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Focusing on the Social Layer in
Wireless Mesh Communities

Alyx Baldwin –
Current Research
Master’s Thesis in Design + Technology

Parsons, the New School
for Design in NYC
Origin of Interest
Darknet Initiatives

Internet Censorship

Voice, Data, SMS too expensive

Rural areas lacking Internet
The Arab Spring &
Communication Shutdown
Arab Springboard
Project Byzantium

OpenMesh Project

Internet in a Suitcase
Distributed Networks
Dandelion Message Service
One Laptop Per Child
Village Telco - Mesh Potato
MIT Roofnet
Mesh Communities
Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network
FabFi in Afghanistan
Dharamsala Wireless Mesh
Wlan Slovenija
Why Mesh?
Share connectivity anywhere

Repairs itself on the fly

Lower Cost


Ebbs & Flows with
social/physical landscapes
Why Mesh?
Can be used in emergencies

Eliminate Censorship

Extend to Rural areas

Nearly free communication

Turn any device into router
Some Open Mesh Protocols


B.A.T.M.A.N. advanced


With all this great tech...
Why aren’t there more communities?

When will mesh reach critical mass?

What about Common Person
Social needs of mesh?
“Community Building over Neighborhood
Wireless Mesh Networks” IEEE Tech & Society 2008
Need social incentives:

- Reward cooperation &
resource sharing

- Build Reputation / Trust
Cross Layer Cooperation
Cooperation is needed or mesh won’t thrive
Contribute as much as you consume

Resource Sharing
Need to create an interdependent online
community tied into the offline

Reciprocal exchange economy of resources:

Power/Battery Use
Packet Forwarding
CPU Cycles
Internet Gateway / Hardware / Software
Reputation & Trust
Relying on each others contributions to
maintain stability

Physical proximity of mesh networks can
exploit real world aquiantances

Ad Hoc networks lack trust, not enough
time to develop community
So...who cares?

Need to engage general public

Make them empathize with mesh

Understand & visualize mesh

Building trust
Reinforcing interdependence
Creating reciprocity
What about social games?
ugh, Farmville...32 million daily users

Endless game cycles = endless networking


Raph Koster
Social Mechanics for Social Games
Reciprocal & Gift Economies
Trust & Reputation between players
Guilds & Tribes - Grouped by association (homogenous)
Exclusivity - trusted / invite networks
Task assignment for group members
(also in swarm intelligence)
Impact of Scale
Level 1 Group of People
Level 2 Village/Campus Size
Level 3 Neighborhood
Level 4 Linked Neighborhoods
Level 5 Metropolitan Area Network + Public ISP

Start slow, empower users over time
Amy Jo Kim, Community Building on the Web
Gamification bridges mechanics to real world
Applying these mechanics to mesh

Extrinsic Currency
Coins = Measuring contributions to:
Power/Battery Use
- Packet Forwarding
- CPU Cycles
Intrinsic Currency
Knowledge & Teaching
Hardware construction & Repair
Software Development & Installing
Running Internet & GSM Gateways
Social/Community Presence

Global Reputation meter for Ad Hoc Networks?
Game Scenario - remix of “Treasure Isle”
Starting out on own mesh node
Task Market
Woktenna instructable
Gained knowledge gems!
Showing Worth (another social mechanic)
Islands grow with self worth,
more room for expressive space

Color of plants and types of items that
“spawn” reflect prominent resource skills

but ...
Augmenting Community Interests
Need to address local needs for existing
local networks (village/town, office, art space, etc.)

- Neighbourhood tasks
- Decision making
- Organizational activities / Announcements
- Security

Create a super-localized Craigslist & eBay

Extend Resource Economy past Mesh
Create need for local mesh as community asset,
something to maintain... a community garden
Ripple Monetary System
Peer to Peer Economy
- Open & Decentralized, based on Trust
- Monetary Honour System
- For mesh community micro-economies?

Protoype site:
Physical Layer
Recycled Computers/Phones “revived”

Cantenna/Woktenna Directional Links

FabFi Infrastructure

openBTS + old GSM phones?

DIY Omnidirectional Antennas?

“Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network” ->
Freifunk Manual
Network Layer
Focus on open source protocols that work
cross platform:

- Laptop/Desktop
- Mobile Devices - localized + ad hoc
- OpenWRT Routers to build backbones

Babel or B.A.T.M.A.N. or OLSRd??
Application Layer
Javascript / HTML 5 interface:
Cross platform
+ Phonegap for Mobile

... BUT – Still hard for average users to
install mesh protocols :(
Next Steps...
Setup mesh testbed at Parsons with possible
directional link to NYU

Experiment with localized economy / social
tools/ resource sharing
between students / schools
Works Cited
Antoniadis, P., Le Grand, B. Université Pierre et Marie Curie, France Satsiou, A., Tassiulas, L. Uni -
versity of Thessaly & Informatics and Telematics Institute, Greece Aguiar, R., Barraca, J., Sargento,
S., Instituto de Telecomunicações, Universidade de Aveiro, Portugal
Community Building over Neighborhood Wireless Mesh Networks
IEEE Technology and Society, March 2008

Johnson, D., Matthee, K., Sokoya, D., Mboweni, L., Makan, A., Kotze, H.
Building a Rural Wireless Mesh Network
Meraka Institute, 2007

Kim, Amy Jo
Community Building on the Web , Peachpit Press, 2000

Koster, Raph “Social Mechanics: The Engines Behind Everything Multiplayer” http://www.
March 2011

Alyx Baldwin

See you at CCC!