In order to bridge the gap, large corporations like Facebook and Google present themselves as both service providers and internet providers. Facebook offers free Internet access to disadvantaged areas in India or, at the very least, access to a part of the web considered “basic.” (Including access to Facebook, of course).
Facebook’s ambitions are to ” Connect the World, “” Understand Intelligence and Make Intelligent Machines ” and ” Cure all Diseases in Our Children’s Lifetime. “
The platform creates a map of the entire world and experiments with the ability to manipulate people’s emotions through curation in their news feeds.
In an earlier article, I described community networks that provide alternative networking solutions for megaprojects like Facebook’s Free Basics, providing internet access to refugees or communities that are outside of the reach of traditional internet service providers.
These DIY networks can be considered “organic,” as local communities created them and reflect the local culture. The data that they use is also generated and consumed locally.
Can you hear me? – an art installation in Berlin. Christophe Wachter & Mathias Jud
Instead of keeping people online, DIY networks can bring people face-to-face.
Artists and activists are experimenting with various types of networks. Examples include LibraryBox – an eBook sharing network – and ” Can You Hear Me?“, a temporary installation of antennas that point to the US Embassy in Berlin and broadcast anonymous messages from pedestrians nearby.
We need to examine the reasons why networks are also promoted as an infrastructure that hosts local services.
The wooden structure in the garden is a “neighbourhood school.” Marco Clausen
The Prinzessinnengarten is an example of how DIY networks can operate “outside” the internet.
The Neighborhood Academy has created a space inside the garden to help transfer the principles and practices of organic farming into the world of networking.
The Neighbourhood Academy (NA) is an open, self-organized platform that promotes knowledge sharing, culture, and activism. Marco Clausen and Elizabeth Calderon Luning created the idea for a local WiFi network. Asa Sjödottir, as well as the Foundation Anstiftung.
The “organic Internet” was built in collaboration with Design Research Lab, a local network that is attached to the physical structure of Die Laube, which hosts workshops and seminars.
The Laube is a space for expression and free speech in the city. It was built within the Prinzessinnengarten. Marco Clausen
The founders were looking for a way of recording and sharing all the information that was exchanged by the different activists, artists, and researchers who attended the academy from around the world. Local DIY networks only make productions available for those physically present in the garden. The digital space is an integral part of the identity of the park.
This pilot project is an opportunity for the designers from UdK who are involved with the project to create hybrid spaces and convert them into Toolkits, which will make technology easier to appropriate.
Alternatives to Global Social Networks
DIY networking encourages physical proximity and inclusivity. The network is also important for its playfulness and tangible nature: It is always hanging from a branch.
Local people are also required to maintain these projects, build trust, and make decisions collectively about their functionality and use. Even a DIY network can be turned off at times.
These projects are built on the principle of replication and not growth. Anyone can copy the idea anywhere by purchasing the inexpensive hardware (a Raspberry Pi and wireless router along with an external hard drive and battery) and then using locally hosted software to provide local services. There is no need to invest in larger servers when more people join. And there aren’t any uniform design rules.
The Laube has handmade headphones that are dedicated to listening to fragments of the interviews conducted in the garden. Andreas Unteidig
Protecting the Commons
As “the other way” to build connection, community networks like Guifi.net and Freifunk.net gain more attention, while DIY networks, such as the one in Prinzessinnengarten, appear to be a valuable addition, rather than replacement, to normal internet-based interactions.
The right to share, and in general the ” Right to Commoning,” is under significant legal and political threat. The EU Radio Lockdown Directive, for example, will make it hard to use alternative software in internet-enabled devices. Civil liability laws discourage sharing internet connectivity.
The first European Commons Assembly took place in November 2016 with the participation of more than 100 Commons activists representing 21 European countries.
The assembly aims to develop policy recommendations on collectively managing “commons,” including basic resources like water and energy as well as network infrastructure.
We should protect our commons as Facebook and other mega-corporations take over our lives. We also need to connect with local communities. DIY networking is only the beginning.