Balancing Community and Technology
(the importance of slowing down)
Christina: In a sense, the hardware or technical needs of a mesh network are simple to put in place, there are many resources that share knowledge about strategies for designing the technical elements of a network. In our case, we brought in technical advisors who helped steer us through conversations around how we might approach technical issues.
An ongoing goal of "this mesh begins as a stolon (a community mesh network)" involved spending time considering how to not let the technical overshadow the need to develop and be responsible to the community first and foremost (the sense was that; often across our communities technology is brought in and considered above the impacts on the communities imposed upon).
Working with mesh in a way that isn’t borne out of the most pressing urgency also comes with its set of challenges. Working collectively to imagine forward the potential and the longterm goals of a project requires a slowness that isn’t often afforded. Trying to at once take small steps and test things out, while simultaneously planning for something larger was not without its challenges. I’m grateful to the many individuals who took part in conversations along the way and to 221A for their flexibility and openness to take time through the process.
With this first phase complete, my hope is that the mesh can begin to flourish and take shape as the community feels is right, and that, once folks become aware of its potential and its utility, we have put an infrastructure in place for the network to continue to develop and thrive from. Another hope is that, in a potential future crisis, community might remain connected through the Stolon Mesh and their ability to organize and collaborate might be supported and made easier through the mesh network.
Reflections from team members:
Noelle: This project has surprised me in the twists and turns it has taken over the course of six months. The process very much was and became the emphasis of the project, especially the community relationships. Although the purpose of the project was a technologically centered one, to set up a free internet mesh network, it quickly became clear to me that the more detailed exploration was a social one. The direction of the project was very spacious and encouraged community collaboration. Because of this things took much longer to complete, and went through many more changes, however this seems to be a necessary aspect to explore when executing a project with social relationships at the center.