Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Wi-Fi by the people, for the people?

So I'm trying to get my thoughts together on wireless community access, citizen-oriented content and public authoring.

IFTF's Anthony Townsend recently posted on guaranteeing citizens’ role as content providers:

The directions of current municipal projects...are unwittingly viewing the wireless network as a means to escape local communities, and as a one-way street for advertisers to subsidize the network’s operating costs. Therefore, in order to guarantee that municipal wireless networks will enhance citizen’s roles as content providers, cities should:

• Require that wireless franchisees provide significant community access to wireless captive portal pages and splash pages. Ownership, control and access to this resource can be organized in any number of ways – having local students document and chronicle local events and other open content authoring models.

• Cities should demand access to any future advertising channel deployed on ad-supported municipal networks for public service announcement-type content.

I have no idea what he means by "a means to escape local communities" but the advertising bit seems straight forward and expected. It also strikes me as rather obvious that community access should be part of any telecommunications infrastructure discussion: this is, after all, a question of technological citizenship and we still need to address the politics and ethics of 'allowing' others to speak.

But much more interesting to me are comments by Michael Lenczner of Montreal-based community-wireless project Île Sans Fil . He's worried about the effect of ISF and has some interesting thoughts on how access does not = good. Michael also points to the value of non-technologised public spaces such as Concordia's University of the Streets. And Ulises Mejias makes some crucial observations about the commodification and management of social knowledge that deserve further exploration.

See also:

Langdon Winner on Technological Euphoria and Contemporary Citizenship
Leah Bradshaw on Technology and Political Education
Graham Longford on Pedagogies of Digital Citizenship and the Politics of Code

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