Freifunk

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In 2003, Freifunk, the first experiments with mesh networks at a neighborhood scale, started in Friedrichshain, in what had been East Berlin.

Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities

Using a radio technology called mesh networking that generated stronger links the more radios were added to the network, they sought to create a local communication network that would proliferate and self-perpetuate

Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities

These buildings could have dozens of apartments, and at K9, apartments were inhabited in rotation so that all building residents would have an equal chance to live in the larger or more beautiful spaces

Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities

Like free software, the mesh radio networks that Freifunk used needed not only maintenance but also knowledge about how to keep the radio gear working so that people away from the internet access link would still be connected: in practice, this involved climbing up to the rooftops of the seven-story blocks of the neighborhood, checking cables, and sometimes writing (free) software to solve a problem

Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities

1 Elsewhere in the garden

Notes that link to this note (AKA backlinks).

Powell starts with a historical view of what a smart city actually is. She traces this back to the origins of the idea when it was more around the notion of connectivity and widespread internet access, and she outlines the different ways in which cities could be made this way - sometimes more corporate - and sometimes more bottom up, like the Freifunk peer to peer mesh network in Berlin. Although clearly against the idea of a corporatized smart city, I like how Powell fairly outlines the pros and cons of the different ways of organising - Freifunk, for example, while on the surface more egalitarian, could suffer from being exclusionary to those who didn't understand how it worked.

Many formerly squatted-in buildings emerged into collective ownership and some, like K9, where one of Freifunk’s founders lived, embraced radical principles of common governance. These principles included economic agreements limiting rents to the costs of maintenance and social agreements specifying collective decision-making supported by monthly meetings.

Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities

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