(All camera-ready versions of our publications are available here)
Local networks for local interactions: four reasons why and a way forward
First Monday, December 2016 [publisher]
This paper frames the role of community (wireless) networks, and other forms of grassroots DIY networking models, as complementary to the Internet communication infrastructures hosting local services for facilitating local interactions, as drivers for a more convivial and sustainable life in the city. Today, only a few Internet-based global corporations mediate our everyday online interactions, without respecting our rights to privacy, freedom of expression and self-determination; they depend for their own sustainability on the exploitation of the immense collected information and design power toward private, commercial and political objectives. But when communication is meant to take place between people in physical proximity, local community networks can provide an alternative infrastructure owned and designed by those concerned. The paper analyses four key reasons, practical, social, political, and scientific, why such DIY networks should be considered as a viable complementary infrastructure for local communications even when Internet access is available. Through analogies with other relevant domains of local action, namely complementary currencies and cooperative housing, I conclude by addressing the dichotomy between local action and global coordination. I advocate for the co-creation of convivial ICT tools for building local communities, or better hybrid spaces of local cooperation, which are larger in size than the small in “small is beautiful” and smaller, but in many cases more diverse, than recent imaginaries of the “multitude”.
Urbanity and the right to difference
studies in History and Theory of Architecture, Volume 3/2015 [publisher] [pdf]
After The Urban Revolution (1970), the following book written by Henri Lefebvre and published at Gallimard was The Differentialist Manifesto. He wrote this Manifesto with the conviction that the world of difference is another manner of thinking, acting and living, and later on he elaborated on the right to difference as a condition to provide the right to centrality in the city. To build an understanding of Lefebvre's dialectical thinking requires, nevertheless, explorations of his writings across their continuum. Thus I bridge in this essay the insights of these two crucial works, which form the basis of my argument for affirming differences without exclusion within an ideal of civil urbanity. This theoretical journey was inspired by the ongoing political processes regarding the conception and implementation of collective forms of housing, workspace and living in Zurich, Switzerland. As they hint at the social role of spatial designers as citizen-activists, I suggest further that their civic presence and their role as communication vessels have the potential to revive the relevance of the spatial design professions.
DIY networking as a facilitator for interdisciplinary research on the hybrid city
P. Antoniadis, I. Apostol, M. Gaved, M. Smyth, A. Unteidig
Hybrid City Conference, Athens, September 17-19th 2015. [pdf]
DIY networking is a technology with special characteristics compared to the public Internet, which holds a unique potential for empowering citizens to shape their hybrid urban space toward conviviality and collective awareness. It can also play the role of a “boundary object” for facilitating interdisciplinary interactions and participatory processes between different actors: researchers, engineers, practitioners, artists, designers, local authorities, and activists. This position paper presents a social learning framework, the DIY networking paradigm, that we aim to put in the centre of the hybrid space design process. We first introduce our individual views on the role of design as discussed in the fields of engineering, urban planning, urban interaction design, design research, and community informatics. We then introduce a simple methodology for combining these diverse perspectives into a meaningful interdisciplinary collaboration, through a series of related events with different structure and framing. We conclude with a short summary of a selection of these events, which serves also as an introduction to the CONTACT workshop on facilitating information sharing between strangers, in the context of the Hybrid City III conference.
The right(s) to the hybrid city and the role of DIY networking
P. Antoniadis and I. Apostol
Journal of Community Informatics, special issue on Community Informatics and Urban Planning, vol. 10, 2014. [publisher] [pdf]
We reconsider the concept of "the right to the city", introduced by French philosopher Henri Lefebvre, in the light of the new information space that ICTs create in contemporary urban environments. Such spaces include the use of global online social networks, locative media, e- participation platforms, online neighbourhood communities and so forth. Unlike the physical urban space that it overlays, this new and rapidly emerging virtual space has practically no capacity constraints. However, it is subject to inequalities in terms of access, representation, participation, and ownership. In this research note---an interdisciplinary collaboration between a computer scientist and an urban planner---we wish to study the role of wireless technology, which enables the easy deployment of local networks operating outside the public Internet, and the role of the free and open source social software, which facilitates the easy development of customized local applications, allowing citizens to shape their emerging hybrid space. We suggest that this sort of do-it-yourself (DIY) networking can be realised according to citizens' values, objectives and the particularities of the environment, and could ultimately enable them to compete with large ICT corporations such as Google and Facebook for their "right(s) to the hybrid city". We employ the urban sidewalk metaphor as an application that is subject to hybrid design and can profit significantly from the special characteristics of DIY networks.
CONTACT: Facilitating Information Sharing between Strangers Using Hyper-local Community Wireless Networks
P. Antoniadis, I. Apostol, A. Unteidig, and G. Joost
UrbanIxD Symposium 2014, Venice, Italy [pdf]
This position paper proposes an experimental and interdisciplinary design approach for building hybrid social applications, bringing together knowledge and expertise from computer science, urban planning, sociology, arts and design. Our aim is to provide novel interfaces that stimulate strangers in the city to interact, to get in contact, in a low-threshold way. That is, without sacrificing privacy and without requiring high levels of commitment. To achieve this objective, we explore hybrid design approaches that can take advantage of certain characteristics of local wireless networks, operating outside the public Internet, such as inclusiveness, playfulness, anonymity, low cost, and the de facto physical proximity of participants. We argue that the development of easily customized hybrid social applications designed to run on a local wireless network physically attached to appropriate urban interventions, what we call a CONTACT zone, can be a very effective incentive for citizens to participate in the creation of situations where strangers may informally connect and exchange information of various types.
Do It Yourself Networking: an interdisciplinary perspective
P. Antoniadis, J. Ott, and A. Passarella (eds.)
Dagstuhl reports, 4(1): 125-151, June 2014. [publisher] [pdf]
This report provides a summary of the organization, program, and outcome of the Dagstuhl seminar titled "Do-It-Yourself networking: an interdisciplinary perspective". We first motivate our interest in wireless networks operating outside the public Internet and the selection of the various areas of expertise. Then we describe the process of bringing together a balanced group of representatives from these fields, and the evolution of the seminar over time. An overview of the interactions during the work in groups on specific application areas and explorations of the concept of failure, edited collectively by the members of the different groups, summarizes the main outcomes of the seminar. Finally, we identify some important lessons learned for facilitating interdisciplinary collaborations and conclude with our plans toward building a DIY networking community of researchers and activists.
The Neighbourhood Game: from Behavioural Economics to Urban Planning
P. Antoniadis and I. Apostol
1st International Conference on Internet Science, Brussels, 10-11th April, 2013. [paper, slides]
The rapid advances of information and communication technologies (or ICTs) and the mass online participation have increased the expectations for the long awaited visions of e-participation and e-democracy. However, there are still many challenges that need to be addressed related to privacy, data ownership and control, and various types of digital divides. Perhaps the most fundamental requirement is the need for information exchange between parties that do not necessarily share common interests, education, and cultural backgrounds. To achieve this ambitious objective, ICT could significantly help given that we understand in depth the way it affects behaviour in the evolving hybrid (virtual and physical) space of modern cities. The next step is to empower communities with sophisticated tools to help them build trust, accept diversity, and engage in productive deliberations. In this paper we introduce a research framework connecting two relatively distant until today disciplines, namely behavioural economics and urban planning, through the mediation of computer science. More specifically, we describe a long-term social learning process evolved around a configurable ICT framework, the NetHood Toolkit, which will support a wide variety of hybrid interactions between people in physical proximity. The definition of a specific set of information sharing games with various configuration options can then form the basis for a real life experimentation process with potential benefits both for understanding human behaviour and for reaching important social objectives.
Flânerie between Net and Place: Possibilities for Participation in Planning
I. Apostol, P. Antoniadis, and T. Banerjee
Journal of Planning Education and Research, 33(1):20-33, March 2013. [publisher]
We introduce the practice of flânerie in the physical and virtual space as a method to produce representative images of contemporary social life. We suggest how planning may be instrumental in shaping a public good alternative in this emerging hybrid social space, where the practice of flânerie can stimulate engagement in deliberative planning practices. Finally, we discuss some of the trade-offs and design choices for eliciting information from citizens about their localities in order to understand how future development may lead to qualitative changes in the community life.
Cyberspace Design: A New Challenge for Planners
I. Apostol, P. Antoniadis, and T. Banerjee
ICE Journal of Urban Design and Planning, 166(3): 156-163, September 2012. [publisher]
We propose a conceptual framework for planning and design practice to incorporate self-consciously the hybrid space of the virtual and physical. Cyberspace has now become a commonplace environment for social and public life, and its complex uses are entwined with those of the existential life in the physical environment. Therefore, it is argued, planners must engage in the design of the parallel realities of social and public life in these spaces. This paper proposes to look at them in a rhizome-like spatial formation, and in their future design to apply related planning knowledge on places and communities. Based on observations of online activity, the paper illustrates a method to analyse cyberspace's quality by means of Kevin Lynch's taxonomy of images, and of William H. Whyte's method to evaluate spatial uses. Spatial elements are identified through analogies between the virtual and the physical social environments, in order to derive alternatives for future (hybrid) spatial design.
USB Nets: From Message Ferrying to Leisure
P. Antoniadis, L. Chen, and F. Legendre
Proceedings of ACM ExtremeCom, 2012. [pdf]
Offering a USB flash drive filled with personalized or generic content, with or without direct reciprocation is a low-cost alternative for content sharing, message ferrying and other interesting delay tolerant applications, which we call USB Nets. The success of a USB Net crucially depends on the motivation of a few influential people or a public authority to bootstrap this process and of the rest to play the game. In this position paper we bring forward this underutilized mode of communication and identify the most important building blocks of a USB Net and our under development USB Net setup application. Our long-term objective is to allow non-technical users to configure and bootstrap a wide variety of USB Nets, like the ones we describe in this paper and many others we have not thought of.
Places on the Net
I. Apostol, P. Antoniadis, and T. Banerjee
Cities 3.0, 14th International Conference on Urban Planning and Regional Development in the Information Society, REAL CORP, Sitges, Spain, April 2009. [pdf ]
In this paper we aim to build an understanding on how the concept of place is encoded in the design of online communities. Current activities in such communities suggest that users appropriate virtual space through (self)-representation. In general, the investment with meaning of space is likely to define places on top of it. So we are interested to find out whether places emerge in cyberspace. Brief analyses of existent online communities show that the understandings of space and place vary from one community to another, which relates to their capability to connect with the local place-based communities. Searching for a theoretical framework that would explain these observations, we explore first how different constructs of place associate in theory with various views on the nature of space. Second, we are interested to find out how users perceive cyberspace, by questioning whether an analogue to Lynch’s taxonomy of images and the use of cognitive maps are meaningful in this context. We wish to use this information in future design of hybrid online communities, in order to bridge the virtual with the physical space for social activities.
From Face-Block to Facebook or the Other Way Around?
Can network technology stimulate communities of propinquity and sustainability? We explore in this study the relation between communication technology, the production of space for public life, and community building in the contemporary city. For that we propose the collaboration of urban planning and computer science, for the design of virtual communities that are deferent to physical space (hybrid). We aim to stimulate creativity, generate common interest and promote physical interactions in the neighborhood with the existing tools used to design web-based online communities. The critical piece that should be in place for the success of such an effort is the participation of community members. In this paper we focus on one of the possible ways to address this challenging problem: creativity within collective action. We explore a new type of collective action enabled through the steadily advancing wireless technology. That is the ability of a community to create a cost-effective user-owned wireless network to support their internal communication needs and offer free access to the Internet. We propose a new type of hybrid community--a wireless neighborhood community--that exploits this technological potential and provides an institutional framework for the community at the neighborhood level. For this we analyze examples of neighborhood collective action that are successful in the physical space, which could guide the design of wireless neighborhood communities.
Community building over Neighborhood Wireless Mesh Networks