Recently, we visited Metalab, a hackerspace and hub for the Viennese tech community. Founded in 2005 and counting now around 140 permanent members and roughly 600 occasional ones, Metalab became quickly a heavily visited place. Only a short look in the calendar and one can realise that things are always busy here: group meetings, workshops, in house or guests’ presentations.
The space itself invites you to look at things in a different way. The entrance, the hallway, the whateverlab or the lounge are all re-shaped with tech style. Nothing escapes from hacks, not even the bottle opener.
The blinking wall, the self-built photo camera, a self-made sitar, a cigar box violin, robo-flowers, all sorts of 3D prints such as trees, whistles, angels or even a cathedral are only few results of the daily fun of Metalab folks.
What actually amazes, beside the above mentioned and the loads of projects happening here, is the spirit of the community. The curiosity bug seems to be viral here and to have side-effects to the way in which the community is functioning. If one is interested in a certain topic, they can either:
– find somebody with more knowledge and convince her/him to organise a workshop on the subject
– or find people interested to deepen the same topic and together organise further regular meetings.
Therefore various user groups are set, focused on topics like Symphony , Python, Cocoa, Google technologies, or simply photography (btw, make sure you check their photolab). Even the ones interested in creating the perfect bubble soap are most welcome here.
„There are no rules to follow as mistakes can happen at any time, but how can one learn otherwise? We are all adults and whoever feels confident on a certain topic, he/she will also take the responsibility to develop and organise the way of working“, explains MacLemon (or Pepi Zawodsky in non-virtual life) our guide in the lab.
Collaboration and initiative are the main ingredients here. „Working together with people having relatively similar interests, it will certainly guide you quickly to find your answer. This is how we work around here. This is how maybe education should work“, adds MacLemon.
After the visit, the last idea remained stuck in my head. And I couldn’t help, but think further: could this be a key in education? Schooling as self–organised activity within the community, driven by curiosity and eagerness to find out why things are happening the way they are and how they can be changed. Could this be a more effective way of learning? This place appears to be such a good example for sustaining this idea.
Sugata Mitra illustrates it in slightly different way:
“Education is a self-organizing system, where learning is an emergent phenomenon.”
Thanks Metalab for having us and for the food for thought!