All posts for Tag: San Francisco

‘Do No Evil’ Doesn’t Cut It Anymore

‘Be Excellent’ is more like it.  Or so says the loose collective of San Francisco-based hackers who run Noisebridge – a co-working space like no other.

Noisebridge is an art & technology membership organisation run on a pay-what-you-can-but-if-you-can’t-pay-that’s-okay-too business model. Anyone who buzzes in is allowed in. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

The unassuming basement, located in the Mission District in San Francisco has a solder station, 3D printer and lazer engraver. There’s plenty of space to build, prototype, or hack whatever your heart desires. With free flowing WiFi, shared desk space and a full functioning kitchen, it’s hard to imagine why anyone would leave.

At Noisebridge, all decisions are made through consensus, based on the principles of ‘do-ocracy’.  Yup, it’s exactly what you think it is:  If you want something done, do it.  Let me paint you a picture of how this translates. I interviewed a number of “members” of this space, whom I will keep anonymous for the sake of their reputation – a currency equivalent to the Kuwaiti Dinar.

Because Noisebridge is a space for everyone, almost everyone drops by. The most recent incident worth gossiping about, is that there have been a number of homeless people dropping in and have started using the space to sleep, eat and store food.  Some members complained of security issues.  Others complained about a disturbance of the creative hacker energy of the space. Other members argue that these people should be welcome to stay on the basis that there’s a hacker in all of us.

One member had his own opinion. He practiced the principle of do-ocracy and ripped off the buzzer from the front door.   This, of course, sparked a saga of a discussion on their online wiki.  Philosophical arguments and bantering currently fill the forum on who should be allowed in and howThe most viable solution so far is to hack up a mobile app which can unlock the door using a daily pin code. Not a bad solution for a collective, especially because they can likely develop it overnight.

Why is this relevant to New Media? 

Noisebridge is a living example of a culture primed for innovation.

It takes a certain level of risk tolerance to be able to deal with the unknown.  Working on things that have never been done before is messy.  Working with people that you’ve never worked with before is messy. Very messy. Building a culture of radical creativity and innovation requires a certain level of confidence and trust in the community that builds it.  The limit at which we can push the boundaries of technology and creativity is bound by the constraints that we place on ourselves: the way we organise our ideas, how we make decisions, how we execute.  A community of innovators will only thrive when we start to become aware of these shared assumptions and how they shape our creative spaces.

‘Being excellent’ as a guiding principle seems to be a pretty good start.  Kudos to Noisebridge for taking the leap.

Tina Santiago is a researcher, interactive producer and UX Designer.   In the last 9 years, she’s worked in Toronto, Geneva, and London in interactive media, design and sustainable business.  She hold a BSc in Cognitive Psychology from McMaster University and an MBA in International Organizations from the University of Geneva.  She is currently living in San Francisco, California.  @tinasantiago |