Dispatches from the SF Culture war is our new, semi-regular scorecard for the Tech versus San Francisco cage match.
Culture Warrior: Chris Nicholson, head of communications at Celery and a former New York Times reporter.
Take-Away: San Francisco ought to embrace "fluxspaces," which are what he calls "any part of a building that hackers and makers have illegally occupied so they can live and work together." They aren't squats, because they pay rent. They're just not exactly, you know, legal.
Sample Line: "If there’s one rule about migrant workers, it’s that they stick together. When San Francisco had its first gold rush, the miners built tent cities on a swamp plain by the bay. When jobseekers descend on North Dakota’s oil rigs, they build mancamps. When coders come to SoMa, they look for a fluxspace. It’s a live-work cluster, with one slight difference. While they don’t have the revolutionary ethos of previous communal movements in San Francisco (like, for example, the Diggers), fluxspaces epitomize the anti-surveillance leanings of the hacker community. Surveillance is control."
Mood: The urban squalor and creative ferment of David Bowie's Berlin trilogy.
Weakness: Is this a solution to the housing and office space crunch? Or just a symptom of how bad the problem is? We're sorry that proper zoning isn't cool enough for you, dude. And you know San Francisco's magazine's office used to be a warehouse too. How new is this idea?
Tech Friendliness Rating (1=technophobe; 10= technophile): 7. He might not have a great solution, but at least Nicholson is trying to find harmony between the tech industry and the city that houses it.
Fallout: Sample comment: "The funny thing is that this author thinks this is something new and revolutionary. It's been going on since at least the 70's."
More Dispatches from the SF Culture War
Chris Nicholson embraces fluxspaces
Bryan Goldberg tries his hand at satire
Matthew Yglesias thinks that Silicon Valley should move to Cleveland
Allison Arieff thinks that tech needs to learn more from urban planning