Sweden fail

6 Comments

A reaction to the Police raid on premises of hackerspace Forskningsavdelningen in Malmö.

MC has written a good summary in english of the many swedish news articles. I recommend you to start reading there for a summary of events.

I have had a strong interest in technology since I was 4-or-so years old. I have a distinct memory from that age of taking apart a radio receiver and putting it back together again. It looked strange and intriguing on the inside. I've spent the larger part of my life learning about technology on my own, with fairly little resources.

Technology is a passion for me.

Over the years I've managed to acquire some amount of equipment and competence, in areas that have been particularly interesting. In the course of trying to develop a company I've invested in creating a basic electronics lab, but I am also still using equipment from when I was a child. Just last week I spent a few hours on repairing a variable benchtop power supply which I remember buying with combined christmas present money in the early 1990s.

I have always felt that anything offered to me in school in my field of interest was inadequate and dissatisfying.

I knew when I was in fourth grade that I wanted to design and produce electronics. I was very happy when I was given a simple soldering iron on my 10th birthday. I collected LEDs and sold self-soldered headphone Y-connectors to my classmates for their walkmans, and I told them about how I was looking forward to seventh grade, because I knew that there was an electronics course in the curriculum and I hoped to learn more there.

Came that time, I was disappointed. I knew it all. I assisted the teacher. I continued on my own. Absurdity progressed with age - in high school I was correcting errors in the programming course litterature. I didn't go to university, in part because I was so sick of school, in part because I got a job, in part because I had learned about some university schoolwork from older friends, and again it left me unimpressed. (I am not saying that there is nothing to learn at the university - there is always a lot to learn, everywhere!)

I proudly think of myself as an autodidactic hacker. "Hacker" translates to curiosity and an urge for understanding. Other, maybe more familiar, words could be scientist, researcher or developer, but those words usually apply only in some particular settings in our society.

The hackerspace name Forskningsavdelningen translates to "The research department".

It has taken me 20 years to build an electronics lab. Now, I barely find time to work there, and my only real chance of exploring electronics further is to slowly introduce interesting technology when it makes sense in my customers' projects.

I have always felt fairly alone in my city. I had one or two friends with whom I explored technology in my school years, programming games, building I/O expansions for PC and Amiga, and adding some relays to them in order to flash lights. A few years ago I started visiting the conference between Christmas and New Year's Eve arranged by the Chaos Computer Club in Berlin, and maybe for the first time in my life, I felt that I had come to a conference where I truly belonged. (Defcon was fun too.) Last year I was very happy to run into a few people from my own city, and to learn that they had started a hackerspace here!

I have made some good friends at the hackerspace, two of us are studying to become licensed amateur radio operators, others at the space are already licensed, and we (well, I at least) want to experiment with radio networks in urban environments, with long range and reliability having very clear priority over high throughput.

I'm fairly certain that my life would have been better both when growing up and today, if I had been able to join a hackerspace and go there to experiment, learn and evolve, together with my peers! If we had been 20 people, maybe it would have taken us just a few years to build a lab like the one that has taken me 20 years to build alone?

Reading about how the Police's "disruption of an illegal nightclub" has in fact disrupted the hackerspace here in Malmö leaves me once again feeling profound disappointment.

I can't say if the hackerspace was targeted specifically. In any case I am very sad that the Police is unable to discriminate better and operate more intelligently, with higher precision, so that they can avoid collateral damage to nerds, and other friendly citizens!

Apparently - if you are a really big corporation in this country, you can play the legal system any which way you like. But if you are an individual or a loosely organized small group, you are, in practice, without legal rights.

I might have been at the hackerspace last weekend. Had I been there I expect that this laptop I am typing on now would have been seized. This is the tool that I use every single day, for most of my wake hours. Maybe you depend on your computer too?

A few laptops have been stolen from me. The first time it happened was here in Malmö. There was evidence at the scene (outdoors) and I called the Police to report the crime. They informed me that unfortunately they would not be able to investigate. I lost 18 months of work because I did not have a backup scheme. That has been solved since, but I would still have felt severely violated if the Police had taken any equipment of mine this weekend. (I don't think I would get it back in a very timely manner.)

The worst part is that I don't feel that there is anything I can do to make a direct change.

XVI

Thank you for this beautiful post, I think this is hard on us all.

2009-12-03 12:19

Forskningsavdelningen » I CAN HAZ MOAR ‘BOUT TEH REID [STICKY]

http://www.odsvall.se/blog/2009/11/razzian-mot-forskningsavdelningen/
http://peter.stuge.se/sweden-fail
http://arduino.cc/blog/?p=376

2009-12-04 14:16

Juul

Thank you for taking the time to write this post. It is refreshing to see someone write about their personal feelings with regard to technology and hackerspaces.

I think many of us can relate to your frustration growing up in a society that has little to offer those of us with a natural curiosity and interest in science and technology. I feel that hackerspaces, more than anything, is an attempt to remedy this situation, for ourselves, but hopefully for future generations as well. This frustration and disappointment with the established system, educational as well as political, manifests in the way we work (playful/exploring), the way we communicate (open sharing of information) and even in the (often flat) organizational structures and decentralized nature of hackerspaces.

Though the recent raid fills us all with sadness, posts such as yours remind us why we keep going... why what we do is important.

Although many of us feel there is nothing we can do to change the system, we need to remind ourselves that we are changing it every day. Not by participating directly in the system that has left us felt disconnected, that would not be the hacker way (and certainly we would loose some of ourselves if we played the game of lawyers and politicians), but by encouraging others like us to keep playing and working and building. By sharing our knowledge and creating encouraging environments for coming generations to live and learn.

Maybe we can't change the world directly, but we can fix some of the underlying bugs and hopefully the changes will propagate up through the system over time.

--
Juul

2009-12-10 12:24

Peter

Juul, you make a very good point. To some degree I also think that this may be a generational problem, and that the collaborative way which is so fundamental both for hackerspaces and open source software is becoming increasingly important in society as a whole.

Not so long ago I came by a 35-something member of the political party Centerpartiet in Sweden in an interview about if and how social media changes how politicians communicate with voters. He smiled humbly and said that there was a lot to be learned from his younger colleagues.

2009-12-20 23:36

Christoffer Sawicki

> I knew it all. I assisted the teacher. I continued on my own. Absurdity progressed with age - in high school I was correcting errors in the programming course litterature.

I did that too. It is really sad and tells something about the current state of high schools in Sweden.

> I didn't go to university, in part because I was so sick of school, in part because I got a job, in part because I had learned about some university schoolwork from older friends, and again it left me unimpressed. (I am not saying that there is nothing to learn at the university - there is always a lot to learn, everywhere!)

I was pretty sick of school after high school as well but ended up at university anyway somehow and I must say that the difference was huge, to the better! I never regret starting at the university but I often wonder if it is worth all those years. (Probably not, but that's a long discussion.)

> I have always felt fairly alone in my city. I had one or two friends with whom I explored technology in my school years, programming games, building I/O expansions for PC and Amiga, and adding some relays to them in order to flash lights.

I don't mean to sprinkle salt in your wounds but these kind of interest clubs really thrive at universities. The Faculty of Engineering in Lund has a great club called ElektroTekniska föreningen (http://www.etf.tlth.lth.se/) that has been active since 1964.

What am I trying to say with all of this? Mostly that there *is* a good school life after high school that can be worth trying out.

2010-06-22 13:21

Peter

Thanks for writing Christoffer!

One point in my post was that education up to and including high school is unimpressive for anyone with a specific interest, and how sad this is.

While I haven't actually studied at university I've been involved in groups near and around Lund University and have gotten to know a bunch of LTH guys, though never visited ETF.

From my outside view it seems that I wouldn't have fit in too well there either, but I can't say for sure since I don't have the experience.

I am convinced that university is a good experience. Like you I'm not sure if it's worth it...

2010-07-08 01:03