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Dagstuhl Seminar 14042

Do-it-yourself Networking: an Interdisciplinary Approach

( Jan 19 – Jan 22, 2014 )

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Dagstuhl Seminar Wiki


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.


The key objective of the seminar was to bring together a diverse group of researchers and practitioners to reflect on technological and social issues related to the use of local wireless networks that operate outside the public Internet. We managed to bring together a quite balanced group of 32 people with expertise in the design and implementation of wireless ad hoc networks of various types, human-computer interaction, community informatics, urban interaction design, ethnography, media studies, arts and design.

Interdisciplinary interactions took place successfully around specific application areas for which the use of do-it-yourself networks is meaningful. More specifically, we explored the use of such networks for supporting the creation of transient communities of different size and duration, political activism, and similarity matching. In addition, an in depth exploration of the concept of failure provided a useful framework for addressing various challenges in bridging the gap between theory and practice, scientific and social objectives.

Our main finding was that there are certain assumptions that need to be carefully understood and important requirements that need to be fulfilled in order for DIY networking to become a feasible, and desirable, option for shaping the hybrid space of contemporary cities. That calls for a closer collaboration between experts from different fields and disciplines. For this, the most important achievement of our seminar was the balanced and productive interactions between engineers and social scientists around a concrete topic, and the general feeling that a new interdisciplinary community around the topic of DIY networking is meaningful and a goal worth pursuing. Indeed, concrete plans for facilitating the formation and expansion of such a community through online communication and face-to-face meetings, research visits, and common projects between participants that met in Dagstuhl for the first time are already under way.

When things get so big, I don't trust them at all
You want some control - you've got to keep it small
D.I.Y. D.I.Y. D.I.Y. D.I.Y.
- Peter Gabriel

Copyright Panayotis Antoniadis, Jörg Ott, and Andrea Passarella

  • Panayotis Antoniadis (ETH Zürich, CH) [dblp]
  • Ileana Apostol (ETH Zürich, CH)
  • N. Asokan (University of Helsinki, FI & Aalto University, FI) [dblp]
  • Jonathan Baldwin (New America Foundation, US) [dblp]
  • Christian Becker (Universität Mannheim, DE) [dblp]
  • Jon Crowcroft (University of Cambridge, GB) [dblp]
  • Fiorella De Cindio (University of Milan, IT) [dblp]
  • Paul Dourish (University of California - Irvine, US) [dblp]
  • Kevin R. Fall (Carnegie Mellon University - Pittsburgh, US) [dblp]
  • Marcus Foth (Queensland University of Technology, AU) [dblp]
  • Mark Gaved (The Open University - Milton Keynes, GB) [dblp]
  • Per Gunningberg (Uppsala University, SE) [dblp]
  • Ahmed Helmy (University of Florida - Gainesville, US) [dblp]
  • Paul Houghton (Futurice GmbH - Berlin, DE) [dblp]
  • Katrina Jungnickel (University of London/Goldsmiths, GB) [dblp]
  • Jussi Kangasharju (University of Helsinki, FI) [dblp]
  • Teemu Kärkkäinen (Aalto University, FI) [dblp]
  • Gunnar Karlsson (KTH Royal Institute of Technology, SE) [dblp]
  • Anders Lindgren (Swedish Institute of Computer Science - Kista, SE) [dblp]
  • Marcin Nagy (Aalto University, FI) [dblp]
  • Christian Nold (University College London, GB) [dblp]
  • Jörg Ott (Aalto University, FI) [dblp]
  • Andrea Passarella (CNR - Pisa, IT) [dblp]
  • Dan Phiffer (The Museum of Modern Art - New York, US)
  • Alison Powell (London School of Economics, GB) [dblp]
  • Amalia Sabiescu (Galati, RO) [dblp]
  • Douglas Schuler (Evergreen State College - Olympia, US) [dblp]
  • Irina Shklovski (IT University of Copenhagen, DK) [dblp]
  • Michael Smyth (Edinburgh Napier University, GB) [dblp]
  • Ersin Uzun (Xerox PARC - Palo Alto, US) [dblp]
  • Volker Wulf (Universität Siegen, DE) [dblp]

  • mobile computing
  • networks
  • society / human-computer interaction

  • Community Wireless Networks
  • Mobile Networking
  • Delay-Tolerant Networking
  • Ad-hoc Networking
  • Ownership
  • Hybrid Communities
  • Urban Planning
  • Urban Art