What the heck is a Hive Pop-Up?

When we were tasked with “doing something cool for/with youth” at last fall’s Mozilla Festival in London, we had just come off the heels of World Maker Faire where the Hive NYC booth won a Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon award. So we hacked on the model of bringing together youth programs while also framing the activity(s) as a proof of concept about Hive Learning Networks, and the first Hive Pop-Up was born.

Sanda from WNYC Radio Rookies showing youth how to create radio podcasts at the London Hive Pop-Up.

You can read more about subsequent versions of Hive Pop-Ups that have run in Tokyo and Toronto, and most recently here in NYC at our 1st Amendment Hack Jam. It also looks like there may be Hive Pop-Ups popping up (yes, yes I did) in Athens, San Francisco and more in Toronto-stay tuned.
The Hive Pop-Up has also been a driver in what Mozilla is doing with the Summer Code Party and is positioned as one of the larger-scale events that groups can run as part of that initiative.
I attempted to publicly process my thinking on these kind of programs in my DML Ignite talk on “Learning Parties” which outlines what I find exciting about thinking about learning in this hyper social butterfly way.
But it was just recently that I collected my own thinking on the Hive Pop-Up and what it might mean as a shared language for Hive NYC (and beyond…) so here is where my head is at.  This is an attempt to distill what Hive Pop-Ups are and the purposes they can serve, but they are not incompatible as outlined and in many cases these events will have more than one motivating driver. Feel free to chew on or add/subtract.
The Hive Pop-Up as proof of concept
The Hive Learning Network concept apparently has some juice! I am regularly fielding inquiries that can be summed up with, “How do I get a Hive in my town?” and almost always my response is, “Organize a Hive Pop-Up!”
Let’s be honest, Hive isn’t the easiest concept to communicate. Those of us from the early days remember the conversations, debates, attempts, confusion, excitement and time it took us to have “a thing” we could even half explain to our bosses. There were times we thought it might not work, but perhaps all we missed were the actual moments to experience, participate in and witness it working. The first World Maker Faire and early Emoti-Con events were eye-opening and helped demonstrate the potential.  It might have taken us a few years to “get it”, but do a 5 hour pop-up where 7, 10, 15 organizations  come together with some of their best programs, add youth (and pizza) and all participants will then be able to answer, “Why Hive?” Interacting and learning with peers, seeing youth remix and re-interpret their programs, being part of the energy in the room, and maybe most importantly, seeing youth travel from different activities/interactions guiding their own path through the controlled chaos. It makes the excitement, messiness, fun and learning value obvious. So as we are increasingly asked to plant Hive seeds and bring Hive-ness to new locations, the Hive Pop-Up has become our advance strategy.

The Hive Pop-Up as Hive NYC event strategy
We have generally referred to NYC-specific events as “hack jams” (case in point, last weekend’s 1st Amendment event), but here’s why I think it’s time we lay that term to rest.
“Hack jam” is confusing on three levels: 1) Those outside of tech or design fields are like, “Huh?”; 2) Those who are familiar with a hack jam in tech/design contexts are like, “Thats not a hack jam,” usually because we aren’t always hacking/building something explicitly or collectively trying to solve a challenge. Generally due to our collective nature our events are more a hybrid collaboration; and 3) I think Hackasaurus and “hack jam” are very wisely connected, and as we continue to explore Hackasaurus and learning we appreciate that these terms are closely associated and don’t want to dilute that message.
So we’re embracing the fact that the Hive Pop-Up isn’t just for other cities.  It’s how we can truly bring Hive to life, as a powerful, united front.  Sometimes these events are planned by Hive HQ, but others are driven by members, like Emoti-Con, Digital Waves Youth Media Festival or the upcoming Minecraft Jam at the Brooklyn Public Library. They all represent Hive as “placed-based learning” for short bursts of time. These Hive Pop-Up events also offer us the opportunity to collectively demonstrate Hive ideas and present a public face to other educators, press, the public and most importantly to youth.

The Hive Pop-Up as storefront
And we have reached that point where the reality circles back to the metaphor. The original genesis of the name is the funky, subversive retail store that pops up for X amount of time before vanishing. Why aren’t we actually doing more of that? Many of us fret about space, recruitment, mixed inter-organizational agendas when we start to roll out programs/events/experiences, especially if they are experimental in nature. Maybe it’s time to take our work out where people are, where youth are, be out in the communities instead of always behind our pillars, office suites or in our home neighborhoods. I’m not suggesting that we abandon these locales, but what if we had Hive Pop-Up’s in storefronts, at flea markets and street fairs, in community centers and even in homes and schools? We have started looking into how to get a shipping container at Brooklyn’s Dekalb Market – I’d also love to hear your ideas about where and how we pop-up Hive in the streets, where the action is.

Photo Credit: Business Insider

The Hive Pop Up as evangelical revival road show
I believe in Hive! I believe as a network of deeply creative educators, designers, youth, administrators and organizations we can be agents of change and innovation in learning. But we need to testify. We need to be out there changing hearts and minds! I think in this application the Hive Pop-Up is a direct intervention to take what we are thinking about, working on, building and doing to people who can use it. Let’s do Hive Pop-Ups with the NYC DOE, with groups like TASC and PACE. Get Hive and our programs, products and resources to the people who want it and who can carry it forth faster and with more sophistication about their constituencies then we can. Tell me brothers and sisters will you help me Kick Out the Learning Jams (by doing some Hive Pop-Ups?)

8 responses

  1. Barry Joseph wrote on :

    I’ll give that an “Amen!” I think that is a good shift, brilliant, and very accurate. The pop-up is a distillation of the Hive (and it would be useful to look at some point what else makes a Hive that the pop-up doesn’t address) as well as a praxis, as you well described. I also happy to see “Jam” stop being misapplied (as I am as guilty as any) and spread the “pop-up” metaphor, which I think is quite strong. Also, when I think of a distillation of the Hive, and pop-ups, I think about particle accelerators, in which interesting things slam together at fast speeds, for a VERY VERY short amount of time, release lots of energy and new particles.

  2. Kaari Pitkin wrote on :

    I especially love what you’re saying about getting out into communities and thinking about creative ways to spread the learning experience to more youth and in different venues. One place that comes to mind is the Next Generation Center in the bronx — it has a store front quality to the space, there are ALWAYS loads of kids there and they’re very open to collaboration. I also definitely want there to be a Hive Pop Up element at Digital Waves in the Fall.

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