Friday, February 25, 2011

Know Your Volunteers

As promised, I'm gradually interviewing volunteers I meet working at various stations. This is Anna, who was working at the hard drive wipe and Ubuntu install stations on Thursday.

Anna started volunteering at Free Geek Vancouver last year, and spent a large number of hours over the course of the summer months. She mostly works in the warehouse at Receiving, Wire Cutting, and Dismantle, though she's been venturing out into other stations and into the Mezzanine recently.

Her experience working with computer hardware is limited, although she does volunteer as a language mediator at a local support agency, helping an instructor to teach immigrants how to perform basic computing. She's been inside a computer before, too, having a  friend walk her through the process of changing out a hard drive.

There is a theraputic element to a few of the stations -- In my case, I'm thinking in particular of dismantle and hard drive crushing -- that gives us the chance to get revenge on the computers that have wronged us in the past. Anna, not unusually, has had a few frustrating experiences with computers and finds taking them apart to be cathartic. When we're dealing with broken computers, it's usually in the context of trying desperately to get them working again so that we can go back to work -- and discovering in the process that we've lost something we can't afford to lose. At Free Geek, taking them apart and trying to fix them up doesn't involve the same pressures.

Anna's background is more on the artistic side than the scientific and she considers the warehouse to be a trove of potential art projects -- scrap cables, the architectural structure of circuit boards, etc. (I think the warehouse, mezzanine and store are always in need of some decor -- inspiration is welcome!) She's always been fascinated by "tiny perfect things" -- like the manufactured microscopic perfection of high technology. The downside to high tech, including planned obsolescence and companies that would rather cheap out on support and sell you something new instead, also keeps her motivated.

She would eventually like to get into the build program, and though she's modest about her skills, she's getting quite familiar with the ins and outs of the hard drive wipe station. Hope to work with you soon, Anna!
(Someone postered Commercial Drive pretty thoroughly -- excellent!)

Anna and I got to talking about standby power, also known as vampire power, which is the power that most electronic devices draw even when they're turned off. (See This accounts for a substantial portion of total power usage, both residentially and commercially. I think I'll write up a post in the near future going into this more thoroughly.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for including me! I had a great afternoon at FreeGeek. That which was once mysterious is now routine. There is so much to learn both directly and incidentally. And the other volunteers are all interesting people. It is a real treat to be working with people who are there for interest, without a sense of pressure. It is great to be part of a mass project that is good for me and good for everyone else too. I like making things. It is so wonderful to see these computers being taken apart and put back together in a new configuration. Very empowering all around.


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