Vancouver Free the Net.ca

Meraki minis and outdoor units for the Vancouver mesh network. Image courtesy of Boris Mann.I’m involved in the Vancouver Free the Net.ca initiative (though there may be disagreement over whether “initiative” is the appropriate word to describe it). VanFreetheNet is setting up ad hoc mesh networks in various parts of the city, partly in response to inertia and other issues related to the City of Vancouver’s municipal wireless plans.

We’re using the Meraki units (above right, thanks to Boris Mann for the image) – which look really simple to configure and manage, and only cost $70. Best of all, after this one time cost, each person or business owns the wi-fi node they’ve set up – whether it’s connected to the wider Internet or not. It’s community owned community infrastructure.

Kris Krüg has got a map of mesh connectivity around the city – that I think is being updated regularly. I’ll be adding at least one node to the Commercial Drive area, and hopefully I can mobilize interest among others in the neighborhood (cafés offering free wireless and schools in the area – I’m looking at you…). If anyone’s got a business, organization, or other broadband connection they’d like to share, get in touch with Kris at Bryght (kriskrug at gmail dot com) to buy one and get it set up.

Ex-Perry Mental Geekery

Nice to be back in the swim of things. I just put a final report out the door on a research project that I’d been working on for 14 months. It was a difficult project – one that didn’t always go as planned, that got intermittently sidelined by other events in my life (buying an apartment, having a first baby), and included a whole feeling of responsibility and guilt unlike any other research project I’d ever worked on. More than anything, it was in a research area worlds away from poopular (yes, I mean poopular, it’s not just the baby talking) music, which is my number one research passion.

I’m not going to divulge any more details about that project here (details of it will soon be published elsewhere), but your takeaway from the above blurb should be that now that the project’s done, much more of my time can be devoted to my work in music and my work in mobile – both of which are central themes of this blog.

To wit, I’m TAing a 3rd year course in popular music studies this semester, and the gearing up is invigorating. We’re doing something of an experimental “taste laboratory” of sorts on Last.fm. I’ve invited the 76 students in the class to join so we can have some healthy backchannel in a music-rich environment. We’ll be sticking to the books and lectures in tutorial, but I figured having this optional addon for students who are so inclined can be instructive, and perhaps give some students some concrete experience with which to grapple whilst reading Hebdige, Attali, Adorno, McRobbie, and others (PS – I didn’t design the reading list, so if you have a problem with it, take it up with the Sessional).

The other thing I’m diving into now is a short ethnographic study (yes, the third in a series) of mobile phone use, using the Nokia 95. I’ve been playing with one of them for a couple of days now, and I am quite impressed with its ergonomic design. Something about this phone feels just alright, as Lou Reed would say. However, the phone keeps crashing when using the built in photo gallery app. Looking for a workaround.

Oh, and of course, there’s the upcoming AOIR, which I’m helping out with (and presenting at).

I’ll be keeping you posted.

AOIR 8 Vancouver, 50 Parties, etc. (Oct. 2007)

Heya. I am presenting in a panel at AOIR this year (the title of my presentation/paper is “The Technical Micropolitics of the Online Music Industry, 1997-2007″, abstract here). For those of you who’ve followed my blog, you’ll know something of what to expect, except that I’ll be strictly framing up the narrative in terms of something called “technical micropolitics”, which, with any luck, I’ll have a competent grasp of by the time the conference rolls along. Theory, y’know? One minute you think you’ve got it, and the next minute, well, you sound like Daffy Duck.

Which brings me to another announcement of sorts – one more suited to quacking unintelligibly [& yes, readers coming in via The ORG should get that one]. I volunteered to organize (hopefully not all by my lonesome self!) the Vancouver instantiation of something Jimmy Wales started called “Heather and Jimmy’s 50 Party Club“. See the links I’ve provided for as detailed an explanation as you’re going to get (which admittedly ain’t much), but in a nutshell, you can expect a gathering of an international set of free culture/creative commons/open source nerds drinking together in the same physical space and engaging in as-yet-undetermined activities to keep each other vaguely entertained. Go to the wiki and pitch in! Your help is needed. Know of a potential sponsor (hint – local microbreweries or wineries love nerds because nerds drink lots!)? A venue? An entertainment source? A fax machine we can rig up to send loopfaxes to Larry Lessig for quitting the good fight? Or do you just wanna show up and make an arse of yourself? Get with our little planning wiki, whatever the case. Let’s have some fun.

Going mobile with alternative energy

Orange will soon debut this nifty looking wind-powered charger for mobile phones. For those who want to be ostentatious about their environmentalism in a very geeky way. Represent!

Solar powered solutions for various charging tote bags, purses, and even golf bags will also be available soon.

The price tags are significant, but this is still early stages. I am curious how much power can be squeezed out of a day at the beach (or at an outdoor music festival). But certainly this represents a progressive re-tooling of the standard car adaptor (which is what the juice bag uses). I think this is exemplary of what one of my professors, Andrew Feenberg would call subversive rationalization.

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