Mapping hackers: DIY community survey 2012 results

Written by Jarkko Moilanen. Posted in Longitudinal results, Survey Result

‘Commons-based peer production’ is a term coined by Harvard Law School professor Yochai Benkler to describe a type of socio-economic production in which the creative energy of large numbers of people is coordinated (usually with the aid of the Internet) into large, meaningful projects mostly without traditional hierarchical organization or centralised decision making.[1] In the book The Wealth of Networks Benkler describes in detail the idea and content of commons-based peer production.

Commons-based production as “a socio-economic system of production that is emerging in the digitally networked environment” [2] is different from market-based and company-based production in that the resources used and the products produced are shared among the participants in the distributed network. A subset of commons-based production is peer production in which participants are self-selected and decision-making is distributed. Commonly known examples of commons-based peer production communities are Wikipedia, Linux and PirateBay. One of the latest additions to the list is the RepRap [6] community and projects related to it.

This survey was targeted to Peer Production communities such as hackerspaces, makerspaces, DIYbio communities, 100k garages and fablabs. DIY communities related taxonomy is in literature somewhat vague and lacks clarity. One of the reasons for this is that even the communities themselves are constantly drawing new lines (just for the sake of clarity, nothing else) between for example hackerspaces and makerspaces. I have discussed this topic in another article “Good and bad – makers and hackers?

Troxlers research is a good starting point for my study. Troxler has published 2010 a mapping of Fabbing world [3]. Model classifies different forms of ‘fabbing communities’ based on how project or infrastructure oriented they are and whether they are generative or reproductive.

Mapping of Fabbing world by Troxler [3]

Drawing 1: Mapping of Fabbing world by Troxler (3)

In his paper [3] Troxler identifies one limitation in his research “yet the approach is lacking at least one fourth element, the study of actual users of Fab Labs. Such a study based on participant observation and other methods should be able to clarify attitudes and behaviour of Fab Lab users as important stakeholders of a hybrid innovation model.

My current research which is based on annual surveys (discussed below in details) among the members of Peer Production communities is intended to continue Troxlers work and provide some more insight on attitudes and behaviour of Peer Production members.


Survey and targeted groups.

Drawing 2: Research target groups. Yellow groups were targeted in this Peer Production survey and sharing platforms was target of 3D Manufacturing community survey conducted earlier this year.

Drawing 2: Research target groups. Yellow groups were targeted in this Peer Production survey and sharing platforms was target of 3D Manufacturing community survey conducted earlier this year (4)

Two surveys – general and targeted

The results are drawn from two surveys: peer production community survey and 3D manufacturing Community survey. Peer Production community survey has been conducted annually for year years, 2010 – 2012. The latter was conducted for the first itme in May 2012 and is also intended to become annually repeated survey. Aim is to provide results which as based on longitudinal statistical data. Combining the results will hopefully provide more accurate information and a chance to map community types in the map more precisely.

Missing community types

Troxlers model is a good start but it lacks some forms of ‘fabbing’, namely makerspaces and DIYbio. Troxler mentions TechShops, but based on my research and observations in DIY community, it has a lot of similarities compared to makerspaces. Yet in hackerspaces discussion mailing list makerspaces and hackerspaces intertwine at least in discussion level. In addition to that a lot of makerspaces are listed in list of spaces.

    • Where to put makerspaces in the map?

Another community type which has been rising lately and is missing from the map is biohackers which are organized as DIYbio community.

    • Where to put DIYbio in the map?

Results will be discussed in the following pages.

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Jarkko Moilanen

Experienced community builder in realms of hackerspaces and MeeGo networks, several successful project management positions in software development and system design.

Comments (5)

  • jarkko


    First of all, thanks for the comment. The distinction is not made up artificially. For example hackerspaces/makerspace do that themselves. Some of them identify themselves to be separate; some hackerpaces refuse to be labelled as makerspace and so forth. Therefore it’s about identities and what makes ‘makerspace’ and what it is not. It’s the same thing with hackers, we don’t call of them just hackers; there’s at least 3 subcategories. However, it can be questioned whether that taxonomy has any real value outside academia.

    Back to communities :) They are not “all playing on the same team”, they have different views to external funding for example. Or perhaps more correctly, they play to same game (hacking) but with different rules.

    I’m not making or creating any artificial boundaries, but rather trying to find out why we have hackerspaces, makerspace, diybio communities, fablabs, 100k garages and why all of them can’t be just peer production community :) Remember again that it’s not me who has created the labels, communities have done that themselves. But in my eyes, they all represent the wonderful world of hacking.


  • Charlie L


    Fascinating site and topic. If you google “hackerspaces” you’ll immediately hit “” which is an actively-maintained wiki. I expect your next surveys could have a much larger sample space. Please don’t overlook Texas in your surveys — cities (large & small) in the state all have hackerspaces in various levels of development. I’m hoping to get involved in the Houston hackerspace soon ( )


  • iainmacl


    Interesting work. Our creativity research team is interested in undertaking such surveys but the danger is exactly as you’ve commented – survey fatigue. Yet the results of such work could be very useful indeed in providing a richer picture not just of hackerspaces but also of motivation for learning, etc, which we are particularly interested in.


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