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An Reddit interview with Bilal Ghalib, an Iraqi American who travels the world sharing maker culture for positive change, with nadeemtron, CEO of danger!awesome (a makerspace) and dawndanby (a tech-environmentalism maven), discussing their workshop “DIY Sustainability.

“My “thing” is creating inclusive spaces to solve problems, start businesses, and strengthen our communities. There’s a movement happening; and we want to see it go global. I’ve been traveling the world spreading maker love – including Iraq, Lebanon, Berlin, and a bunch of other places.

This January, my friend’s 3d printing/rapid fabrication company danger!awesome brought a new type of hackathon to Boston. Our take on the hackathon was more of a free month-long workshop, which you can see a video about, here and learn a bunch about here, on our diysustainability.org workshop site.
We’ve been experimenting with a new educational principals and format for how maker culture can impact environment and community. Many participants weren’t makers, engineers, or designers; to be inclusive, danger!awesome helped with design, fabrication, and training.
We are:
Bilal Ghalib, Artist, Activist and Catalyst
Nadeem Mazen, CEO of danger!awesome
Dawn Danby, Lifelong Sustainable Design Practitioner
What should you ask? Well, anything you want. We’re most passionate about the future of 3D printing, rapid fabrication technology, social justice, helping others create their own DIY Sustainability experience, and our mission to spread high-tech tool/training access to everyone.”

Questions/comments from Reddit:

The movement just needs new terminology. Hackspace and makers? That’s the best we could come up with? Someone disrupt some better words.

What’s wrong with those terms? The only thing I can think of is the media’s incompetence regarding “hack”.

Well I was being a bit cheeky I suppose; a word is just a word. But co-opting a word as general as “make” almost seems to suggest the billions of people making things elsewhere must not be really “making things”. (be it a cake, a painting or otherwise).
Hackspace I probably cringe at for the other reason, it’s jargon that I (or others) don’t fully understand. Does it mean doing something illegal, or unauthorized? Is it good or bad for society?

“Maker” is a bit more field-specific, but I use “hack” to minimise ambiguity. The problem is that so many people think it refers to security/cracking rather than creativity, playfulness, etc.

the answer:

I love this question and probably will love you.
Since 2009 I’ve been helping people set up hackerspaces around the world and visited more than a hundred. I //know// what you’re talking about. The hope and optimism of the transformation of capitalistic culture into one of creativity, connection and support that comes with growth of these community spaces around the world. It’s interesting to see that in 2009 we saw the start of a fast paced growth of hackerspaces internationally which isn’t slowing down. There’s a reason it happened in the wake of the economic collapse in 2008. I myself just graduating college and not looking forward to trying to get a job, instead I started a makerspace and then a business. Then in 2011 after the arab spring I started GEMSI.org initiative to share this value system with the middle east. Fundamentally the support we can offer each other inspired me more than transformation from the top down. This rearchitecting and redirecting of our efforts away from individualistic capitalism into an off-lining of the open source sharing value system is struggling with a lot of the cultural elements that define success today. Getting series A funding or being the “first” to do something. The IOTification of much of the fun creative fun projects you might have seen for the last 5 years in hackerspaces around the world is one way you can catch the drift of the culture.
Now I have no problem with business. In fact GEMSI (GEMSI.org) stands for the Global Entrepreneurship and Maker Space initiative. I recognize that there are needs and economies work. But the values I was excited to share is the vision that we together create the world around us, the responsibility and engagement of entrepreneurship. But after years of sharing “how” we do things using open source tools, sharing community spaces internationally, I recognize that there is too much tool centrism. The language and frame with which we’ve been attracting people, 3D printing, hackerspaces, open source tools have attracted more attention on the //things// happening. Not the philosophy of support, sharing and openness.
Initially I thought that when we bring hackerspaces to places with challenges we’d see projects coming up that address those that would return to the west and inform how people see how we use those spaces. That happened, but it wasn’t the norm. Often we see spaces cloning the image of success (fire breathing dragons) in hackerspaces from the western world. Since this is a cultural issue and to not be prescriptive I’ve started sharing philosophies and frameworks within the global maker community world.
So basically no, I can’t assure you. But I can promise to you that these questions are high on my list of priorities. One of the ways I’m attempting to change the conversation about what we do in makerspaces is starting the DIYSustainability effort. It’s not mine, I’ve only started to propose a set of principals that can transform the workshops/actions we take in hackerspaces that will direct our efforts into connecting to issues of sustainability. http://www.diysustainability.org/principles-to-explore-for-a-global-diy-sustainability/ The workshop and the videos we produced are ways we’re trying to share stories and practices other spaces can reproduce.
It’s a tough and hairy question which requires people like you asking this question often. Being critical about if we’re actually doing what we’re setting out to do and being honest about it.

There is so much possibility. People are getting in touch with their creativity. My main perspective is that if we focus on the community aspect, learn to work across difference, build close relationships we will start to see a transformation of what happens in these spaces.
Recently I returned to Lebanon’s hackerspace Lamba Labs. https://www.facebook.com/lambalabs and I was really moved to see something. The space has been closed for a year, all the tools went into storage and you might have called it a “failure”. Sadly one of our most active members Raja developed cancer and died. This is his video describing the importance of care in the community space: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6caqvenGUx0 I was hoping to visit him before, but I missed him. I did arrive to see the community get together, visiting his mother helping fill the house and bringing her some comfort. It made me cry. I realized that the thing these hackerspaces build that’s indestructible are relationships. The hackerspace crew is now reforming in the wake of his death inspired by his life. That to me is a beautiful story worth sharing with the rest of the maker world.
I’ll be giving some talks at republica about a concept I call “singing with the universe”. Simply the idea to realize the beauty of our collective actions we must look within and see what we have to offer, look outside to see where we’re being called – feel how we’re motivated to act – and then do.

Read the entire AMA here

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