Collaborative Communities and Identity – Textual Response

February 21, 2011

If analyzing the word “hacking” or “to hack”, one almost immediately comes to a metal composite image of all the sinister movie and television representations of the “hacker”, generally the young male, bright, incredibly adept at electronics and horribly equipped socially, in his basement causing mayhem and mischief. There is a paradigm shift occurring surrounding this terminology. Rather, we have both regressed back to the original definition of term and expanded it. A hack, in essence, is a reconfiguration or reprogramming of a technological system to function in a way different than originally intended by its creator. Increasingly the term “hacking” brings up a cultural image of the do-it-your-self mentality, collaboration, and about taking something and turning it into something else with greater benefits.

What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rodgers discusses this concept on a broad level; pinpointing the many levels that collaboration has begun grow into the norm. One of the key values Botsman and Rodgers discusses is collaborative lifestyles, often emerging from a belief in common information. We have reached a place where the fight for equality of information is a valid and heated debate among many groups. The way the information age has shaped our mentality is by empowering people to be creators of information rather than passive retainers of standardized knowledge. Thanks to a wealth of resources, no longer is the world about having the right answer, but asking the right questions.

Collaborative communities, both on a virtual level and a physical level are allowing people to share information and educate one another at little or no cost to either party. The term “do-it-yourself” actually refers to a community-wide mentality against buying in excess, but learning skills and obtaining knowledge against the mainstream channels. There is a bond that is created between members of the same community, a trust that would not normally exist, by the equality that each member is both an expert and a student at the same time. Collaborative communities are straying away from the capitalist view of education: that education is for the end goal to get a job and make a profit. Rather, there has been a resurgence of renaissance ideals of innovation, combined with thrift and efficiency, and furthered with the constantly evolving technologies.

The organizations and people that have been proponents of the ideals of collaborative communities are not new, but the accessibility has only emerged recently with the ability and awareness to connect digitally, and therefore globally. There are physical locations all over the word where people with common interests, usually in computers, technology, or digital or electronic art meet, socialize, and collaborate. They are open community labs incorporating elements of machine shops, artist’s studios, and schools where individuals can come together to share resources. With the power of the Internet, these communities are able to communicate more freely with one another, across state lines and oceans. They are able to share a wealth of information and skills with one another, bringing learning and skills to other communities that might not have had access previously. Together these communities can plan projects and events at low or no cost, coming together at events to show off their projects and show both similarities and differences in each individual community. These communities have also been proponents of collaborating to bring skills and resources to those less fortunate around the world.

Just as the concept of identity is being constantly adapted and altered as people grow their digital presence alongside their physical one, the concept of community is also growing and expanding. No longer are communities cloistered by their physical boundaries, they are interconnected on a global level. This gives individuals more access to information and education, furthering the individual experience. Ultimately, collaborative communities are raising the standards of living by raising the standard

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