Networks Of The People, By The People, And For The People

Keegan Rankin

Computer networks today are an integral component of our human networks. Unfortunately, there are still a large number of people in the United States and around the world that do not have internet access and as a result are often out of the loop and excluded from building the political and economic future of their own neighborhoods. For this reason, it is of great importance that we have a serious conversation about how our networks are actually built, as opposed to simply taking their existence for granted, since the well-being of our communities may depend on their arrangement and logistics.

For the first part of this presentation I will provide a design justice critique of the various network-building strategies that attempt to confront this digital divide, and contend that participatory networks are the most direct solution to the problem at hand because they extend ownership of the network infrastructure to those marginalized communities. For the second part I will share, as a participatory network case study, the approach and lessons of the Detroit Community Technology Project in facilitating the design and implementation of multiple Community Wireless Networks.

Note: For those unfamiliar, design justice is an approach to design that focuses on avoiding common design practices that bring harm to marginalized communities.