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Category Archives: Hacker Culture

I recently came across this article. The basic argument is that the tech industry, while increasingly using the terms like “commons” “town hall” and “community center”, is in practice creating more spaces cut off from the public for employee use only.

The disappearing commons is not a problem caused by the tech industry. The tech industry is just following along with the city’s already poor urban planing. There are very few places that are even available at all for public use in the Bay Area. In Oakland, you’ve got the library (where funding is being cut left and right). You’ve got “public parks”, but we all know what happens if you try to stay past curfew in a public park. There are some Recreation Centers but these are mostly for sports and rentals.

Where are the commons? Where are the places I can go to have a meeting with friends and collaborators without having to pay $3 for a cup of coffee? Or places where I can go to stay warm and chat with neighbors when the house is cold and lonely. It is not just the tech industry that thinks in terms of acquiring space instead of liberating it. Even in Berkeley, where there are loud echos of the cultural revolutions of 60’s and 70’s, people have large homes and small or non existent commons.

We need to liberate more space. In Oakland, as the steel industry left, spaces that were once industrial centers became repurposed. In the past decade there has been a migration of artists coming to Oakland specifically because of the variety of space that’s available. What is also happening (mainly through the work of post-occupy activists) is that space is being repurposed for the commons. Organizations such as Sudo Room and The Bay Area Public School are leading the way in this movement. But things are just getting started.

One day I would love to see a true community center in every neighborhood. Where people can go to talk, create, plan, and most importantly share resources. Sure the tech industry has created walled off cities for Goolers, Mozillians, and Twits (?), but what’s the alternative for them? Large fancy strip malls with $15 burritos? Just as they have used the collective wealth off their companies to provide for the needs of their employees, we must use the collective wealth of our communities to provide for the needs of our friends, neighbors, and comrades.

After a The Mayor of oakland appologized publicaly for promoting a lockpicking class in her newsletter, I would encourage everyone to remember one of the many legit uses of the skill…. What follows are yelp reviews of locksmiths

1. “These mother fuckers should burn in hell. Quit scamming people. You’d make more money actually being nice honest and helping more people that like your business instead of charging a shit load for 1 customer and losing 27490291.

2. “…The guy shows up in literally 10 minutes, pops open the door in about 30 seconds and then charges me $100 for the “labor” because opening a door is a $100 charge. WTF… Such bullshit. Two stars for him being super speedy though.”

3. “Since my cat was inside crying and needing to be fed- I told him I would pay $200 for him to unlock it or I was going to call someone else. He ended up drilling the lock out and then wanting to charge another $190 to replace it. Preying on desperate people in bad situations.”

4. “When he got here he said it would be 29 dollars service fee and 100 to pick the lock, he spent exactly 30 seconds trying to pick the lock, said it was unpickable and went to his car to get a drill and another lock to replace it. Took him may be 15 minutes to drill and replace the lock then he handed me a bill for 258 dollars. I said how could something that jtook under 30 minutes with very little effort cost so much. He didn’t care, just took my credit card and charged it.”

5. IF I COULD GIVE THEM NEGATIVE STARS I WOULD NOT HESITATE! This is my first review and I actually made a yelp account just to save anyone from falling into their scam they call a business.

6. They call themselves locksmiths, but that is a joke. They completely busted our font door lock (to the point that the handle was hanging loosely off the door and no long worked to keep the door closed), then proceeded to charge (and demand!) $150 for the “service.” I could have gotten in a lot quicker and cheaper by borrowing a neighbor’s hammer!

Just as relevant today as it was in 1996. This is a Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace.

A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace
by John Perry Barlow

Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.
We have no elected government, nor are we likely to have one, so I address you with no greater authority than that with which liberty itself always speaks. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. You have no moral right to rule us nor do you possess any methods of enforcement we have true reason to fear.
Governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed. You have neither solicited nor received ours. We did not invite you. You do not know us, nor do you know our world. Cyberspace does not lie within your borders. Do not think that you can build it, as though it were a public construction project. You cannot. It is an act of nature and it grows itself through our collective actions.
You have not engaged in our great and gathering conversation, nor did you create the wealth of our marketplaces. You do not know our culture, our ethics, or the unwritten codes that already provide our society more order than could be obtained by any of your impositions.

Cyberspace consists of transactions, relationships, and thought itself, arrayed like a standing wave in the web of our communications. Ours is a world that is both everywhere and nowhere, but it is not where bodies live.
We are creating a world that all may enter without privilege or prejudice accorded by race, economic power, military force, or station of birth.
We are creating a world where anyone,, anywhere may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity.
Your legal concepts of property, expression, identity, movement, and context do not apply to us. They are all based on matter, and there is no matter here.
In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole, the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat.
In China, Germany, France, Russia, Singapore, Italy and the United States, you are trying to ward off the virus of liberty by erecting guard posts at the frontiers of Cyberspace. These may keep out the contagion for a small time, but they will not work in a world that will soon be blanketed in bit-bearing media.

These increasingly hostile and colonial measures place us in the same position as those previous lovers of freedom and self-determination who had to reject the authorities of distant, uninformed powers. We must declare our virtual selves immune to your sovereignty, even as we continue to consent to your rule over our bodies. We will spread ourselves across the Planet so that no one can arrest our thoughts.
We will create a civilization of the Mind in Cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before.
Davos, Switzerland
February 8, 1996