Girls-only hackerspace teaches critical thinking through crafts

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Fine, we have no idea what this is -- but admit if a little girl made it in an all-female hackerspace, it'd be darling.

Get out your glue sticks girls, it’s time to get crafty. Turns out, all that glitters really is gold for summer campers who will wind up at the girls-only craft camps that Curious Jane is hosting in Marin County this summer. Young women aged six to 12 will glean a wealth of knowledge from DIY-centered classes aimed towards not just inspiring creativity, but cultivating critical thinking skills through projects -- costume design, storyboarding graphic novels, toy design, and more.

The Brooklyn-based company, which employs all female camp counselors, is bringing its contribution to girl power to the West Coast for the first time this summer. Curious Jane founder and mother of two Samantha Razook Murphy wanted to provide her daughters with a space to create collaboratively in an high-energy, girl-powered environment -- so she made it herself. 

Curious Jane is celebrating its cross-coastal arrival with what it's calling a hackerspace for girls on May 19, followed by a three-week summer camp session at the San Domenico School in San Anselmo starting July 29. That camp will include the workshops, and a place for girls to engage in hands-on, project based classes exploring basics in design, building, and science, fostering a sense of individual empowerment in a group setting.

The camp's marketing director Melisa Coburn was eager to hype the arts 'n' crafts-a-rama. “My daughter attends the programs and I can tell you from the "mom' perspective that girls LOVE the programs”, she tells the Guardian in email.

Keep your daughters off the couch this summer -- this camp looks great, and the May 19 event would be a great chance to give it a test run. 

Make It/Take It hackerspace for girls

May 19, 12:30pm – 4pm, $20 or $15 if you bring a friend

Marin Art and Garden Center

30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross

www.curiousjanecamp.com

Comments

Hi there. I'd like to offer to this camp in the SF Bay Area that a group of women from local hackerspaces will come and teach some actual hacking of some sort.

At least some soldering and some command line and programming skills. I have a 2 hour course suitable for middle schoolers that introduces them to password cracking, network infrastructure, and how to sniff open wifi traffic . It is very educational!

While I respect that doing nursery school level shoe painting is fun, and have sharpied many an anarchy sign into my own Converse over the years, how about if we come to you, or you come to us? Bring your young aspiring "hackerspace" campers for a visit.

You can contact me at lizheny@gmail.com.

Posted by Liz Henry on May. 09, 2013 @ 2:46 pm

Your blog looks rad. Readers who have tech-ready young women can also check out the local chapter of Girls Who Code: http://www.girlswhocode.com/

Thanks for commenting Liz.

Posted by caitlin on May. 09, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

Yarnivore,

Thanks for your comment.

I think in this case, the term “hackerspace” is used as way to describe the heavily “DIY” nature of this camp. In fact, Curious Jane defines the term on their website, as “a place where girls can come, tinker, create and meet like-minded girls”.

In this way, the term is not meant to promote sexism, but rather to engender girls with a confidence that will allow them grow into women un-intimated by male-dominated fields, like tech.

However, hackerspaces in general, although the nature of the name itself may imply tech-centric communities, can actually be any community-operated space where people (male and/or female) with common interests, goals or skill-sets can meet socialize and collaborate.

Further more, I don't think there is any implication within the post that girl-hacking precludes the incorporation of tech-based classes, nor does it make any case that boys would enjoy camps centered around computers, gaming or more “tech” involved activities more than girls would.

This “hackerspace” is Curious Jane’s way of test-piloting their program on the West Coast, but their summer camps starting July 29 will provide a more realized idea of their mission. The preliminary proposals for classes offered in the summer include courses like “Wired 101”, “Spy Science”, “Storyboarding: The Graphic Novel” and “Toy Design”, which I would argue are not gender-specific, nor are they geared towards any sexist biases which promulgate continued discrepancies of gender-inequality.

This company, and these camps are made possible by women, to celebrate women. I think they chose this term to break boundaries, not to build them.

Posted by Guest on May. 09, 2013 @ 1:38 pm

Thanks for attempting to explain the concept "hackerspace" to me.

I helped start NYC Resistor (http://www.nycresistor.com/) [the first of the modern hackerspaces in the US]. I have given talks at ETech, Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE 2008) and the Chaos Communications Congress on how to start hackerspaces (and have advised multiple spaces in the US). I am a member of the HackerHive (a Bay Area anarcha-feminist hackerspace group).

This isn't a hackerspace. This is a dead-end pink ghetto, full of glitter and glue guns, distracting young women from realizing their full potentials.

How exactly does painting canvas shoes instill "a confidence that will allow [girls] to grow into women un-intimidated by male-dominated fields, like tech"?

When the attendees of this summer camp proudly tell others that they have attended an "all-girls hackerspace", and it is discovered that what they have done there is scrapbooking and making puppets out of pipe cleaners, how are they supposed to hold their heads up high? Why lie to these kids?

Falsely describing this camp in order to clutch the coattails of the latest trend does *nothing* to promote the future of women in technology, and instead relegates them to the roles they have always filled: administration, design, documentation. I expect more from something calling itself a hackerspace.

Posted by yarnivore on May. 09, 2013 @ 2:33 pm

(I love the color pink)

It sounds like the definition of hackerspace by Curious Jane differs from yours. That's okay, the camp says nothing about promoting the future of women in technology, which is noble work that we here at the Guardian support wholeheartedly.

Here's a group of East Bay women using the term in a manner completely apart from tech. They took the inspiration for their set-up from the Chaos Communication Club in Berlin, which as a hackerspace adherent I'm sure you're familiar with:

http://mothership.hackermoms.org/about/faq/

Kid's tech camps are AWESOME, but kid's art camps are not the enemy of creativity and confidence. I doubt that the young women here will be relegated to any one profession, even if they don't learn programming at this camp.

Thanks again for lending your knowledge to the comments section here.

Posted by caitlin on May. 09, 2013 @ 3:44 pm
Um

I think you're (not deliberately) trying to divide this into an "crafts" and "tech" debate. Hackerspaces see craft and technology as inseparable, and many of us feel strongly that often the only thing that divides the two is a view of them as divisively gendered. A lot of us (hackermoms included) go to some lengths to not pigeonhole the *acts* themselves as having a gender. And so a girls-oriented hackerspace is awesome, but not if it is steering folks into traditional gendered roles, rather than giving kids the chance to explore the entire diversity of science and art. Hence the suspicion about the descriptions here which make a point of minimising the science and playing up the traditional crafting roles, presumably in a belief that brings across the "girl" nature of the event.

The mistake I think you made with the hackermoms is a good example of this: actually the mothership is heavily into tech, just as much as many of the bay area's other hackerspaces. The only way really reading that Faq that you could imagine they weren't is if you *assumed* that being moms, they wouldn't be into all of that stuff. Which is of course the kind of assumption that we're all trying to fight against. By saying that they are "completely apart from tech", you have somehow managed to pigeonhole them away from the rest of us, which is what we all fight to prevent. They're not apart from tech! We're not apart from them! That's pretty much the whole point of what the FAQ says!

It'll be absolutely awesome if Curious Jane is offering the full range of what being a hacker is: history like the importance of knitting in copyright and hacking history (http://infotrope.net/2012/05/16/knitting-as-programming/ -- something that Yarnivore knows a lot about, for instance!), how to get the stuff they're selling for free, and how to start their own camp.

I don't think that's their intent though, and so I think what really happened here was twofold. The person who wrote this wanted to use hackerspace as shorthand for "diy thingy" (not terrible, but a bit facile), and also quickly framed what girls do in camps as being all about the glitter-guns (which is facile and pretty horrible to every person who has wanted to break out of their gender role).

It's complicated, I know! Maybe a good idea would be to look up yarnivore and the hackermoms and talk to them about their ideas about gender and hackerspaces, because I think there might be a good (if complex) story there.

Posted by Danny on May. 09, 2013 @ 5:26 pm

This looks like a cute craft camp, but I don't see any use on the camp's website of the word "hackerspace", and nothing described in this article is anything more than glancingly related to hacking.

Mislabeling girl-directed crafts as "hacking" contributes to the sexism that women face every day in the tech industry. Women in hackerspaces fight daily against this sort of mischaracterization.

Celebrating this craft camp as a "girls-only hackerspace" mis-defines "girl-hacking" as painting canvas shoes and wielding glue guns (while "boy-hacking" involves computers, microcontrollers, and 3-D printing).

A 17-year-old girl just won a hackathon in Boston, singlehandedly coding a Twitter add-on that helps its users avoid spoilers about TV shows they follow.

There's nothing twee or lesser-than about *her* hacking. That's a lot more than can be said about this camp.

Posted by yarnivore on May. 09, 2013 @ 12:25 pm

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