User:Lieven Van Speybroeck/Reading/Thematic Project/Medosh Not Just Another Wireless Utopia

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notes on Armin Medosh's Not Just Another Wireless Utopia (2004)

Base

  • Compare 2 'waves' (both at the moment of a bubble) of wireless revolutions (and utopian thinking originating from them) in history:
    • - look for patterns: how new technologies shape society and vice versa
    • - move on from speculative media theory to an analysis and description through concrete media (because speculative media theory tends to ignore the technical basis of physical network structures/functions, it's sensitive to becoming irrelevant due to no understanding of the matter it relates to)
      -> look at network topologies as a layered protocol stack: both physical and social (power structures, control, communication,...) organisation

FIRST BUBBLE (economic) -> 1910 - Radio waves

  • engineering (free wireless electricity/energy)
  • artistic (psychotropic properties to influence the mind)
  • political (liberal (finances), social democratic (communication freedom), socialist (democracy))
    => naive visions: broadcasting 'wars' by using frequencies of (and thereby canceling out) rival stations.
    => state regulation of radio spectrum
    => complete totalitarian medium during WWII: propaganda
    => postwar (until liberalization/deregulation ~ free market): state regulates the medium of electromagnetic waves in the public interest: allocation to state organs and privileged license holders
    -> falls apart in the 70's (neo-liberalisation): partial privatization of airwaves to recover the economy (oil crash) -> attacked by the left free media movements
    -> 90's: internet becomes public -> envisioned as mecca for non-commercial/activist/artistic purposes AND free market ideology but again utopian...
    -> resurgence of this utopianism with the coming of mobile phones/networks

SECOND BUBBLE (dot-com) in late 90's - 2001 -> shift from GSM through GPRS to 3G networks

  • -> mobile networking paradigm: proprietary control of a centralized network topology (vs internet ideology: egalitarian, participatory)
    <-> internet (hacker type of) 'freedom': power to the users
    => respectively expanding private corporate model vs declining state ownership model

Network/communication models:

  • elitist one-to-many (Proprietary) <-> open many-to-many (Free Networks)
  • Free Networks: DIY, "hacker-ethics", self-sustaining network, user-driven. -> 802.11(open) wifi standards (optimized compatibility)!
    -> ad-hoc networking: p2p as the material layer for network communication (Consume): 'meshed', decentralized network of nodes (large free data cloud)
    -> users as active contributors to the network (bandwidth- and content-wise)
    -> envisioned as a worldwide free network that, ultimately, makes telecom providers superfluous


  • Monopoly Telecom Networks: complete opposite
    -> (hierarchal) star network topology
    -> ultimate control
    -> users as consumers


  • Spectrum (de)regulation in Free Networks:
    -> license exempt: no (total) regulation through government but software controlled micro-regulation on local scale (~ avoid 'frequency wars' due to 'non-regulation' (1920's))


  • Mobile business:
    • creation/consumption of lifestyle gadgets (capitalist society).
    • social control: panopticon (~ Brian Holmes, Future Mappings: society in a constant state of self-sustaining surveillance)
    • information sphere gets geographical (permanent localization) <-> internet: non-space
      -> possibilities for 'direct personal' marketing/surveillance/...

Interaction between communication technologies and social systems

  • how are communication technologies embedded into society and how is society embedded into communication technologies?
    • Proprietary approach: shaping the user more and more into a controllable consumer
    • Open approach: users as active contributors to new technologies in a non-hierarchal model
      => constrain or protect freedom of speech or other communication rights


  • network commons: comprise the physical network, the protocols that run it and the content that it carries.
    -> An interdepency where all participants are emotionally, economically, ecologically and or morally sharing a common set of principles with others. Therefore, there's a need for social organization: a growing heterogenous community of contributors that breaks the current state of isolation Free Networks are in (a small community of 'nerds' trying to put the free network movement into higher gear):


some thoughts

  • […] do a bit more of installation and maintenance work than the average Windows or Apple user […] to configure their machines the way they want.
    => isn't this a bit euphemistic? Really customizing a linux OS the way you want (that is, going beyond the ubuntu GUI) involves more than just doing a bit more of installation and maintenance work (at least, for the majority of people, i guess).


  • Shaping future technologies becomes a job where everybody can and SHOULD be involved
    => won't his 'superdemocratic' system eventually result in the complete opposite of ultimate accessibility/versatility/flexibility, being "total chaos"?
    => 'should' implies forcing people into contribution?



  • […] That there is an intrinsic connection between free networks, free software and free hardware.
    => can hardware ever be open source?
    -> the widespread distribution of wireless standards like 802.11, which is crucial for the existence of Free Networks, is powered by the competitive battle between huge corporations (Apple, Intel,...). These corporations (and their ways of staying competitive) are closely connected to the Telelcom Business (exclusivity deals, partnerships, ...). So wouldn't canceling them out mean a serious drawback in easy (affordable) access to necessary hardware components that make free networking possible?


  • The free network movement has been carried forward by nerd enthusiasm
    => because there's also a certain elitist aspect about this isolation?