At its core, this project asks:
A primary goal of the project was to introduce new ideas around how the internet that we’ve come to know as a paid commodity might exist in new ways that better serve the needs of the community (in our case, specifically the DTES and Chinatown community in Vancouver). Through our project it became increasingly clear that access to affordable and reliable internet was not prioritized within the community, and that upgraded connections such as fibre-powered networks had been slow to be rolled out across the neighbourhood.
- What does it mean to build and envision infrastructure from the ground up?
- How might we consider the balance between community and technology, and how can we rebuild existing systems in ways that might better consider those who need and utilize them?
"Rather than prescribing solutions, like buildings, master plans, or algorithms, medium design works with protocols of interplay—not things, but parameters for how things interact with each other."
"Designing is entangling—the simple act of encouraging interdependence."
[Keller Easterling, Medium Design (2021)]
How elements like usernames and passwords might simultaneously encourage and restrict access, especially by those who may need access most.
Consider online privacy:
- Strategies we incorporated to help improve barriers to entry:
- signage on site to remind users how to logon;
- workshops to introduce users how to gain access;
- relying on word-of-mouth to share knowledge;
- step-by-step guides and printed materials
How to ensure users of the network are provided a safe space to engage and utilize the internet.
- We incorporated this language into the Stolon Mesh login materials:
- While this network operates using standard protected access, users should remain aware of and vigilant about their own security when using this and any network. As with most online networks, operate under the assumption that your data is not 100% safe: here are some tips you can use to keep your data and information protected while using this network.
Consider how to build a just and safe space:
How to make sure the values at the core of the project are maintained across the network?
The internet isn’t always a space that is only concerned with access; it can, and is often, used for nefarious ways that operate directly against the just and safe communities we are dedicated to contributing to. Consider the ways that the internet has been utilized to promote bigoted, fascist, racist, and hateful views; how might this infrastructure be built in ways that avoid contributing to those realities?
- While aware that we can’t (and don’t want to) control what sites those connecting to the network are engaging in, we considered how we might prioritize and ensure that the Stolon Mesh encouraged a community of users and stewards that share just values.
Consider short term and/versus long term goals and outcomes:
How might the needs of the network shift across time? [Especially as others come to know about and need it. Especially when a crisis might strike and the network becomes more urgent.]
Stolon Mesh began under the assumption that we need to build such an infrastructure now so that it is there when we need it most, to practice building infrastructure NOW in ways that benefit from having the time and space to do so in advance of disaster.
Who is putting in the time and energy to imagine and build the network? How is their labour recognized and compensated for? How is the knowledge shared and gained through their labour transmitted and shared to others for future support?
How is the network (both community and technology) maintained over time? Who is responsible for the maintenance and how is their time and work recognized and compensated for? What budgets and plans exist to repair and replace hardware as needed on into the future?
Consider what to anticipate (weather etc):
While mesh networks often develop in response to natural disasters, they too are not immune from climatic impacts (rain and wind can impact node hardware and impede network connections).
I think we can think about infrastructure, not just as critical infrastructure or as this governmental project, but we can think about it as a term for the basic systems that make any way of life possible. We call it infrastructure now, that we might call it the means of life.
How to ensure democracy?
What is the artist’s role?
How to model liberation?
How to invest in capacity?
How to shift imaginations?
What is it that we’re not listening to?
What collective systems do we have in place when things happen?
What to centre when building relationships?
Imagination as possibility.
The importance of encounters.
The need for more practitioners.
Essentially, Stolon Mesh is a project invested in considering infrastructure.