Histories of momentary places
My hippie heart is continually entranced by communal living spaces. Permanent Hospitality Berlin, the one I'm closest to, is firmly entrenched as my favourite place in the world.
But, magical as it may be, the odds are that it won't exist in fifty years' time. Such places depend entirely on the personalities and culture involved, which change in a matter of months or less. Most disintegrate or are reabsorbed into normality, and only a very few walk the cultural tightrope for decades.
So these projects are reinvented and forgotten year by year. Permanent Hospitality has made a point of documenting itself, but I'm not convinced that words can capture any more than the basic institutional structure of such a place. It takes a work of genius such as The Electric Kool-aid Acid Test to get inside the heads of a culture (and it becomes harder, not easier, when the group are less self-consciously exhibitionist than the Merry Pranksters).
Usually, the only way of getting at the spirit of the place is through the minds of the people touched by it. I am inordinately excited by the knowledge that the hundreds of people who have encountered the project are now spread in tiny pockets across the world, bringing their idea of it wider into the project.
All of which is by way of introduction to this short essay on the hacker spaces movement, which shares at least a little with the ideology of other intentional communities. I'll leave the main thrust for another day (briefly: I disagree that being self-consciously 'political' is essential, or even necessarily helpful), but I entirely agree with the call for oral history:
To get there we really need a more explicit sense and understanding of the history of what we are doing, of the political approaches and demands that went into it long ago and that still are there, hidden in what we do right now.
So to start off we would like to organize some workshops in the hackerspaces where we can learn about the philosophical, historical and other items that we need to get back in our lives. Theory is a toolkit to analyze and deconstruct the world.
Not new, of course: once the Whole Earth Catalog, now worldchanging and a flotilla of websites provide the maps. But, especially given the noticeable age-segregation of so many projects, I feel an increasing need to pick the brains of greybears (and...erm...greybeardesses) who have been through it all before.
[ETA: As usual, Mike adds a comment that's considerably more informative than the post itself. Mike, you rock.]