19.01.14 - 22.01.14, Seminar 14042

Do-it-yourself Networking: an Interdisciplinary Approach

The following text appeared on our web pages prior to the seminar, and was included as part of the invitation.


Wireless technology enables today the creation of local networks outside the public Internet. Even in cases where the public Internet is easily accessible, such local wireless networks form an interesting alternative, autonomous, option for communication, which

  1. ensures that all connected devices are in de facto physical proximity,
  2. offers opportunities and novel capabilities for interesting combinations of virtual and physical contact and appropriation of the hybrid space,
  3. enables the serendipitous gathering of diverse people without the need to have any specific application installed or provide any credentials,
  4. allows for purely anonymous and privacy-preserving virtual interactions, and
  5. can create feelings of ownership and independence of citizens, and encourage information sharing and participation in deliberations.

However, timidity, security issues, and the potential lack of common interests could limit the desire of people to participate in local interactions mediated through ICT or not. Such psychological issues and various technical challenges hinder today the creation of plug and play solutions that can compete with the quality of service offered by popular Internet applications. Then this fact discourages application developers to invest a lot of effort in building applications, undermining the research efforts to solve the corresponding technical challenges, and thus leading to a “chicken and egg” problem.

  • High-level Objectives

The purpose of this seminar is to build a highly diverse community of researchers, engineers, practitioners, and artists, interested in the potential of user-owned networks to encourage face-to-face communication, information sharing, and exposure to diversity in modern cities, toward high-level objectives, such as the visions of e-participation and e-democracy. We wish to create and sustain links between

  1. the networking research community working on adhoc, DTN, and pocket switched networks,
  2. wireless community network practitioners and grassroots initiatives building operational wireless mesh networks in various cities,
  3. human-computer interaction (HCI), computer supported collaborative work (CSCW), computer mediated communication and related disciplines such as sociology and social psychology,
  4. the emerging interdisciplinary fields of urban informatics, ubiquitous computing, and community informatics, and related disciplines such as urban planning and urban design, and, finally,
  5. independent practitioners and artists.

Although, there are already efforts to create links between some of these areas, there are still many isolated groups of researchers and practitioners. For example, people working on applications and uses of ICT are not always aware of the capabilities of technology for building local communication networks. On the other hand, scientists in the field of networking are often indifferent on the actual use and social implications of the technical solutions they devise as long as they fulfill the minimum academic requirements.

  • Prospective Outcomes of the Seminar

To enable the productive interactions in such a diverse community it will take for sure a significant amount of time and effort. We hope that this seminar will set the basis and make three concrete steps toward this direction:

  1. The sharing of objectives, values, methodologies, and challenges those different fields of research and practice face today.
  2. The definition of a research framework that will allow today disconnected disciplines to exchange knowledge and interact toward the design of successful do-it-yourself networking applications; and
  3. The definition of next steps toward a shared experimentation platform (e.g., code for mobile devices) and the setting up of a venue for sharing artistic, experimental, and research results.