To understand why we, or anyone else, would want to “hack”, it helps to understand how those currently in the hacking community use the term, and what they mean by the term.
In our case, the term “hack” generally refers to taking an object, process, situation, or just about anything else we can think of, analyzing it, then figuring out how we can make it better, or what we can do to effect a positive change quickly.
Then once we figure out how we can hack a tool, process or system, we work hard to do so in order to promote speed, efficiency or beauty. That’s what we mean by hacking. Oh, did I mention that hacking is much more effective in groups? Hence the hackerspace.
In many instances, what we might do is add or subtract a piece or two of technology to an object or system, in order to make whatever we started with easier to use or deal with, more accessible, more open, or generally more capable. But not every hack we undertake or support has a technology component.
People also hack systems, ideas or established ideologies. Look at the work of Sugata Mitra, the inventor of the SOLE (Self Organized Learning Environment). He successfully hacked many aspects of education with nothing more than a out-of-date computer and an internet connection and he achieved some stunning results. In one example, illiterate street children in India taught themselves not only how to use a computer, how to work together and other useful skills, but even basic molecular biology!
OK, that’s a little bit about the what and how of hacking. Now the why. Why do we hack and why might you wish to join us?
For a lot of us on Hornby, it starts with a simple fact: we love our island. We celebrate Hornby’s culture, cherish its community DIY (do it yourself) spirit, and delight in its out door spaces and excellent climate. We love Hornby, and as much as we enjoy it, we are goaded along by the simple idea that it could be even better.
One problems we’ve considered hacking is a common problem, not unique to Hornby, but made simpler to hack because of the excellent work done at the recycling depot: batteries.
Many of us, myself definitely included, have dead or very tired NiCad battery packs for various cordless tools. These batteries are very expensive and often end up in landfill.
What if the hackerspace had a spot welder and was able to take apart, test, replace individual cells and renovate these old cordless batteries? Could we create a battery library? Could we pool our batteries and power eBikes or other tools? Could we hack designed obsolescence and build community at the same time? Imagine not needing to worry about your cordless batteries ever again: what a feeling of relief. And we would be diverting usable materials from landfill, too. One simple bit of technology, the spot welder, couples with the hacking ethos and we create more self sufficiency, more resilience, more community and more peace of mind.
So that’s why we hack: to make Hornby a better place for all of us. Please join us on Monday April 4th at the Fire Hall to be part of the next steps toward creating something unique and valuable. Remember, at the Happy Hornby Hackerspace everyone has something to offer.
By Sasha LeBaron on behalf of the Happy Hornby Hackerspace, a family friendly community work space and innovation centre.