Spending freeze

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The exchange of goods, services, knowledge and ideas doesn't have to require money. At least, that's the concept behind the Sporeprint Infoshop, or Spore, a "radical social space" and greenhouse for idealism.

An idea hatched in mid-2007, the Sporeprint Infoshop opened as a community space in the Weinland Park neighborhood in February. Located on the corner of Fifth and Hamlet, next door to the Third Hand Bicycle Co-Op, Spore has a library of books, 'zines and educational materials, as well as free wireless internet, computers available for use and meeting space where music performances, do-it-yourself workshops, political meetings, cooking classes, potlucks and other community-generated events are held.

On the last Sunday of every month, the Really Really Free Market is held in the space - an event with the caveat "no money, no barter, no trade." Participants bring food, clothes, services, ideas, jokes, songs, books and anything else they'd like to give away. There's no telling exactly what will be available at a given market. It's simply an exercise in "giving and receiving freely."

Kenton Cobb is one of more than 20 people who regularly volunteer time and resources at Spore. Community participants generally range in age from high-school students to people in their thirties, but all ages are welcome.

What are the ideas behind Spore and how did it get started?

Spore got started as an idea for a 'zine library to be held in someone's house. The idea of sharing free, alternative media caught on with a lot of people very quickly and kind of spiraled into the idea of Spore, which is to go beyond giving access to just books and ideas, but to have a place that embodied the idea of cooperative sharing.

As more people became interested, we realized that we had the capacity to have a physical space where people could share ideas, not just material goods. It's all volunteer-run. People give their time, their labor and their ideas.

The space provides us with the ability to have a non-capitalist, free space in Columbus, one where people can interact with each other outside of economic transaction, outside of spending money. We can get together and exchange ideas in a less mediated and less alienating way.

How did this group get together and form the space?

Like many other things, friends riffing ideas off each other, people getting excited and putting broader calls out. The people that participate here are wide and varied: students from all the different schools around here, high schoolers, people who live in the Weinland Park community, artists, musicians.

Everything, including the physical space, is provided by volunteer contributions. The entire operation of having a free space that's volunteer-run is that many people contribute many different aspects ... some people donate money, some people donate time.

Is there anything that this is modeled from historically?

Certainly. Internationally, there's a network of places like this that are oftentimes called infoshops or social centers. In a political sense, they are places where, since the beginning of time, people have been getting together to exchange ideas and get stuff accomplished together. The more recent model has roots in the European squatter movement, where people were claiming buildings that were abandoned and turning them into social centers.

There are places akin to this in most major cities in the United States, and most of them are rooted in a similar spirit of community-tarianism.