Diferencial CAC: A ‘Hacklab’ in Quito, Ecuador


Words, photos, and videos by Juan Arellano. Originally published on the blog Globalizado.

Video and text translation by Tiago Miller.

Imagine a space that is at once a hackerspace, a place for coworking, an initiator of art and digital culture projects and a transmitter of all manner of ideas of a collaborative and technological nature. This space exists and it is called Diferencial CAC.

In May 2013, I had the opportunity to meet Juan Carlos León, the creator of Diferencial, and find out more about the initiative. Created in 2011, the project continues to develop at its new home at the Contemporary Art Center in Quito.

The project’s original blog explained that Diferencial Media Hub (as it was then called) would be an “independent, non-profit space, dedicated to the connection, promotion and production of projects that favor the development of a digital culture by means of productive dialogue and creative learning about art, technology and culture.” They went on to add that:

  • The Diferencial Media Hub’s main objective is the circulation, investigation, archiving and presentation of cultural practices and products that are linked to technological developments in contemporary society. The focus will be on collaborative practices and the creation of links with other spaces and projects in the region with similar aims.

Since then the project has been through a number of changes, such as moving from the city of Guayaquil to the capital Quito and having a more active participation in the development of technological ideas that have greater public reach out. Click on the link below to hear what Juan Carlos had to say about Diferencial’s journey:


 Despite these changes, the project maintains much of its original concept but has managed to evolve in such a way that, although remaining loyal to that concept, allows for the flourishing of new ideas. Its current aims, for example, include:

  • Strengthening and consolidating alliances through working groups that allow for exchanges at local, regional and international level with public and private institutions who are interested in developing educational programs that recognize the productive, diffusive and creative purposes of projects that seek to democratize access to technology and information science.
  • Creating a users’ group consisting of artists, programmers and entrepreneurs in general in order to share skills and develop interdisciplinary projects.

Juan Carlos also showed us the space used to house the Diferencial CAC library and told us about the presence of coworking at the organization:


As explained by Juan Carlos, Diferencial CAC is currently housed by and funded by the Contemporary Art Center (CAC) in Quito, with Diferencial CAC in turn offering space to other initiatives. One example of this is the online radio station BOOM BAP HC. Our visit to Diferencial CAC coincided with the presence of one the organizers of the station and we were able to talk to him about the project:


The Contemporary Art Centre’s support of Diferencial CAC is mutual with Diferencial collaborating on various activities and functions at CAC, while participating in other group based projects. Juan Carlos showed us the spaces used for workshops and hackathons and told us about his plans for what remained of this year. He also recounted a (happy) anecdote that reflected the project’s open spirit:


This year, Diferencial has undertaken various interesting activities, most notably a Free Software Seminar with Richard Stallman, a hackathon to promote the neighborhood of San Juan, Platform Futugrama, a round table discussion about future projects and its support and involvement in Quito’s edition of SlutWalk, alongside numerous workshops, collaborations and other activities.

To hear more from them in 2014 you can follow them on Facebook.

Juan Carlos León, Director of Diferencial CAC.


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