Disrupting Networks from Below
Edited by Tineke M. Egyedi and Donna C. Mehos
Chapter 8: Who Cares? The Maintenance of a Wi-Fi Community Infrastructure
Stefan Verhaegh and Ellen van Oost Against the flow of this constant entropy, maintenance people must swim always upstream, progressless against the current like a watchful trout. The only satisfaction they can get from their work is to do it well. The measure of success in their labors is that the result is invisible, unnoticed. Thanks to them, everything is the same as it ever was. (Brand 1994, p. 130) INTRODUCTION Over the years, Wi-Fi technology has inspired several citizen communities to construct their own local – often city-wide – ICT infrastructures. There is growing interest in the stories about the rise and growth of community innovation, but little is known about the less heroic yet equally important work of maintenance. This chapter explores the role and relevance of maintenance work for the development of stable and reliable inverse infrastructures. What kind of work needs to be done, and how is this work distributed over the community? To shed light on these questions we will analyze maintenance work through the example of one specific case, Wireless Leiden, one of the largest successful and lasting Wi-Fi communities in Europe.1 Wireless Leiden is a good example of an inverse infrastructure: it is userdriven, self-organizing, developed from the bottom up and has decentralized control (Vree 2003). The wireless infrastructure is fully initiated, shaped and maintained by a non-profit community of local citizens. In the Dutch city of Leiden, a small group of residents developed a city-wide wireless infrastructure (with regional ambitions), offering the residents of...
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