothing in the word "hacking" that is even particular
to computers, and technical only in the wider sense of the word - as
in techne - and working on practical and elegant solutions with limited
resources is probably a good corrective for over-academic theorizing :)
I think we should just let the hacklab be totally open to proposals, both
those traditionally technical and those that aren't.


On Mon, 14 Nov 2005, Jamie Heckert wrote:

> I guess in a way the point I was trying to make was that the event =looks= 
> super geeky-techie exclusive. If I make an effort, with supportive thoughts 
> such as Ionnek's, I can get past that, but it isn't easy. I would like to see 
> it made easier. :)
> I'd like to do the Erotic Potential of Everyday Life workshop again, as I 
> loved it and would like to give more folk a chance to participate as it is 
> limited to a small group. Dunno if it'll have a tech spin or not, but 
> whatever. :)
> Jamie
> ionnek wrote:
>> Hello all,
>> I understand Jamie, Philips and others concerns that the next knowledgelab 
>> might be "too technical". However, I'd like to express a warning against 
>> separating "tech" from "social" or "political" meetings.
>> In my experience, the strength of "hacklabs" is precisely to bring tech 
>> content and social content into communication, to create a space where 
>> "techies" and "non-techies" can rub shoulders and identify collaborations. 
>> Although this separation is highly questionnable it itself ;-)
>> A few years ago, i was dragged into a hacklab event in Spain, and it turned 
>> out completely accessible. I participated in a session on electronic civil 
>> disobedience, a very lively discussion about aviation campaigns (lufthansa 
>> campaign, s/iberia campaign...) - the idea of image pollution against 
>> deportation airlines via internet/leaflets/campaigning/direct action. 
>> Technical, but in a wider sense reality-hacking. Hacking as an activity 
>> that corrects faults in a system, which can be technical but just as well 
>> social or political.
>> Another example would be indymedia. In 1999, the first indy software was 
>> technically cutting-edge, and it was developed for the specific needs of a 
>> local activist community in Sydney, by activists who were also techies or 
>> researchers. I participated in the customising of another indymedia 
>> software generation for imc uk in 2003 as an informed user - a few months 
>> of manic activity, identifying our needs, working out what would be 
>> technically possible and politically useful and socially practical. This 
>> interfacing between developers and users is a huge problem for corporate 
>> software development, and I think it's one of "the movement's" strong 
>> points to be able to bring the two together.
>> How do we use technology? How can we make better connections between 
>> individual websites (like the ifi site), forums, mailing lists, and huge 
>> collaborative projects like indymedia? How to make sure that the countless 
>> activist webstreams are heard and seen by more than a dozen of people? How 
>> to interface virtual and physical space? What about privacy? Sometimes it 
>> is useful to have encrypted tools like ssh-chats, pgp encrypted emails etc. 
>> I think most of us are using web-based tools in one way or other. Normally 
>> we just take them for granted - but then things like the seizure of 2 
>> UK-based indymedia servers by the FBI, or the eavesdropping of Italian 
>> authorities on the autistici server remind us that the internet is not 
>> outside the reach of governments, secret services, legal systems who don't 
>> always do us justice. Protecting servers is not just a techie activity. 
>> Like direct action people need circles of support around them, servers and 
>> other technical ressources need support of their users to unfold their 
>> potential. Take the campaign against software patents - a lot of the 
>> technical communication infrastructure of social movements would be fucked 
>> if they'd have to buy proprietary software, not only because of the price 
>> but also because proprietary software often doesn't do what we need it to 
>> do. That's not purely a techie campaign.
>> So I imagine that the hacklab part of the knowledgelab won't be a bunch of 
>> proverbial nerds autistically hunched over keyboards doing esoteric coding. 
>> Rather, I imagine it as a space where we look at all sorts of technological 
>> gadgets, from video formats to peer to peer production tools, evaluate what 
>> we are doing with them and identify ways to put them to even wider, more 
>> integrated use. I also imagine a space for critique: at the last k-lab, 
>> people often jokingly said "let's put it on a wiki" or "let's start a 
>> mailing list" when time was up or discussions got stuck. What's behind 
>> this? When does wiki turn into an escape from difficult discussions, when 
>> is it really useful? That's as much a social question as it is technical.
>> best
>> ionnek
>> Jamie Heckert wrote:
>>> Hi all,
>>> I've come back from the last weekend totally transformed (thank you all!) 
>>> and am looking forward to what happens next. One thing I'm unsure about, 
>>> though, is how techie-geek-centric the february event is to be. Technology 
>>> ain't my thing (I'm more of a sex geek) and if that were the focus of the 
>>> whole weekend, there wouldn't be much point in me coming. How much scope 
>>> is there for us to reinvent this event? How much desire is there for a 
>>> techie-focussed weekend? Shall we mix and match?
>>> Love,
>>> Jamie
>>> mp wrote:
>>>> ________________________________________________________
>>>> ________________________________________________________
>>>> Hacklab: Technology, Creativity, Social Organisation
>>>> A weekend gathering for collaborative and creative reflection
>>>> February 3/4/5  2006
>>>> Institute for Advanced Studies
>>>> Lancaster University, North West England.
>>>> http://lists.aktivix.org/mailman/listinfo/knowledgelab
>>>> http://knowledgelab.pbwiki.com
>>>> (knowledgelab.org.uk coming soon)
>>>> (see also http://www.hacklab.org.uk)
>>>> You are happily invited to the Hacklab, which is a follow-up event to
>>>> (sadly titled?) Making Global Civil Society (the funders liked it)
>>>> that took place in Lancaster, November 4/5/6. It is hosted at and with
>>>> the support of the Institute for Advanced Studies (IAS) at Lancaster
>>>> University. Since the gathering will be defined by those who get
>>>> involved in preparing it, the lists below are merely suggestions.
>>>> The plan is to experiment with formats and settings, looking for
>>>> helpful, creative moments. Suggestions so far include smaller groups,
>>>> with intimate, intense, and longer discussions about a particular topic.
>>>> For instance, 10-12 people in a room for 3-4 hours, discussing a human
>>>> rights article in relation to social movements, a question, some
>>>> concept, whatever - and, for example, write a declaration, compile a CD,
>>>> or?? based on note taking and audio recordings.
>>>> The ideal is to go beyond conventions.
>>>> To play and to experiment there wil also be themed spaces (hacklab setup
>>>> with alt/DIY media intros/hands-on stuff) - suggest something!
>>>> We imagine talks and discussions about things like:
>>>> *technology and social organisation, such as novel management and
>>>> organisation within free software projects or hacklabs, as well as DIY
>>>> media
>>>> *freedom of information & communication and related social, political,
>>>> or cultural movements
>>>> *digital divides and tribal connections
>>>> * nanotechnology and genetic modification: resistance and/or
>>>> democratisation?
>>>> * sustainable/renewable/alternative (hippie) technologies
>>>> * anarchism, cryptography, privacy and identity in cyberspace
>>>> *free hardware?
>>>> *the EU Software Patent Directive (swpat.ffii.org) as enclosure
>>>> *feminism and information technology
>>>> *primitivism (as a technology?)
>>>> *organic composition in music and elsewhere?
>>>> *psychedelic technologies
>>>> Additionally, we hope to create spaces for hands-on workshops, get in
>>>> touch if you have skills to share:
>>>> *how to use Free Software for everyday purposes, like emailing
>>>> (Thunderbird, Evolution), web surfing (Firefox), text writing
>>>> (OpenOffice.org) and photo manipulations (GIMP) etc.
>>>> *installation of GNU/Linux operating systems (to dual-boot with or to
>>>> replace M$ Windows)
>>>> *using the command line interface: the basics
>>>> *learning (to write) code: from sys-admin scripts to wherever your
>>>> skills may take you
>>>> *system security, privacy, encryption, set up a safe computer network
>>>> at home or at work
>>>> *women demystifying the box: understanding components to repair hardware
>>>> and install software
>>>> *recycle computers: provide access to the public and for artistic
>>>> installations, such as VJ-ing
>>>> *any other hacks
>>>> Participation is limited to a hundred people.
>>>> TO: n.moeller at lancaster . ac . uk
>>>> Costs, incl. (predominantly organic and vegan by 'the fat olive')
>>>> Friday dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner:
>>>> Volunteers/unpaid/unwaged: Free
>>>> Unfunded students: Donation
>>>> Funded students, Lancaster academics: £20 (additional donation welcome!)
>>>> Representatives of "smaller" NGOs: £35 (negotiable)
>>>> Representatives of "bigger" NGOs: £65
>>>> Academics: £65
>>>> http://knowledgelab.pbwiki.com/FrontPage - currently migrating to
>>>> www.knowledgelab.org.uk via
>>>> http://knowledgelab.iskra.net/wiki/Main_Page
>>>> chat: irc.indymedia.org #research - quick link: 
>>>> http://chat.indymedia.org/?chans=research
>>>> --------------------------------------------------------
>>>> Some people are rumoured to be working on multimedia installations:
>>>> music, video and other altered states of mind. Live improvised piano and
>>>> more Saturday night: make it the Institute of Advanced Creativity and
>>>> Improvisation :)
>>>> There is also a session being planned about how academic research
>>>> projects can learn from grassroots movements' and other cyberspace
>>>> groups' use of ICT for collaborative projects (and knowledge creation)
>>>> with the view to form a collective to provide such services for academic
>>>> research projects, -like aktivix/sindominio/autistici/mutualaid/riseup
>>>> community servers do for cultural, social and political projects. The
>>>> "profits" that could maybe be accumulated from "research contracts"
>>>> would go into a fund to have more knowledge lab events. A kind of
>>>> self-sustainable think tank, a parasite/pirate/autonomous university?
>>>> _______________________________________
>>>> NB: See http://www.georgefox6.co.uk
>>>> _______________________________________
>>>> _______________________________________________
>>>> knowledgelab mailing list
>>>> knowledgelab at lists.aktivix.org
>>>> http://lists.aktivix.org/mailman/listinfo/knowledgelab
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 	Harry Halpin
 	Informatics, University of Edinburgh

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