Here I am back from my tour with time to reflect on the wonderful experiences I’ve lived this summer in company of La Quadrature du Net,  the french organization in the defense of civil rights and freedom on the Internet, and friends from around the world.

Invited to join their village as a hacker-masseuse on the OHM2013 festival for hackers and makers in the Netherlands, I took part with all my heart for a week, along with a team, to bring massage and care to a place where it was not much represented…at all.


Our “Hacking with Care” team was composed, for massage, of myself and physiotherapist student Baptiste, who had come to lend a hand (two actually!), of JB hacker-maker of MyOwnStretchWare (nice piece of “reverse engineering for public health”), with whom we put the proposal together and who was also behind the funky initiative Nail art for nerds, and of dancers Karine Rathle and Anne Goldenberg from Quebec, with whom we teamed up to propose workshops.

The Nail art for nerds, carried out on a playful DIY basis proved great to bring awareness, sensation and meaning (messages, symbols, logos were painted on nails) to the tip of these ultimate 21st century tools which are our hands and fingers. Massage was MUCH wanted all day long and MUCH appreciated. Workshops had great, happy, responsive, audiences.

Indeed, the two consecutive workshops Karine, Anne and I gave on the third day made for a sensational afternoon. First, Karine and Anne conducted Atten!ion Som(t)a(c)tic, an embodiment workshop in which participants were invited to explore through various postures the physical and more subtle sides of their relationship to their devices (computers, phones…), and to pain and pleasure when working with a machine. Then, to an already quite relaxed and very enthusiastic crowd, I gave a hands-on massage workshop, named after the festival : Observe-Hack-Massage ! My intention was rather simple: With the same passion everyone around felt for their discipline, I set to explain to bright crafty people how the same hacking spirit they apply to pretty much everything can also be applied to the art of massage and body care – a dimension where most had been more shy all week – with great enjoyment and results ! It was very exciting, and people were still exchanging massages on our village after the workshop was over. I heard some were already talking of setting up a massage corner in their hackerspace, and already thinking about how to build the massage table themselves…

At the end of the camp, it was obvious the “Hacking with care” team had done a wonderful job. Each activity invited people to engage with each other (and their devices !) in a variety of (new) ways, brought awareness about one’s body, one’s relationship to others, to machines and to work, and helped soften some barriers between genders, in a community still dominantly masculine (it felt more balanced on our camp..).

Most of all, all these activities blended very well with the magic conviviality of the tea house, which was at the heart of La quadrature du Net’s project for OHM2013.

The tea house was ran collectively by LQDN’s team and visitor volunteers, who were spontaneously taking turns at being Tea Masters -very horizontally though- and served a fine selection of tea to everyone from dusk ’til dawn. Various workshops and debates took place sitting at these handmade tables, sipping erva maté or pu-erh, discussing topics such as Net NeutralityCopyright Reform, or how to “make datalove” to your neighbor, as heartily and rightly argued by spokesperson for LQDN Jérémie Zimmermann in the talk he gave.


It was a beautiful gathering and bridging of talents and hearts. We all got a LOT of positive feedback. Many people expressed many gestures of gratitude and support for the hacking with care project, whether they had individually received a massage or not.

We know now there is clearly room for more hacker-masseur and hacker-masseuses like me (and other body and soul practitioners) in the hackers world, just as there are, I believe, many massage or other healthcare/body practitioners who could benefit (and so would everyone they care for) from injecting some of that hacking spirit into their own practice.

A downside of this beautiful success ? I didn’t have much time to attend talks or workshops given by others… Indeed, for the proposal to be as successful as it turned out to be, I kind of had to stick around the massage booth ! I have lots of catching up to do !

Luckily, La Quadrature du OHM’s Village attracted many talented persons in its DIY dwellings (almost pumping them in and out like a strong loving heart would do). In the end I had the opportunity to exchange thoughts with the passers by and I learnt a lot, thanks to a genuinely generous attitude I find many had in common. I even got the chance to swap sessions and received one of the most beautiful massages in my life (which is always a lesson in itself). Hackers, you will learn, are certainly not all disembodied goofs like you’d expect them to be. Clichés are often worth crap, but they seemed to make even less sense there in this community. There are many colors to the hackers hats, not just white or black or grey, and sometimes rainbow ! Speaking of which, we were called “hippies” a couple of times, which I actually take as a compliment, if not a manifest, in times so perverted with murderous greed and totalitarian fear. Shouldn’t ideals of love, goodness, sharing and caring, be key ingredients in any form of resistance to human-made evils ? Doesn’t the world stand better chances to be a nicer place for all if/when these ideals are “built-in” our technologies ? LQDN seems to think so, and I think so too.


So it was an important week… For us, and for two civil disobedience heroes in particular: Private Bradley Manning -from now on Chelsea Manning- who was convicted on July 30th of 17 charges including 5 counts of espionage and theft, and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who was granted temporary asylum by Russia and left the Moscow airport on the 1st of August of that week.

French readers who wish to find out more about these events and what went on in OHM2013 can read a series of articles written “en direct” from OHM by journalist Jerôme Hourdeaux for Mediapart.

Finally, I would like to say once again THANK YOU to everyone and to LQDN especially. I hope to be back with more projects and collaborations soon, we sure have lots of ideas to explore and put into practice !

I will be giving the Observe-Hack-Massage workshop again, starting with a session on Thursday December 12th, at the Biopulse School of Massage in Paris. Contact them directly, not me, for information and registration.

Meanwhile, if you want to help La Quadrature Du Net to keep on keeping ‘on, you can make a donation on their website (or reach them if you have other helpful propositions to make). If you want to help me to keep on keepin’ on, well, be sure to book a massage or workshop next time I’m in town ! It will do everyone good ;)


(this article was first published August 22nd 2013 by Emily King – Le Massage En Images here)