The Wireless Event

The Wireless Event

Author:Julian Priest
Date:March 31st 2004
Copyright:Julian Priest 2004 Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 1.0



Wireless LAN usage has grown enormously in the last few years in London. Freenetworkers, commercial providers and public sector initiatives have been installing and using the technology. As WLAN hits the mainstream, a wireless festival that addresses usage of the emerging medium is proposed. This article looks at some recent wireless events that have taken place over the last 3 years and their formats and makes a proposal for the structure of a WLAN event in London for 2004/2005.

Why is an Event Needed?

The last years have seen an enormous growth in the uptake of wireless LAN technology in London by many different groups. This trend looks set to continue with 2004 being a year when WLAN is adopted widely by the mainstream.

This year, commercial hotspot providers are beginning significant marketing drives to publicise their hotspot offerings, a number of public sector network initiatives are being piloted and use of WLAN in the home and office is becoming commonplace. At the same time, the freenetwork movement, which pioneered the use of WLAN, continue to develop technical solutions, social networks and a discourse of media freedom and infrastructure ownership.

While WLAN is an extension of computer networking and internetworking, it provides a distributed media infrastructure with new properties and possibilities. A substantial wireless event now would provide a context and suggest directions for this developing media infrastructure and would help to frame current developments in an understandable way for a wider audience.

As well-marketed and backed commercial and public sector operators enter the space, now would be a good time to collect and re-examine the achievements and the development of wireless freenetworking as a counterpoint.

As the infrastructure emerges both publicly and in the home, a Wireless Festival would focus on the creative, artistic and practical possibilities that these new networks can support. This could provide further stimulus for new forms to emerge and show how local and democratised content networks can be used in the future.

The background mentioned here is explored in greater detail in 'The State of Wireless London'. 1

Wireless Events

Since first gaining popularity, wireless networking has generated a large number of events, meetings and social gatherings. These have ranged from local groups meeting to create local networks, installation meets where people have met to share skills on installing and configuring equipment, right up to large public sector community networking events and commercial conferences and trade fairs.

As this study is written in the context of a Wireless Festival focused on media arts and freenetworking, this article looks mainly at wireless events that are connected with these two areas.

To look at these areas more closely we commissioned three case-studies from different organisers of three events that involved freenetworks and media arts. The events involve connected groups of people and give three different views on different types of events around a particular group of freenetworkers.

The first case study is by James Stevens. It looks at the Consume Clinics, a series of self-instituted events that were a continuation of the original Consume meetings. Here people came to learn and share practical experiences about building wireless networks. The events were initiated and funded by participants without institutional or corporate backing.

The second, by Saul Albert looks at a Media Arts event 'DMZ' that had a freenetworking panel. It included a number of other arts-based projects and is an example of an event with a more curatorial focus.

The third, by Armin Medosch, looks at BerLon, a workshop based event in Berlin where London-based freenetworkers went to share practical experiences of wireless networking. This event has had a great impact in stimulating freenetwork activity in Berlin.

Consume Clinics

James Stevens


Q1. Describe a wireless or freenetworking event that you have attended. Please include as much detail as you can including your role in it, when and where it took place, who the organisers were, who the participants/audience were, how it was structured, what presentations workshops or other elements there were etc.

I called a series of three Consume Clinic events which were held at Limehouse Town Hall during 2002. These clinics were considered an opportunity to promote key aspects of Consume, the will for self- provision, debunking of myths and momentum of ideals in an environment that reflected the real experiences of 'freenetworkers' and where the hand-to-hand business of relationship and trust building would occur without the prescriptive influence of dogmatic formula or architectural objectives.

The Town Hall was an ideal physical space in which to expose and explore these ideas, not least those of how to hold such public meetings free from commercial pressures and preconceptions. Enthusiasts and novices alike contributed time, energy and enthusiasm in open exchange in the faith that cumulative progress and freenetwork realisations would emerge, as indeed they did.

These were Consume clinics and oriented toward those already engaged in question and exchange on the mailing lists, or actively involved in a network building or resource sharing initiative. Bringing together freenetworkers from around the UK and worldwide to charge the potential of the urban and rural proposition with evidence of action and success illustrated with direct practical contact and experiment.

Many of the local London-based protagonists such as Adam Burns of Free2air, Simon Worthington of You Are Here and representatives of London 2600 provided first level support and key levels of contribution. Alexei Blinov of Raylab held comprehensive engineering workshops and as well as demonstrating the products of previous work offered attendees first hand experience in antenna design and construction. Each of the three clinic events attempted slightly different formats. People came from all over the SE, the Isle of Wight, from Wales, Lancashire the Midlands and Scotland, from NY, San Francisco, Cyprus, Germany and Spain. None were prepared or scheduled in any way. We made 'em up as we went along, jamming with those present to build appropriate form out of the material that was present.

Clinic Program

The first clinic:

'Round the World' Sunday 2nd June, 15:00 - 21:00

Matt (BAWUG) Terry (NYCwireless), antenna builders, bring what you have.. !

Meet UK other WLAN groups, Freenetwork review, NoCat, Cartography, use of public space, distance links ..what's happening on the legal side .. RA/DTI consultancy report.

It included some formal presentations as well as insight on an emerging legal framework in the UK and US and accounts of practical experience in public networks here in London but also in rural districts around the UK and US.

About 80 people attended.

The second clinic :

'ConsumeCan' - Sunday 11th August 14.00-20.00

practical workshops & interference clinic

ChalkSnorting - ConsumeX, MobileMesh pilot - deep infrastructure - UK review - NodeWarez and Gaming

This took a more plug and play approach with an 'in the round' presentation and workbench setup on which all activities occurred. This resulted in a swirl of activity and perhaps the most productive and momentous utilisation of the space.

About 50 people attended, a great day. Talkaoke also present and rolling.

The third clinic:

Sunday 15th September 14.00-20.00

Freenetworking workshops & interference clinic Node development, video relay and broadband gaming

This was less well attended and featured video over wifi experiments and radio detection systems. No gaming as I recall.

About 20 people came.


Q2. What is your evaluation of the event both in general and from the perspective of your personal involvement. What was successful and unsuccessful, what were the good and bad points, what did you like and dislike about the event?

Overall I found the events fun and exhausting. I am not a natural performer/public speaker, preferring the more workshop-based activities that result in installation or transmission. The events were reasonably attended, certainly well enough for work to be offered enthusiasm expressed...


Q3. What do you think the impact of the event was both inside and outside the field, who did it benefit the most/least?

It's very hard to measure benefit at these events. There was a fall away of attendance, which was disheartening, and identifying support in advance of each clinic was almost impossible, although many turned up each day and did their respective thing willingly. What we may have gained by being more organised we would have lost in formality and dross of conventional conferences. Which I have no enthusiasm for, at all.


Q4. What lessons can be learned from this event in comparison to other events and what would you like to see in a wireless festival for London?

These loosely arranged clinics that were pulled together to stimulate dialogue and get people face to face to motivate node building and interconnection of new networks worked well for they were well attended, encouraged communication and fostered friendships.

A London Wireless festival/clinic now would need to acknowledge growing awareness of issues and engender similar levels of exchange between novice users and veteran campaigners. Identify practical uses in the areas of both the radio technology and applied ideology that have enabled progress so far and explore how rolling development is continuing to open out space and reshape our environment.


Saul Albert


Q1. Describe a wireless or freenetworking event that you have attended. Please include as much detail as you can including your role in it, when and where it took place, who the organisers were, who the participants/audience were, how it was structured, what presentations workshops or other elements there were etc.

The DMZ media arts festival was a two-day event held in Limehouse Town Hall, East London on the 14th and 15th November 2003. I facilitated the festival's occupancy and use of Limehouse Town Hall, where I am one of the network administrators and part of a team of volunteers who are renovating the building as a venue and cultural workspace. The event was not centred around freenetworking or wireless technology as such, but many groups and projects within the event were working in these areas, and the event itself constituted a significant use of the existing free network based at Limehouse Town Hall.

The event was organised by a group of media arts organisations including:

These groups were assisted by two project managers, employed specifically to manage the event, who were answerable to the groups, and also to representatives from each of the funding bodies.

Some of the organisation of the event was done on an open mailing list (although it was not advertised to participants or a wider group, so although it was technically 'open', access to it was obscure). Ideas, organisational issues and other workings of the event were also documented on the DMZ wiki, which is still available for viewing here:

The purpose of the event was to showcase the work of these four groups, who had been in receipt of a small fund for 'Developing Digital Media in London' (hence the group name: DDML) for the last two years. A fifth group, Audiorom ( had been part of this DDML group, and had dissolved in early 2002, so the £40,000 from Arts Council England (ACE) that was intended to fund their ongoing activities was re-allocated to this event, along with a further £20,000 from Film London, whose involvement brought the moving image and film 'sector' into the event, alongside what (for the four agencies named above) would have been considered more obvious audiences, from media arts (including net art, media activism, and other network-centric cultural activities). The collaboration between these agencies brought an incentive to reach 'new audiences' to the event, which was very successful in those terms. The initial goal of 250 attendees was surpassed (eventually over 1000 people came to the event over the two days) and many attendees were seeing these groups and projects for the first time. The event also included a series of new commissions of media art, given to 7 agencies and artists other than the DDML group (for example, or and voluntary contributions to the event (stalls, installations, etc.) were also solicited from media arts groups. A full list of exhibits can be found on the DMZ website here:

There were several structures within the event:

  • Stalls set up and manned by the DDML groups.
  • Installations throughout Limehouse Town Hall by groups and commissioned artists.
  • A series of talks and panel discussions on current themes in media arts held throughout the two days.

The panel discussions and talks also acted as an open showcase for people wishing to present work at the last minute, but who did not want to set up stalls or installations, or had not had time or space to set them up. A notice board in the hallway carried a moving schedule of ad-hoc speakers, bolstered by the pre-organised and chaired panels. A full list can be found on the DMZ website here:

The event was contextualised by a poster/publication that was sent out alongside publicity, and handed out at the event. An essay, by Armin Medosch, tried to provide visitors with a background to media arts in London, with a particular bent towards Free Networking (although this was not the central concern of the event). This essay is available on the DMZ site here:

Underlying the event was a separate initiative to provide business support (in the form of business development grants of £3,300) to each of the DDML groups, and to the venue, Limehouse Town Hall, that had supported many of the groups' activities throughout the year. There was also a material investment in the venue: £6000 was spent on equipment (projection and AV kit, and an upgrade of the adsl bandwidth) for the duration of the event, which was then given to the venue in recognition of this support, and as an investment in the future of Limehouse Town Hall. Some time and money was also spent paying a network administrator (who had previously worked on Limehouse's network voluntarily) to upgrade and repair the network to deal with the event on the day. Some equipment was also donated to the venue by the DDML groups to facilitate the event, but also to further their free network projects. Specifically, Mute located a locustworld meshbox ( in the building, and located a collection of antenna building tools and materials in the map room


The event covered in this report, the DMZ was not self-consciously positioned as a 'free networks' or a 'wireless' event, although there were several projects and groups involved to which those themes are central. However, the term 'media art' in the sense in which it was used at the DMZ is very involved with the concept of a Free Network, which at the moment is most commonly produced using wireless technologies. The understanding of network as a medium, (or more properly as media, in the sense that use of the network is multi-modal and delivers the experience of many existing media over one medium) is central to the DMZ's idea of media art, as art that is critical and aware of the formal, social and political subtleties that come with transmission and exchange of information. In that many of the presenters and groups at the DMZ were also involved with DIY cultural production and activism of many kinds, the idea of a Free Network, and attempts to use existing networks as if they are free, were very much part of the DMZ. So, without justifying the use of DMZ as a case study any further, the use of the term media art in this report is also intended to be related to the idea of Free Networks in this way.


Q2. What is your evaluation of the event both in general and from the perspective of your personal involvement. What was successful and unsuccessful, what were the good and bad points, what did you like and dislike about the event?

The DMZ achieved the targets of its funding bodies and did manage to introduce 'new audiences' to the media arts sector in London. Participants said they had enjoyed the two days, which were extremely well catered and, thanks to the efforts of the project managers, ran very smoothly.

The business support and infrastructural investment in Limehouse was also extremely beneficial. This investment in infrastructure has remained after the event and has even provided us with some means to generate income and sustain the resources (by renting out the equipment and greatly increasing the hire value of the venue). This is a good example of how events such as these can genuinely contribute to local cultural economies, and stimulate their further growth and development without direct investment on a 'program' level.

However, the management structures of the DMZ were confused, and the two project managers did not have any engagement with the field of media arts, free networking, or any of the more politically engaged aspects of the 'sector'. These were the roots of all the problems of the event. There was a lack of clear communications and accountability structures which are really essential to the organisation of a large-scale, funded and publicly accountable event such as this. Had the event been smaller, with fewer agendas to answer (by which I mean fewer incentives to generate 'new audiences' or put on a 'showcase' from ACE or Film London), a looser and less restrictive organisational style would have been appropriate.

The event seemed torn between an aspiration to self-organise, to try to generate interest and involvement from existing relationships and reputation value exchange within the DDML groups and their milieu, and the necessity to satisfy funding requirements by 'showcasing', publicising the event in other 'sectors', and paying wages or commissions to some participants. These two economies did not sit easily together and in fact managed to undermine each other. Volunteers felt devalued by the fact that some people were paid for equivalent or even lesser involvement, and some paid 'professionals', especially some of the funders, felt unsatisfied with the messy, ad-hoc style of the event. The DMZ should have been one or the other: either a slickly produced, curated event, with strong project managers who know the field and would have been able to both challenge and encourage the groups and individuals to produce something coherent and useful, or a very informal and ad-hoc arrangement, more like the 'flea market' style of event initiated by Expo Destructo (1999) or Mute and NTK's 'XCOM 2002.

My own involvement as a paid worker was unsatisfying because although the budget was very large (GBP60,000), it was over-allocated and many project workers including myself were only remunerated for about half the time we had to work on the project. Again, I would have liked to work on a voluntary basis, and been more free to determine the outcomes and directions of the event, or, to have been paid adequately to facilitate the event professionally.

During the DMZ two participants, Armin Medosch and myself wrote down some of our thoughts on the way the injection of funds was effecting the project, and we tried to distribute it as a Request For Comments document within the DDML group, with the intention of turning it into a publication for the project. Although this mini-project was unsuccessful, some of the comments are maintained here: but it is worth noting that though I mention this text, I do not agree with or value much of it.

However, two points that I made in that document still seem relevant to this discussion, and are very adequate descriptions of what I thought were the problems that came with the funding for the DMZ project.

Funding requires projected outcomes

Most funding requires a statement of the projected outcomes of a project before the project is underway. This forces receivers of funds who want to work collaboratively, and allow their projects to be peer reviewed and altered through the process of collaboration to take up a management role in the project, steering it towards aims and objectives that may no longer make sense, often undermining any genuine attempt at collaboration. At the end of a process of collaboration it may become apparent that the best thing to do bears very little relation to the initial aims of the project - funding requires that those initial aims are met.

Cultural funding can undermine more subtle and productive economies

Collaborative processes, especially those developed in recent years with a growing awareness of the cultural centrality of intellectual property, operate in a mixed economy of utility, reputation and symbiosis with established monetary economies. In the world of Free Software, from which cultural producers have taken inspiration, the symbiosis is with a commercial economy of proprietary software production. This exchange is clear. Programmers want to improve their skills, gain reputation and increase their employability, so they participate in Free Software projects and are remunerated in the commercial software world. In cultural production the exchange is far less clear. The remuneration offered by cultural funding is bound up with all kinds of politically instrumental agendas, and has its own reputation economy based on antiquated notions of artistic authorship. This last point is the most difficult as the two reputation economies have a negative correlation. In the art reputation economy, if one collaborator is funded, and another is not, all the reputation value goes to the funded party - the unpaid party is then seen as a 'participant' or a 'technician', not an artist.


Q3. What do you think the impact of the event was both inside and outside the field, who did it benefit the most/least?

Although the event was promoted extensively outside the immediate field of media art, and many people who are primarily involved with other areas of specific interest, the impact of the DMZ was probably not very lasting. The focus on 'showcasing' meant that the involvement of visitors in the event was quite limited to spectatorship. There were no workshops, and the fact that the event was only two days long, and had such a high intensity of activity in those two days made it very difficult for people to meet, relax, and start to develop conversations and relationships that might have some longer term impact. So although wider audiences were reached, it seemed unlikely that their attention would have been held for very long.

In the funding sector and in terms of raising the profile of the groups involved in cultural-administrative quarters, I think the event had quite a high impact, although it is uncertain whether that was a high positive or high negative impact. Off-the-record reports indicate that to some people from the funding bodies supporting the DMZ, the impact was high and negative, given that the two day event was a far cry from the slick curated media festival that might be expected for the level of investment that was made. However, other reports from funders who were more directly involved has been positive about the results and the processes.

For the DDML group themselves, I felt that the impact of the festival was extremely draining. Although extra funds were provided for the production of their contributions to the event, it was very difficult to work out how they were expected to engage with the event, how much of their time should be spent on it, and what they were expected to produce. The result was that some groups put in a lot of time, work and money into events and presentations at the DMZ, and others used the funds and the context to do more behind-the-scenes work and concentrate on bolstering their existing commitments. There was some misunderstanding and bad feeling between the groups about this, which felt like a lack of commitment and focus to the project. However, I do not think this impression was transmitted outside of the DDML group, or was long lasting.

Contributors from the field of media arts and commissioned artists generally fared much better. There was still a great deal of variance as to how much effort was put into the specifics of the event, which was problematic (again, because some were paid, some were voluntary, and this did not correlate to how hard people worked on their projects), but the negative impact of the lack of coherence was probably much less damaging to those less involved contributors. In fact, because of the unusually high profile of the event (the fact that it attracted people from outside media arts circles at all ranks it as very high profile in this sector) many of the contributors to the event probably found the DMZ to have been a very useful opportunity, and may have gained useful contacts and industry attention from the event. This was certainly the case for the Limehouse Town Hall Consortium, who found it much easier to communicate with potential partners and sponsors after the business support and attention that came with the DMZ.

Inside the wider field of media arts there was very little impact that I could detect. Although many had heard about the festival, few wrote about it on mailing lists or in industry publications. However, 'impact' can be hard to detect in this field, which has few formal gatherings or festivals, and no regular ones in Britain as of yet. In a year's time the DMZ may be mentioned as a focal point or significant event of some sort. This would be quite likely if the DMZ is the beginning of a series of similar or related festivals. Needless to say, there was no coverage in the art press or the mainstream media, but this is hardly surprising given the event's purposeful lack of focus and coherence.


Q4. What lessons can be learned from this event and what would you like to see in a wireless festival for London?
  • It would have been good to have either a well organised and curated showcase or an informal get-together with less fixed outcomes.
  • It would have been useful to have had a very tight documentation plan, even a person entirely dedicated to that role, because doing it after the event seems very difficult.
  • Time allocation for jobs relating to the event has to be realistic, well budgeted and re-assessed. It would probably make sense to over-budget for people's time.
  • It might be best to encourage and reward voluntary work, and try to avoid two-tier systems of paid and unpaid workers, unless the distinction between roles and expectations for each is very transparent.
  • Investment in infrastructure and travel bursaries seem to be more valuable ways to use funds than piecemeal payment of contributor's fees.
  • Set-up-time should have been scheduled and adhered to, for the more complex installations, the fact that some contributors arrived with only hours to spare made the start of the event extremely stressful, and meant that there was no time to apply the finishing touches that would have made all the difference.

In a wireless festival for London, I would like to see:

  • Significant pre-festival infrastructure installations; e.g. the installation of decent equipment in and around festival venues, which then remains after the event.
  • Emphasis on pre-festival and post-festival activities, so that the festival becomes a culmination of a number of small projects, and a launch-point for longer term ones.
  • Hands-on workshops which have worked well in the past - antenna building, box building, weatherproofing etc.
  • Purchase of tools and node fabrication equipment, sited somewhere accessible and funded for a longer period of time so that if someone needs to build a node, there's a regular workshop they can attend, once per week, say, for 6 months after the event. This could be a project commission, put out to tender before the event.
  • Reasonable amounts of non-structured time, in stimulating environments for people to talk, work on projects together and develop partnerships. In fact, spreading the event over a longer-than-usual period of time, or over several weeks with lower-intensity events happening more frequently, might be a good way to do this.
  • A dedicated documenter collecting information about who is there, projects that are presented, coordinating the video documentation of talks, and making all that information available immediately.


Armin Medosch, London, 13th January 2004

The BerLon Wireless Culture Workshop Berlin, 12/13th of October 2002

In June 2002 I met the freelance curator Francesca Ferguson in Berlin who was about to organise her yearly event "urban drift", a conference and exhibition about progressive developments in contemporary architecture and urban development. She asked me to propose a panel discussion about wireless free networks and urban development for the next urban drift which was going to be held in October that year.

At that point I had been involved with Consume for about 6 months and had taken part in a number of Consume clinics. I also already knew that I wanted to write a book about wireless free networks, probably, at a later stage.

Soon after meeting Ferguson, still in Berlin, I went to bootlab. This is basically a large shared studio where commercial and non-commercial projects share an office space and the bandwidth of a dedicated leased line connection. The non-commercial part is the more interesting one, with projects such as klubradio by the nettime co-founder Pit Schultz and textz, the fabulous pirated book and essay repositorium by rolux. I proposed to bootlab to join this Urban Drift event. Talking to some of the bootlab people, like Thomas Kaulmann, Diana McCarty and Pit Schultz, it became clear quickly that the architectural scene had a reputation for co-opting discourses such as the one about wireless networks without giving back anything to the communities who developed the discourse and the technique. So, there was some caution, without any animosity, about joining Urban Drift.

The bootlab people also informed me about their activities in wireless networking. Within bootlab there was a small company called w:lab which had a bit of a double life. It sold commercial wlan solutions to companies but had also built a free public access hotspot at a central Berlin location. I also heard that people from the famous CCC hacker club and from c-base were involved in wireless networking too, but all those efforts were relatively isolated from each other and did not have a joint strategy.

At this point the Consume Clinics came to my mind. I thought that the workshop model could work in Berlin and give wireless networking there a push. I also thought that bootlab was the ideal place to do it. With Urban Drift it would become possible to bring over a small group of London free networkers. If we could secure some additional funding more people could come and we could introduce the Consume workshop model and idea in Berlin. I proposed this idea to bootlab and the reaction was very positive from the start. We could do our own thing, but would benefit from the Urban Drift travel budget.

After returning to London my proposal to make a Consume style workshop in Berlin fell on open ears. I wrote a concept for Urban Drift that included as presenters Simon Worthington, Mute/YouAreHere, James Stevens, Consume, Pit Schultz, bootlab, Shu Lea Cheang, Rich Air, and me as presenter/host. As additional participants for the workshop at bootlab we talked to Adam Burns, free2air, Giovanni D'Angelo, Saul Albert, University of Openness, Alexei Blinov, Raylab, and Ian Morrison, I said 'we' because at this point the event had taken on a notion of being a collective sort of thing. I had made it clear from the beginning that I would help as best as I could in making it happen but only if the commitment was there and the communities, both in London and Berlin, felt a real need to do it.

It turned out that both the commitment and the need were there on both sides. In Berlin Pit Schultz and Diana McCarty started to mobilise support for the idea. But it was Moritz Meinesz, one of the co-founders of w:lab, who would take on a central role as co-organiser. After a few inquiries I found out that probably the only funding institution willing to support such a project on such short notice was the Heinrich-Boell-Stiftung, a foundation and think tank close to the German Green party with a keen interest in 'sustainable networking'. Another trip to Berlin for a conference in late August 2002 gave me the chance for a personal meeting with Boell- Stiftung media officer Olga Drossou. After a short conversation she promised funding for 4 tickets.

Meanwhile in London planning for the event proceeded. Somebody, I think Giovanni D'Angelo, came up with the notion of merging the two names, Berlin and London, into BerLon, which became the name of the event. When Moritz Meinesz visited London we dicussed the agenda for the workshop at a meeting at SPC. (The full agenda is attached below). As one main event we wanted to demonstrate the viability of free networking also through innovative high-bandwidth applications. We aimed at connecting the wireless networks in Berlin and London through an IP tunnel, a secure connection that binds together the two networks as if they were one. People from Berlin would be able to use all the streaming media content and tools on the spc servers, such as backspace radio and the frequency clock. London could use klubradio and textz and other bootlab goodies as if it was on a machine next door. Another main point would be the discussion about the PicoPeering Agreement, a GPL style agreement for freenetworkers to share bandwidth. Apart from that there would be the usual things, such as antenna and node building and mesh networking.

When the event came closer it became increasingly clear that it was going to be 'interesting' at least. There were more than 70 people who had used the online registration. James Stevens announced that Julian Priest would come down from Denmark and bring some people with him. BerLon would actually have a bigger geographical reach than just Berlin and London.

At the start of BerLon on October 12th noon about fifty people were assembled at the workshop room at bootlab. The day started out with a series of presentations. After an introduction James Stevens talked about Consume, the crew from Copenhagen presented their project and Adam Burns presented his wireless mapping project air shadow, among others. Later the workshop divided itself into different parallel activities. As always, antenna building turned out to be very popular, guided by Dr Blinov and some local experts. Another group started to discuss the PicoPeering Agreement, while others gathered informally in small groups to discuss their projects and plans.

The PicoPeering session in Berlin -- that was the part I participated in -- was a really hard effort in collaborative thinking. Free Software expert Florian Cramer from Berlin explained different aspects of different copyleft GPL style licences. This helped us a lot to identify a problem, namely that there are some real differences between writing software and building a wireless community network. The rest of the day we wrangled with definitions and angles on the subject. Vortex/Adam Burns was quite well prepared. He had developed his own principles and also had defined a few key terms concerning the type of data traffic that was to be shared through a PicoPeering Agreement. James Stevens had a different idea, he thought about some sort of legal tool kit, where the user types in some information, clicks a set of choices and out comes the legally valid contract between network owners. But the majority insisted on taking a more humble approach. In a first step we needed to define what was shared. We came to the conclusion, following Vortex's train of thought, that the PPA was in essence an agreement about permitting free transit of data. All our thoughts and remarks were protocolled, not verbatim, but close to, by a number of participants and especially Saul Albert who filled a wiki page on the fly. At the end of the day everybody was exhausted.

The next day naturally had a late start and maybe only half the participants of the first day. We used this day to consolidate our notes about the PPA on the wiki. A group of people from Berlin sat together in another corner of the room and discussed possibilities of a joint effort of Berlin wireless groups to start something bigger.

Later we would learn that those effort would bear fruit. The scattered free network agents in Berlin had found a formula how to work together in the future. One group, led by Juergen Neumann, would launch a website, called, which would do the PR and the explaining for the wider public. Another group, c-base, would start a regular meeting at their space in central Berlin and co-ordinate the actual network building. Those meetings would soon attract new people and a non-commercial entity (a "Verein"), WaveLan Berlin, was founded. A year later a Berlin Backbone with four wireless nodes covering the centre of town was up and running with plans for expansion into all major Berlin city boroughs, targeting cultural institutions as agents of redistribution of bandwidth. The joint initiatives of Freifunk and Wavelan Berlin also co-organised the Freifunk summer convention in September 2003. Without any bragging (and any false modesty either) it can be said that BerLon acted as a catalyst to kickstart a homegrown free network movement in Berlin which has shown a very fast learning curve and quick development on the ground (or rather, on the roofs) ever since.

What nobody had suspected at the time of BerLon became evident one year later at the Berlin summer convention. One participant at Berlon, Bruno Randolph, who had at that time not said much but listened a lot, had developed with his company 4g systems a mesh networking plug-and-play solution, the mesh cube, similar, but maybe superior technically, to the meshbox and meshbook by locustworld, London. Such inexpensive open source software / hardware solutions will enable free networks to grow beyond the geek circles who have so far nurtured the development of this movement with their commitment. The mesh cube, mesh book and mesh box facilitate the participation of a much larger number of people in the free network movement.

BerLon Agenda

Agenda: BERLON Wireless Workshop

Workshop Agenda and Schedule

the technical how to:

  • set up a node,
  • configure a router,
  • antenna
  • node to node peering
  • IP tunneling
  • wireless mesh-working: how to inter-connect wlans to a metropolitan area network
  • network resources for this type of questions, existing documentation

(Consume, YouAreHere?)

organisational and ownership questions:

  • a wireless GPL, a standard agreement between a community service provider and the users; peering agreements between nodes.

content, a serviced node:

  • Content from spc, ambient, bootlab
  • Services like frequency clock

Mobility at work: open air activities like:

  • war walking, peddling and chalking
  • mapping with gps air shadow project, vortex
  • paper chase/urban letterboxing/
  • further interventions in public space

List of Active Participants





Festival Structures

Festivals are larger events structures often made up of groups of smaller discrete events. Festivals can be thought of as spaces where ideas can be transmitted and developed and new social networks allowed to form and develop.

Festivals are arranged around a festival organising principle (FOP), either thematic, geographic or temporal, with participants connected by some shared means into a community of interest. Festivals allow a world view to be explained and explored in a way that a single event cannot hope to achieve. A festival offers a framework for participants to explore an idea or a set of activities in depth from a number of different viewpoints and can help in defining and making space for the further development of the core ideas.

They serve dual audiences, with both the internal initiate and the external neophyte catered for.

Internally they can be a chance for peers to meet and discuss - something that is becoming increasingly important in profession-based conferences and festivals as remote working practices become more commonplace. They can provide the refreshment of enthusiasm and recognition needed to continue to operate in the normal course of work, and are a chance to re-kindle old acquaintances and forge new ones. Freed from the low bandwidth communications pathways of email text and telephone festivals represent chances for a full spectrum of discourse.

For External audiences they can represent a chance for new comers to be introduced to a subject, and to see a whole body of work represented. At best they can be accessible and comprehensive access points to complex bodies of work.

Festivals can also be celebrations, a release from the day to day norms and a chance to experiment with new ways of doing things in a delineated festival-specific context.

The scale of a festival allows for side shows, workshop events or parallel tracks where peripheral activities can be explored. In some cases these parallel tracks have grown to eventually eclipse the main festival as was the case with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Festivals are often used as regional or municipal regeneration tools, bringing people from around the world to congregate in a particular place often with a substantial economic impact on the region, not just in direct fees, but in the revenue for board and lodging and for attendees, and in raising the profile of the area. The Burning Man festival which takes place in a desert location devoid of any real industry reportedly generates $10 million dollars annually for Washoe County in northern Nevada US. 2

Festivals come in many shapes and forms with the term used by different people in different ways.

The Green Field Festival

In green field summer music festival, dates and venue are set and audience and performers come to one place for a period of a few days. A multitude of different events take place in a short period of time and the visitor is exposed to a huge range of possible experiences in a short space of time. The effect is like being taken to an alternative universe where a different set of rules and norms apply, the rules of the festival.

Glastonbury is perhaps the archetypal festival of this type. Initially born from a counter-culture that wished to distance itself from the status quo, it offered the chance to step out of the world for a few days, to live with nature, to immerse oneself in music and distance oneself from reality with the aid of hallucinogens, search the elsewhere of inner and communal psychological spaces.

The search for an elsewhere has ended in the delineation of the site and total demarcation of the festival from the countryside around it. In order to fund the event, entry fees were charged and this led to the construction of a progressively more ambitious wall to keep out freeloaders. The boundary condition for entry to 'the festival commons' became a financial and physical one. 3

As James Flint notes, the funding of the wall that protects the space as an area of counter-cultural experimentation has also led to an increasing commercialism within the festival.

"the prevailing atmosphere is no longer one of freedom and release of extasis, anti-capitalism, primitivism, but of being a responsible citizen in a participatory democracy" 3

The 'Arts' Festival

In an arts or film festival a collection of events is decided by call for proposals or curatorial decision and events organised into a programme by a committee of experts.

In the case of the Cannes Film Festival submissions take the form of a competition with a board of directors and appointed jurors. 4 The reputation of the festival is such that a steady stream of content is assured and participation in the festival serves a purpose of validating works within the industry, and as a result serves a publicity focus for the accepted films.

Often held in a city, events usually take place in existing cultural institutions, whether they be galleries, concert halls, theatres or cinemas. The audience and participants stay in hotels, drink in bars and eat in restaurants, which flourish as a result. The festival is integrated into the luxury leisure life of the city, and augments it with temporary cultural whirl for a defined period. In the Edinburgh Festival, the whole city is taken over for the weeks of the summer and with all available public spaces turned over to performance space and all the bars full it is as if the city has gone on holiday from itself.

These types of festival concern the mainstream arts achievements of a culture, and are officially sanctioned and embraced, attracting high-profile corporate sponsorship and civic backing. They do not require separation from the world by temporary walls, but take pride of place in the cultural spaces of the city centre.

The Distributed Festival

If festival structures follow the concerns and cultural locations of their subject matter, wireless freenetworking does not easily fit into either the walled garden of the green field festival, or the civic cultural institutions of the arts festival.

Wireless freenetworking is concerned with a discourse that poses a challenge to existing media infrastructures and hence is counter cultural to a degree. It suggests that there is a problem with existing media delivery infrastructures and the media that are delivered over them and proposes practical ways to build different distributed networks and media environments.

The location of this action is however neither outside of existing legal structures or physically elsewhere. Networks are being built in our neighbourhoods, inside our towns and cities, they comply with spectrum legislation and planning laws, they are based on established protocols and technologies.

A festival that explores the issues around wireless freenetworking should therefore neither solely try to ape established media and their festival structures or to separate itself from the society that supports it.

Wireless freenetworking is also not a short-term pursuit, you can't set up infrastructure over night, and so to really explore its possibilities you need sustained attention for which a short period of time will not suffice.

A festival structure distributed in time and place through the city would better suit the subject matter, tie in with existing initiatives and provide a practical testbed for experimentation with new forms.

Wireless freenetworking is here not elsewhere, a reconfiguration not an alternative.


Wireless freenetworking is concerned with self-provision and self-institution of infrastructure. In part the appeal of this is that the networks built serve the interests and needs of users rather than those of a network provider and the networks can grow as needed.

The events that sprung up initially around wireless freenetworking were often practically focused. As people began to build networks they needed practical skills and met to learn and share their experiences of the technology, installations and the social aspects of building networks. The events were an integral part of the process of building the networks. This process has continued with services such as catering for the organisation of regular wireless gatherings in cities around the world a good level of activity in London. 6

As concerns and goals have broadened groups have met internationally to discuss and resolve common issues. As freenetworking has achieved some recognition, it has been represented at media arts events in more formal settings.

What is important to note is that in common with the nature of the networks, events have been perhaps most relevant to freenetworkers when they have been self-instituted, collaborative and with no directed outcomes, more social spaces than formal events.

On the other hand for non-participants and a wider audience these meetings can seem unclear, undirected and impenetrable. More formal settings such as conferences have been perhaps more successful vehicles for explanation and demonstration to newcomers.

While a wireless festival should include some more accessible and formal events a large part of it should focus on less formal and self-instituted sessions such as workshops.

A Wireless Festival

Taking note of the preceding sections, a Wireless Festival for London should be distributed throughout the city and occur over a period of time. It should contain self-instituted elements and more formal presentations and reference both existing freenetworks and other related events locally and internationally. It should serve as a collection of wireless-related events, that could potentially both strengthen existing practice and serve as a way in for a wider audience.

It is suggested that the festival be constructed in the following way.

  • Programme
  • Programme Elements
  • Event Support
  • Freenetwork Resources
  • Research
  • Funding
  • Organisation
  • Commissions
  • Related Events


The festival programme is the overall framework for the festival. It runs for a defined time period of 6 months which allows time for infrastructures to be built and operated so that their uses can be explored in depth.

The programme is a collection of smaller discrete wireless events and projects. It is presented as an online tool that holds times, places, locations and further details about festival elements.

It contains both a presentation of upcoming events and reviews of past ones. The programme is open to and editable by the public and people can add events to it that can appear as part of the wireless festival.

The programme is pre-populated with some higher profile events, some of which are formal presentations, some international related events and others that are workshop-based or ongoing projects. The programme is inclusive and serves as a reference site for all the wireless-related events that are taking place in the city.

The programme review mechanisms are open to the public and include ways in which elements can be nominated and selected for inclusion in the final retrospective and documentation. The criteria for inclusion in this event are also included in the programme.

The programme is maintained by a professional programme manager with guidance from the festival steering committee, and all participants of the festival should be represented in decision making processes as needed.

At the end of the festival period a retrospective of the best elements drawn from the festival programme will take place over one or two days. Here the results of the wireless festival are presented and documented in a formal way.

The community actions, events workshops and artistic commissions collected from wireless activity that has been distributed through the city during the period of the programme are collected in one place to form a coherent and realistic picture of wireless in London. The retrospective shows what has emerged from the festival, the progress that has been made - rather than trying to prescribe a festival program in advance.

Programme Element

The programme has a wide scope and seeks to collect a very large range of events around the Wireless Freenetworking thematic. It should contain anything from large formal events to small local meets of 3 or 4 people. It is focused on wireless freenetworking but can include other related events. Some possible categories are:

  • Wireless in Artistic Practice
  • Freenetwork Practice
  • Community Wireless
  • Uses of Wireless Networks
  • Media Arts
  • Practical Workshops
  • Individual Commissions
  • Media Events
  • Temporary spectrum occupations
  • Public Sector Wireless conference

A possible initiative that a wide programme of this type could support would be an event relay. Modules from one conference or event could be offered for inclusion in other events. In this way a linkage could be formed between different events thus knitting together different groups and strengthening the social networks around wireless freenetworking.

Event Support

Beyond the Programme the festival should provide support for events and other elements in the festival. These should include:

  • Publishing framework for event information
  • Publicity Materials - pre-written texts and press releases
  • Graphic resources - a visual identity for the festival
  • Mailing Lists and News Feeds
  • A wireless events howto - to make the journey from idea to realisation shorter.

These elements together with the Programme will enable event organisers to connect with audiences and allow audiences an accessible way into events.

The festival will also identify potential funders for events who might earmark funds for parts of the wireless festival. By providing a framework for validating events and funders, a bridge can be created between event organisers and funding bodies that should allow for the backing of smaller events and festival elements.

Finally the Festival will forge links with other wireless events taking place internationally thus offering participants a chance at representation in the wider freenetworking community.

Freenetwork Resources

Beyond event focused activities it is critically important that the festival should support ongoing resources for freenetworkers which are locally focused in London. Without a growing wireless freenetwork infrastructure there is no space for the envisioned content-based work so supporting existing freenetworkers and encouraging others is of the utmost importance.

Workshop sessions are needed to organise network building, to teach techniques and provide spaces for experimentation. An ongoing series of workshops would help to teach techniques and transfer skills. Network workshop sessions can also serve as a good meeting point and focus for community action.

Labs or physical spaces both as permanent places for experimentation and as venues for workshops and other temporary uses are needed to house activities. These could either be shared-use spaces, regularly available for wireless activities or, ideally, permanent spaces.

Backbone networks which provide high-quality network infrastructure across the city can help to stimulate and strengthen growth of local network initiatives. In Berlin the Berlin Backbone 5 provides some permanent high speed links across the city centre and is connected to a high speed Internet feed. This serves as a kernel around which freenetwork activity can coalesce and provides linkages between key cultural spaces and institutions.


A program of research and experimentation should be included in a wireless festival with specific projects backed that provide freenetwork infrastructure. A pool of new and existing techniques, resources and initiatives should be researched to provide background tools for freenetwork practitioners. Some possible topics:

  • Consume nodedb - A reworking of the Consume node database as a peer finding tool and local content reference
  • Picopeer - Completion and publication of the Pico Peering Agreement
  • Locative Media - Wireless enabled location-specific media
  • Streaming Media - Streaming media over wireless to provide a local content infrastructure
  • Network Commons - proposal of outlining a program of research centred around the East End


The wireless festival should start by arranging core funding for the programme and its maintenance and then address the following additional points:

  • Identify funders for freenetworking resources
  • Identify funders for retrospective
  • Identify funders for commissions
  • Get funders to earmark resources for a wireless festival but without specific project proposal
  • Do the background work of fund raising, (justifying and validating the funding) for people wishing to apply
  • Connects funding from different sources for a thematic (wireless) that might otherwise only exist as tangential to fund remits.
  • Validate projects for funders


The Wireless Festival should be set up as its own new legal entity. There are so many potential participants and existing groups working with wireless in London that nothing short of a new independent organisation would be viable. The festival must retain its independence and have strong representation from the existing freenetwork community as well as new comers to avoid problems of co-option. The festival should have a professional programme manager and a steering committee made up of the principal contributors and instigators. This steering committee initially will be made up of those in the research steering committee.

Decision making processes should be explicit and the festival should have representation from those involved. Overall the structure should be transparent and adopt an open information policy.

A clear breakdown should be made of the remit and limits of the festival's role and what it does and does not fund or pay for.

Next Steps

A Wireless Festival in London would be a significant and timely event with potentially significant social and cultural benefits. While the structure outlined here is perhaps ambitious, it should be possible to start it with the addition of some seed funding and using the existing steering group to co-ordinate and guide the process.

The Festival outlined here is not meant to be a definitive description of a Wireless Festival but a collection of ideas, some of which can be implemented. It is scalable and could be minimally implemented with just the programme and initial conditions and a small number of events being set in place. The festival can grow then as needed dependant on the level of interest and participation.

To abuse a line from Maurice Sendak, "Let's begin the Wireless Rumpus!"


I would like to thank the following for their participation and support in the writing of this document.

Financial Support

The Arts Council of England logo

  • The Arts Council of England - Primary funding

Space Studios logo

  • SPACE - Seed funding and project support

Research Assistant

  • Marina Vishmidt SPACE

Project Steering Committee

  • Gini Simpson - SPACE
  • Richard Overton -
  • Armin Medosch - Independent researcher
  • James Stevens -
  • Marina Vishmidt - SPACE
  • Simon Crab -
  • Peter Chauncy - Poplar Harca
  • Rachel Baker - The Arts Council of Great Britain

Case Study Authors

  • Saul Albert - University of Openness
  • Armin Medosch - Independent researcher
  • James Stevens - Consume-x

Survey Respondents

Many thanks to all who replied to the event survey.

Technical Support

  • - web hosting, mail lists and survey implementation.


Copyright © Julian Priest 2004

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[1]Julian Priest, The State of Wireless London 2004,
[3](1, 2) James Flint, 'Battle of the Urban Spaces' Mute 25 November 2002
[4]Cannes Film Festival,
[5]The Berlin Backbone,
[6]Wifi Meetup - Calling All WiFi Geeks in London,
[7]Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 1.0 Legal Code,