Millennial Hackers

May15

Posted by Ken Y

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“Laser!”

 

We turn away while the carbon dioxide laser pulses.  The char spot on the business card attached with masking tape to intercept the beam is still off center.  <sigh>

 

“Do you have any keys available for a potential key holder?” calls someone from the other side of the space. “ They’re a bit shady, though.”

 

My partner in hackerspace laser-cutter alignment looks up.

 

“I’ll check.  We need more shady.  Too many of us are losing our shadiness as we get older.”

 

I’ve been a member this hackerspace in a nondescript industrial building east of downtown Los Angeles for a little over a month.   Though it is a membership space (cash, paypal and bitcoin accepted) when the doors are open the space is open to all without the daily usage fee associated with other spaces.

 

I fall into the “old school” hacker category, but the majority of the makers I’ve encountered in this space have been culturally diverse millennials, about one third of them women.

 

A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a meeting room in the part of LA known as Silicon Beach at the annual meeting of another hackerspace in which I hold a membership.    The room skewed older and non-hispanic whiter. The percentage of men was significantly higher.   On reflection it doesn’t surprise me that there was much discussion about procedure, structure, and which members could or couldn’t vote for what.  Also not surprising, that space is much less open.  Non-member “guests” are limited to the front meeting/classroom space.  There are surcharges for using certain pieces of equipment.

 

In contrast, the culture here is inclusive, collaborative and favors peer learning.  This matches traits associated with the millennial generation.  In a Virgin Unite survey of young millennials 82% thought that “collaboration and inspiration drive innovation” and 73% agreed that “you’ve got to lift as you climb”.   These young millennials are the teens and young adults studied for the 2010 MIT report on HOMAGO — they learn by Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out.  They’re helping each other learn soldering, coding, lock-pick — er — smithing, 3D Video production and whatever else piques their curiosity.   They are adventurous.  Perhaps a bit mysterious.  Even shady.

 

There are no hourly surcharges for using the laser cutter we’re aligning.

 

“Laser!”

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