One of the most important things about hackerspaces, and an area that differentiates it from other areas in the tech industry, is that most of the ideas and projects aren’t designed for any type of financial return. And unlike academic research labs, hackerspaces are usually very hands-on and focused on practical implementation. In Tokyo Hackerspace, we have a lot of projects or project ideas that revolve around environmental or humanitarian applications of technology as well as art. These types of projects would rarely see the light of day in corporate scenarios (without government subisidies) but are often the types of projects that, when further refined, may turn into something that is financially viable or lay the groundwork for something much bigger.
A further observation is that both hackerspaces and social networking websites have grown astronomically over the past few years, and that hackerspaces are really just a physical form of social network.
I couldn’t agree more, except to add that hackerspaces are less annoying, because nobody asks you to play Farmville.