Interdisciplinary workshop on DIY networking

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Hosting conference:
May 18th, Florence, Italy

Wireless technology enables today the creation of local offline networks, which can operate outside the public Internet. Even when the Internet is easily accessible, such local wireless networks form an interesting alternative, autonomous, option for communication, which 1) ensures that all connected devices are in de facto physical proximity, 2) offers opportunities and novel capabilities for creative combinations of virtual and physical contact, 3) enables free, anonymous and easy access, without the need for pre-installed applications or any credentials, and 4) can create feelings of ownership and independence, and lead to the appropriation of the hybrid space in the long-run.

In other words, local wireless networks provide the technological means for more participatory processes, benefiting from the grassroots engagement of citizens in implementing the smart city vision through novel forms of social networking, crowd sourcing, and citizen science. But for these possibilities to be materialized there are many practical, social, political, and economic challenges that need to be addressed, and which require the involvement of researchers and practitioners from different fields and backgrounds.

This workshop wishes to build on a recent successful interdisciplinary Dagstuhl seminar on “Do-It-Yourself networking”, which brought together a highly diverse group of researchers, practitioners, and activists to reflect on related technological and social issues. We made a first step to bridge the communication gap between those that build the technology (computer scientists, engineers, and hackers) and those that understand better the complex urban environment where this technology will be deployed (social and political scientists, urban planners, designers, and artists), as described in our final report.

The main objective of this workshop is to make one more step to bridge this gap in the engineering domain, beyond wishful thinking, and establish a series of similar workshops on the topic of DIY networking to be hosted every year in a different venue. So, in the 1st Interdisciplinary Workshop on DIY Networking at the Mobisys 2015 Conference, we invite 1) technical contributions that render DIY networking technology easier to be understood and used by less technically savvy people, and 2) theoretical contributions regarding the various inherent trade-offs in the design of DIY networks, which can help to build common understandings of the relationships between engineering decisions, design constraints and requirements, policies, and social impacts.

The workshop will include a special interdisciplinary session, as an experiment, which will facilitate the participation of a more diverse audience than typically observed in engineering conferences like Mobisys. For this session, we will invite the presentation of working prototypes of mature DIY networking frameworks, novel application ideas by designers and social scientists, and short tutorials on important concepts such as power, privacy, self-organization, space, and community, in light of the application of such technology in urban settings.

For the technical programme, topics of interest include, but are not limited to:

  • Previous or novel technical contributions in the area of DIY networking targeted for an interdisciplinary audience.
  • Holistic design approaches (infrastructure, protocols, applications, deployment plans).
  • User interfaces and usability both for administrators and users.
  • Modelling and analysis of the trade-offs related to privacy, security, performance, and more.
  • Social studies on the use of local networks operating outside the public Internet, like the recent example of Firechat in Hong Kong.
  • Theoretical studies of the interdisciplinary challenges around the design and deployment of DIY networks.

For the special interdisciplinary session, we welcome the following types of contributions:

  • Demos of working prototypes of DIY networking applications or systems.
  • Posters or design mock-ups of imaginary applications.
  • Accounts of real-life deployments and experimentation and future imaginaries.
  • Short papers introducing and/or analyzing important concepts that can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations.