The sad truth is that despite years of web sites (like ours) fighting the stereotype that a hacker is a lone coder sitting in a dank room chopping away at government websites, we have popular opinion and mainstream media perpetuating the misappropriation of the word against us. We’ll probably never win. But we most definitely will keep on
But that is not what a hacker is, and kindred spirit Robin Farah took to the stage at Tech4Africa yesterday to explain that a hacker is simply someone who takes things apart to make different things and new stuff. According to Farah, who is the founder of Cape Town makerspace KickAssTech-Obviously (KAT-O), the first hacker in the world was probably Benjamin Franklin, as “we all know what he created and what he invented”.
Giving an example of her definition of a hacker, she mentioned the Landfillharmonic, an art project in Paraguay where hackers create philharmonic instrument with rubbish found on the country’s landfills.
“Some amazing things are coming out of these makerspaces. It gives people access to things that you generally won’t have access to. It is a space to create, learn and take things apart to figure out how they work. Makerspaces are a huge thing, but you have to work with the locals to make it work.”
But she does warn that although there are some established maker spaces across the country, especially in Johannesburg and Cape Town, there is still a lot of room for improvement in South Africa. That’s a message which we’ve heard voiced before, by House4Hack’s Schalk Heunis.
The problem at the moment, she says, is that by their nature makerspaces are quite self-contained. More could be done to get them talking to each other and helping new spaces to form.
“There are several communities across the country that are doing their own thing, so everyone is rather disconnected from each other, and the maker spaces are very separated.”
As for what can be done to improve the maker spaces in South Africa, she has a couple of suggestion. “We need to integrate the information and spread the world, so that everyone will know that there are maker spaces out there for them to join. Collaboration with the community is also very important and we need to embrace technology”.