Access Space is the longest running free internet learning centre in the UK. The centre brings together old computers and new open source software to create a radical, sustainable response to industrial decline and social dislocation.
Access Space is run by both a small team of employed staff and a vast number of local volunteers, and used by thousands of learners each year to share information, creativity, skills and interest. The centre is open to the public but participants are expected to help as well as be helped.
It was set up by media artist James Wallbank and friends who set out to work solely using computers they had obtained for free. They mobilised resources that were already available but were unused, overlooked or assumed to be worthless.
In this spirit, anyone can use and even take away a computer without charge, on the condition that they repair, reconfigure and renew it themselves. Using only recycled computers and free open source software, Access Space has not spent any money on hardware or software to date, and the model has inspired centres across Europe and Brazil. MetaReciclagem, the Brazilian initiative has grown into a network of more than 100 centres.
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