China Hacks Hackerspaces

Despite being personally craft-impaired, machine-intimidated and electronically inept, Maker culture makes me happy. There is something deeply comforting about all that creative comradery and geeky can-do spirit.

My occasional visits to Chicago’s Pumping Station One (PS1)—with its signature TARDIS tucked in a corner and quotes by Mandela and Burham adorning the walls—always leave me hopeful. This is Man and Woman at their tool-making, tool-using, inventive best. Something good will come of this…

The free-for-all multi-disciplinary mix and match of Maker spaces speaks to the philosophical heart of the TrackerNews’ beat. Stories on Maker Faires and innovation labs have been highlighted on the aggregator ("Bar, Hack, Lab, Fix: The Genius of Play and the Power of Opportunity").

Still, it came as a bit of a surprise to read about the rising popularity of hackerspaces in China (HT to Helen Walters at “Thought You Should See This…”). By definition, hackers are rule-benders, a risky pursuit in a country whose government can be touchy about such things (see "Who’s Afraid of Ai Weiwei").

Yet in less than a year, hackerspaces have gone from a few tiny outposts such as the Beijing Maker Space, set up in a a room barely large enough to hold 10 people, a few tables and some gear-filled shelves, to a full-fledged movement blessed by the powers-that-be. 

Nov.24, 2011

Shanghai Government Technology committee has issued a call for a proposal to build 100 community hackerspaces with government funding for equipment. The communities in resident area are going to manage the spaces and pay for the materials. Each space is required to be at least 100 square meters, more than 200 days/year open, equipped with wood lathes, metal lathes, saws and drill grinding combined machine, milling machine and other tools…

Whether or not it is possible to mandate creativity, there is a certain “if you build it, they will come” magic to Maker culture. Clearly, the government understands the potential benefit—and at least this way, no doubt, figures it will better be able to keep an eye on things. 

From the genius of a faux MakerBot…

One of the interesting projects that they have worked on is a 3D printer that can amazingly make 3D objects. The original version came from an open source lab in America called MakerBot…”We found a local vendor to supply all the electronic parts, made a few changes and made it.”… They are even trying to print a plastic human! They are also working on a 3D scanner to scan 3D objects then connect it to the 3D printer.


…to the genius of invention, everybody, not just the Chinese government, should be watching. 

“You’d also be surprised at how many people are willing to give away electronics they don’t use to experiment with…To them it’s junk. To us, probably the vitals of our next robot.”


— J. A. Ginsburg / @TrackerNews