This chapter takes a bird-eyes' view of history, locating the developments of wireless community networks within a historical transition from industrial to information society. Following the thesis that this paradigm shift has become stuck, creating serious obstacles for realizing the emancipatory potentials of information society, the conclusion can only be that those obstacles need to be overcome in order to realize “Society in Ad-hoc mode” as a positive, really existing utopia.
This draft chapter summarizes my findings. Based on a recent trip to Germany, where vibrant new communities have triggered discussions about what makes the essence of Freifunk, I am suggesting that the future of wireless community networks lies in the notion of the Network Commons.
On the evening of April 8th 2015 at Secession Vienna, the book IMAGINATION/IDEA - The Beginning of Hungarian Conceptual Art. The László Beke Collection, 1971 was presented. László Beke is widely recognized as a key figure in conceptual art in Hungary and internationally. In 1970-1 he sent out an invitation to all his artist friends to send him a documentation of work on an A4 sheet. The incoming work he collected in a book. Due to the vicissitudes of the Communist Hungarian regime in the early 1970s this „collection“ could only be viewed privately, in his home, or at exhibitions abroad. This collection, after it was published as a facsimilie book in Hungarian in 2008, IMAGINATION/IDEA has now been made available in English in a book produced by Tranzit Hungary.
In 1979 the Vienna-based Canadian artist Robert Adrian started using the I.P. Sharp telecommunicatiins network for art purposes. Access to this network had been organized by Bill Bartlett in the context of an event called Interplay. Bartlett had gained access to the network of the company I.P. Sharp Associates for the first time in 1978 through the Toronto based artist Norman White (cf. Shanken 2003. p. 61). In 1980 Bartlett organized he Artist's Use of Telecommunication conference at SF MOMA.
„The sleeping beauty of mesh has been kissed into life by the community,“ explains Elektra in her book. The community has made it possible to have decentral wireless networks which connect small local cells, automatically connected by intelligent software (Aichele 2007 p. 15)
In this chapter, a closer look at developments around mesh networks is taken, based on a study trip to Barcelona, supplemented by further research. This chapter also asks the difficult question, how the mystifications of technology might be overcome. Are better mesh routing protocols really the answer to all problems?
This chapter throws a closer look at the different models used economically by Freifunk and Guifi. In particular, it investigates in which ways the fact that Guifi has a mixed political economy contributed to its growth. This sub-chapter also investigates the terms in which network freedom is defined and with which other ideas and measures it is connected.
The previous chapter has delved into some of the bigger implications of free networks in relation to the overall historic development. It has described the overall development as an incomplete paradigm shift, characterized by an ongoing structural crisis of information society. This chapter starts with the question, what makes a network sustainable? On the surface of things it looks like the conditions for growth are better in rural areas, where there are no good alternatives provided by the telecommunications industry. Examples in Spain, Germany, as well as Greece show that there can be successful models that bring together community initiatives with municipalities. This appears to have worked less well in the USA where after a good start in the early 2000s hardly any wireless community networks exist. It seems that the relationship between rich and poor in the US is almost like the relationship between the overdeveloped world and the poor nations of the South. This chapter finishes with a more sustained look into selected projects from the global South.
In Vienna, slowly the – still relatively new - director of Kunsthalle is showing his profile. After many years under the populist autocrat Matt, Nicolas Schaffhausen brings some well needed profundity to Kunsthalle. This latest exhibition, The Future of Memory, while well conceived, exposes also the dilemmas of hegemonic neo-conceptualism, which I call the contemporary.
recently I had the opportunity to visit Cuba as a tourist. I would like to use this opportunity to send you a letter. I really do not want to be seen lecturing two great leaders such as you, by offering my unasked advice, but my suggestions are simple and constructive as you will see, so please take the time to read this letter.
We are only just beginning, is the message I have picked up from the two biggest communities in Europe, from Guifi.net and from Freifunk. Since the publication of the first chapter and this one, Guifi.net has grown from app. 25.000 to 26.500 nodes. Similarly, the political implications of the free network movement have become more easily visible today. As Jürgen Neumann and Monic Meisel report, Freifunk has „unfortunately“ benefited massively from the Snowden allegations. Since it has become known how massive the surveillance machinery is, self-managed networks suddenly make much more sense again. While many things have been coming together to make Freifunk possible, one thing was less in their favor, the German legal climate. Freifunk finds itself at the center of a prolonged battle about "Störerhaftung"