Free the Network

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Motherboard TV has debuted a short documentary on mesh networks and Occupy Wall Street, with a special focus on the Free Network Foundation. Douglas Rushkoff and Rhizome contributor Melissa Gira Grant are also interviewed.

If the argument for mesh networking, a sort of pirate radio Internet scheme that allows people to talk to one another online through no middle man, is that a centralized ‘Net lends itself to the sort of surveillance and censorship that, however futile, strokes the Internet kill switch of science fiction, is there a way to circumvent that system altogether? Is there a way to build a new network from the bottom up? To occupy a fresh Internet outside the existing confines of the Web? Or is that all just the stuff of ideological fantasy?

To check the pulse of the Internet – and to get a feel for what life’s like in the digital nerve center of what’s arguably the first fully Web-fueled social movement in America – Motherboard has been following Wilder and Tyrone Greenfield, communications director for the Free Network Foundation, for the past half year. Through the thick of Occupy marches, in squats and test-lab offices, on rooftops and all places in between, we saw Wilder, Greenfield and the FNF building and perfecting their Towers and their humble, cooperatively owned, physical Internet...


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Short Documentary on Internet Infrastructure

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Bundled, Buried & Behind Closed Doors is a short documentary explaining internet infrastructure, focusing on the art deco building 60 Hudson Street in Tribeca, which is now one of the most concentrated carrier hotels in the world. The internet has an "ironically very limited geography in terms of big strategic concentrations," explains Stephen Graham, professor of cities and society, Newcastle University, in the short film. "The big affluent high tech information rich regions" is where the infrastructure is densely located. And 60 Hudson Street was especially ideal as a hub, given that the building was already designed to accomidate cables as it was first fitted for pneumatics tubes, then telegraph cables and telephone lines. 

In an interview with The Atlantic's Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg, director Ben Mendelsohn explains, "The issue of how this infrastructure is hidden fascinates me. Andrew Blum has a book coming out in May about physical Internet infrastructure, which I'm very excited for. He was giving a lecture and handing out postcards of "data monuments" in New York City, and I asked him: if these are monuments, what do they reveal about the culture that built them? Their message is really one of ambivalence. Service providers need to let potential clients know where they are, but they generally decline to make their presence widely known beyond that marketing purpose. Andrew did say that he envisions "brewery tour" style visits or class field trips to Internet buildings in the future, and I think that would be great, but the industry is not there yet."

 

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Artists' eBooks Unbound: An Interview with James Bridle

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James Bridle, a publisher based in London, is a member of a rising class of digital futurists that fuse multiple professional experiences—for him, a university degree in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence with an organic interest in literature—to form a dynamic public-facing practice. “Essentially, when any new technology comes along, I try to force literature into it in some way,” he wrote during our recent email exchange.

The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs (2010)

Bridle runs the conference gamut from book fairs and South by Southwest to the UNESCO World Forum on Cultural Industries in Lombardia, Italy, where he lectured just weeks ago. His presentations are documented on another website devoted to technology and so-called book futurism, http://booktwo.org/, where he posts a series of essays and updates on his myriad projects. The Frankfurt School is an obvious inspirational go-to, given the titles of his posts and projects: Walter Benjamin's Aura: Open Bookmarks and the form of the eBook (2010), The Author of Everything (2011), and Robot Flâneur (2011). Bridle’s better-known efforts include The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs (2010) a twelve-volume set that chronicles, in print, every change made to the Wikipedia article on the Iraq War; Bookkake (2008) is a digital and print-on-demand publishing system for erotic literature, while bkkeepr (2008) and Open Bookmarks (2010) help users track and share their reading experiences through Twitter and social bookmarking.

Artists' eBooks Screenshot

The Iraq War: A History of Wikipedia Changelogs segues elegantly from the digital to the object worlds; the books qualify the data, physically. I see a different, yet equally compelling set of relational possibilities in the project I chose to focus on for our interview—one that I now know Bridle considers a failure (his words; not mine!): Artists' eBooks is, as its title suggests, a digital imprint designed to provide an experimental publishing platform for writers and artists. In the conversation that follows, we discussed the shifting nature of the reading experience from print to screen, and its implications for the book-as-medium...

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