DH centers as hackerspaces

May 19th, 2010 |

What if digital humanities centers were more like hackerspaces, where students/faculty/staff could learn skills, socialize, and collaborate on projects in an informal setting? If not DH centers themselves, what if there was a space on your campus where Computer Science grad students hung out to hack on code with undergrads from English? I’m talking about a place where you could learn how to use a soldering iron, or learn about the wonders of Emacs. Think about the work at these hackerspaces as R&D, entirely participant-driven, and something closer to NiCHE’s Hacking as a Way of Knowing workshop, rather than the grant-funded model of DH that people more commonly associate with centers. Spontaneous. Non-hierarchical. Open. Fun. A hackerspace at a university could be a place where everyday is an unconference, there’s no staff, and skunkworks projects are fostered.

Over the past several years, local hackerspaces have taken hold in cities across the world from Baltimore to Berlin, from San Francisco to New York. There are already a handful of hackerspaces on college campuses like BUILDS at Boston University or MITERS at MIT. What’s next in the evolution of these spaces for tinkering and what can their relationship with digital humanities be?

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2 Responses to “DH centers as hackerspaces”

  1. ethan.watrall Says:

    I love this idea…but am concerned about its practicality. Whether we like it or not, the grant-funded model is (arguably) how things work (and will continue to work) in universities. How would you justify such a space to university admin? What about a hackerspace ethos inside of a traditional DH center…such as a lab (which both exists within the infrastructure of a center and therefor is palatable to university admin, and is somewhat self contained)?

  2. THATCamp 2010 » Blog Archive Says:

    […] I’d like to take the question one step further than Dave Lester does when he asks in his THATCamp post, “What if digital humanities centers were more like hackerspaces?” I’d like to […]


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