Community Network Travel Fellowships

This topic is a place to hear from some of the community network peers in a project titled “Connecting the Unconnected” (https://www.apc.org/en/node/35376/ 1) who have travelled to particular events related to local connectivity infrastructure and beyond under the APC CN travel fellowship!

The CN peers can share publicly some of their lessons learned when attending a conference or meeting here. I hope that aside from an archive, if there are questions or comments made about the activity to learn more information, it can be posted here.

If you also attended the same event, please do feel free to post what your reactions are to their experience or what the event was like from your perspective.

Hit the reply button and add what you would like to share, including if there are other links to blogs or resources to the same event

Cheers! kathleen

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Dweb camp - California, USA

Here is one of the first travel fellowship reports coming from the dweb camp 2019 by two CN peers: hiure from coolab/association portal sem porteiras and dinesh from servelots/janastu…

Hiure describes the event as follows:

“This will be a special gathering of pioneers building decentralized technologies and principles for an open, private, secure Web. DWeb Camp brings together artists, communicators, designers, educators, funders, infrastructure engineers, lawyers, network operators, organizers, software coders… into a team to explore a use case, share knowledge and build tools for collaborative decentralized communication. It will be a good opportunity to meet with the devs that code P2P apps and share the needs of the CNs. This is in line with the interests of our key objective, which is contribute to innovative technology use and approaches that enable scaling and sustainability of community networks. “

Dinesh’s impressions and purpose at the camp:

Dwebcamp.org was a timely meeting that brought together many of these players where the Internet Archive was the coordinator of the event. My wish was to attend this meeting and to meet many of the related people and organisations during this trip, including the Internet Archive and others in Europe who we have been in communication with.”

Hiure’s thoughts on the lessons that he learned from the camp:

“The feeling that remains for me after the trip, is that the exchanges I made with people from different parts of the world to decentralization and web paradigm change, make the long range actions stronger, but just make sense if fed by the local work, with community and people near us.”

Dinesh also shares some of his story at dweb camp, a visit to internet archives and to Oakland to see People’s Open Network in the Omni Commons.

I got to meet many of the fellow APC team members at the dwebcamp! I was happy to learn that along with the APC grant that made the trip possible, I had anonymous donors who supported my stay at the camp.
Locnet_CNpeers_dwebcamp
source: dinesh’s photos

The camp was a treat to the eyes, body and mind in addition to the essential revamping of old networks and making new friends. I had the opportunity to meet a number of networking experts and groups working on decentralised messaging and file sharing systems - the APC libre mesh, Peoples open, Toronto mesh, Secure Scuttle butt, Solid and the Internet Archive groups are some of the ones I recall and hope that our teams will be connected to in the future.

Being there I realised it was the reassurance I seemed to have been seeking as the camp brought a number of indigenous people and their representatives, many of whom seem to echo the culturally decentralized existence of peoples who in turn are disenfranchised for lack of meaningful connectivity online and accessible / relatable content. The camp also was outspoken when it came to gender sensitivity and in ensuring everyone could be heard. The program included walks by the beach, sessions, firepits, hay bales, lunch and dinner with drinks like only California can offer. These resulted in many happy moments for discovering and connecting to people of interest. A tree, called the tree of life, became our hot spot. Behind the tree, facing the beach, we set up an “anthillhacks” corner where we asked people to explore the Mushroom farm and the surroundings to discover the location where the camp happened. We further requested to use some of the material to make/enhance badges and gift it to friends - we have taken laser engraved badges of APC, dWeb, Janastu, SSB and the Internet Archive made of natural palm leaf and grass from our location in India. A comingling of location specific natural material from diametrically opposite sides of the earth. (see j.mp/myhill for the anthill or “iruway” metaphor).


source: screenshot of dinesh’s online photobook

While groups of people gathered and spent time making something from the natural material, we also invited the Mushroom farm folks to make and promote making from material from the farm. We exchanged baskets from our Crafterspace in India for mushroom spores from the farm. The mesh radio was setup and made available on the local network as a service. As people recorded their stories and narratives, they could be seen on the default portal of all available services on the mesh at the dwebcamp. As people arrived at the tree of life, we requested them to talk about the tree. Our aim to make these narratives from people both local and from far away places to become a set of interpretations that capture the intelligence at the tree. Location intelligence interpretation is an approach we are considering for creating, managing and discovering content in low-literate contexts. Later at the Internet Archive, we set up a collection for these audio files and related images on archive.org. We plan to work on an interface and make it available for all.


source: screenshot of dinesh’s online photobook

Internet Archive is a colossal space! The time I spent with the people involved during the dwebcamp, visiting the Internet Archive after the camp and talking to people who are involved with projects in the area gave me a good feeling about their progressive intentions in rethinking a new Web architecture. What appears like a simple project to store files, can ask questions about privacy, intent, security, representation, availability, inclusion, contextual curation, version control and coherence. I also got to sit through a presentation of how they are building the dweb services. An overall good feeling about how we can take our archival and networking spaces forward in the near future. We also planned to work remotely and install Internet in a box on our Raspberry Pi nodes when I got back. Next, I was introduced to the amazing space called Omni Commons in Oakland where Peoples Open meets every Tuesday. Omni Commons has a large hacker room called Sudo Room and a Counter Culture Lab where citizens learn and experiment with different bio cultures. It was deja vu - our space in Bangalore is a micro version of this! Also at the camp and later again in Richmond I got to meet and talk Whoseknowledge group - again a synchronicity.

Hiure’s video using story hopper on his journey to dweb camp:


source: screenshot of hiure’s video

Dinesh shares several resources:

  • a google photos picture book - use freely except when people are in it, in which case we can ask their permission where needed.

  • Dinesh’s blog “Coyotes in the Fortress”, he posted his call of sorts that reflects on the why he and his team are working on connecting the low-literate billions in a meaningful way to the Web:

  • Some future ideas to put together cowplans

j.mp/cowplansaux and j.mp/cowplans

Enjoy the read and videos!

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Wow @kathleen! Thank you for sharing the report - what an incredible group of people and event :scream_cat:

(And the internet archive is my favourite website, by far!)

I just want to add one thing - and that is that - as much as I love decentralized and offline things - the internet wouldn’t exist without online things - and online is where most of the value in the internet comes from for those who are very marginalized. (It is also where a lot of risk comes from for communities who are unprepared.)

Also, sometimes online can be cheaper and easier to deploy and maintain, than offline. (Emphasis on “can” and “sometimes.” - but it is almost for granted that it will become fast and cheap at some point. For example, SpaceX’s Starlink and similar projects that will be able to stream 100Mbps to anywhere on the planet for ~$30/m.) We will also have 5G networks that will be 10 times faster than most of what we have to day…

The real thing for me is - what about the 5 - 10 years until then?

It’s another generation or two of people who will grow up without a choice and with very little access to information and technology - who will have no choice but to live a subsistence lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with a lifestyle like that - in fact, many of us lack that and aspire to aspects of that - but in my opinion it is a problem if that is the only choice available to us - and if we have no say in the matter.

Also, if someone puts something of value on an offline network, the rest of the world is deprived of that.

We need both - but offline needs more local expertise - which is often lacking - and needs online. Maybe a bit of a chicken-and-egg scenario.

I love projects like IIAB and Kiwix - and these and some other offline things can be quite cheap to deploy - and if they are set up to somehow share how much they are being used, and to prepare people for the traps and tribulations of the online world, then if you deployed them to many different areas, it can show you where to start building online connectivity - and where online connectivity might be most useful.

But all of this is about more than just connectivity - it is about freedom vs oppression, and about informed consent - and these issues of “freedom” vs “oppression” will persist, and are present everywhere - they are just perhaps more visible in networks. Everything we do is a great opportunity to explain these issues and learn for ourselves, so that we can understand our own decisions in the context of the world we are sharing and building together, and ultimately, be more understanding of each other.

It was great to meet, or reconnect with so many of the APC group at the Dweb Camp, I’m so glad we were able to have so many there, and in particular to bring to the camp, a voice concerned with human rights, and censorship and access and all the issues we take for granted, I felt that was important because that voice was very much absent when the current web was being developed.

@dagelf - one place I disagree is the assuption that "it is almost for granted that it will become fast and cheap at some point. ". Back when we were starting APC, we ran GreenNet on what I believe had been recently upgraded from 9600 baud to 56kbytes, at that time typical speeds (at consumer level) in most of the south were in the range of 300 baud. i.e. 2 orders of magnitude difference. I’ve been seeing for 3 decades now people saying the net will be cheap everywhere, but this gap persists and I’d guess the difference is still about 2 orders of magnitude, maybe three (1000x). This matters in part because the developers have always been developing for their peers, i.e. people with similar bandwidth to that they test on. We used to have workable online forum at 300 or 1200 baud - you obviously can’t do that now because in practice most sites incorporate tonnes of images, and in the future lots of video. By the time the south has decent, fast, affordable internet we can assume that the west will have jumped again - I don’t know what that will look like, maybe 3D VR, but I can bet that it won’t be usable in the global south.

This is the biggest problem of our time IMHO (in my humble opinion)

Every problem is an opportunity, and comes with unexpected benefits! This is an opportunity for us to invite those developers and pioneers, those “Human V2.0” people, to the tried-and-trusted “Human V1.0” world - so that they can get back in touch with some of their own roots and develop a healthy respect for the lifestyle that was normal for either their parents, grandparents, or someone in the last 20 generations of their family tree, and was the only option for 100s of generations before that - a lifestyle that has been the norm for a few millenia and that served as a solid foundation on which everything urban could be bootstrapped.

The best thing about working in rural for me was to break every single bias and preconception I had about it - and how it helped me to see everything I took as being normal and for granted through a completely new lens. Of course, that goes hand in hand with having been able to travel to places that were more advanced than what I had thought was advanced, too.

Religion, history and even nursery rhymes that were just abstract sounds to me before, and that did not make sense to me before, suddenly came to life around me, in rural areas. History is not something that happened in the past, it is still happening today, somewhere. Rural living is something that was deep in my DNA that I had to live and experience for myself to start to understand what I thought I knew, and it is helping me to grow into a more complete, happier human being.

I could not have done it without critical pointers from incredible individuals, like @carlos, @nicopace - as well as some of the people that helped to direct them - and many more - critically, my parents, siblings, school teachers and many friends, and of course many people on the internet - and all the new friends from rural areas and diverse cultures.

Of course, the future is here already too, it is “just not evenly distributed” - and even that could be a good thing - because do we really know what future we want, yet? Many of us do, but even amongst those, many disagree, and many more still can’t even imagine it, or are too afraid to try, or think that it is “not for them” - like many things that I thought that I will never understand or that will never be for me. But inviting it in before people are ready, could alter their course irreversibly, and some might regret it - and we can play a part in helping to protect and facilitate this. It boils down to asking permission, no matter if you want to do something good or potentially bad, it is not up to us.

That’s incredible.

I recently learned that France had over a million Minitel terminals in the 80’s - where you could do everything from banking to booking travel - over 30 years ago… something that only became commonplace in on the internet in the last 10 years. Many of the things that we think is cutting edge, has been advanced beyond our imagination, somewhere, by someone.

You can at least have usable and functional access to everything on the internet at 1Mbps. For internet calling you need sub 200ms latency too. That includes the long tail of applications, and the high edge of @steve’s U shape. Everything above that is still a niche application as far as I’m aware - eg. 4k video - you can still view that same video at 1Mbps. Throughput is a direct result of processor speed, and even the first generation of Wi-Fi had 1Mbps protocol speed as the starting point, and that was over 20 years ago. Backhaul has been the major bottleneck thus far, mainly because of the cost and legacy of poor sharing. We’re several generations further along now… the next generation of technology will be able to offer 1Mbps to 1000s of devices concurrently. Sure it might have taken a decade or two to “trickle down” without any special interventions, but there are many such interventions underway today.

My first modem was 1200 bps. Today, I can design and solder together electronics to make my own modem that is 100 times faster, without even having studied this at university, from having learned about the relevant electronics and signals purely on Youtube.

I am reading this forum, and posting this, from a barely functional GPRS connection in the middle of nowhere, and I can barely get 100 kbps through. Nonetheless, it works… because I know a critical Linux command:

iptables -P OUTPUT DROP
iptables -I OUTPUT -p udp --dport 53 -j ACCEPT
iptables -I OUTPUT -p tcp -d 167.71.0.198 -j ACCEPT

All the big fancy web products and companies are built on ways of making things that technical people do every day without even thinking about it, easy to do for anybody.

I think Firefox removed the option to not load images by default… or it might still have it. It might still be more accessible in Opera. Maybe the real problem is that nobody has taken this problem seriously enough - or those who noticed it, had more important problems to focus on. Maybe all we need to do is to make this problem visible enough… but we can’t do that with just a blog post. We need to get the right technical person, into a situation where this is necessary, with the right orientation and expectation, and having seen how pervasive the problem is, and help create the space within which they can come up with a solution that will be able to spread far and wide enough to solve it…

I love metaphors and I like the metaphor of trees, or a forest of trees, in your mind, for education. Every subject is a different species of tree, and every different kind of tree attracts different creatures, and these creatures are like the skills, ideas or innovations - without the tree, they will not find a home in our minds. The forest needs receptive ground, space, and water, to flourish.

So, for me, rather than solve any specific problem, I am putting my efforts into solving the problem of creating space. That way I don’t even have to figure out the problems that need to be solved - because I will be helping to make it easier for other people to figure out what are problems and what not, and how to solve them. In effect I am trying to help change things that I don’t even know about yet, because that is a something that I know I can do. Of course, I can work on some of the detail problems too, but if I can help more people to do the same, then the impact will be more. Also, if any of those ideas turn out to be bad, we will find it out sooner, because there will be more people looking at the issues.

Notice how there is an unspoken bias there: “Everyone should have the same.” It implies so many things, and it is the collective splinter in the minds of “Human V2” - for example, that the “Global North” is right, or has “better” things that everybody should have. It even ties into the whole notion of “rights” or “ethics” or “morals” or “privilege” or “what people deserve”. I find all of these concepts to be incredibly problematic and best avoided completely - because they are so broad, and require such a nuanced and deep understanding, they are easily misappropriated and used to manipulate others - I think it is much more important and relevant to dedicate time to an individual real life thing that is affecting somebody right now. Something that even incredible people that I look up to, fail to do. This comes from a young age, kids who grow up without siblings or with too much money so that parents can just buy the same things for each kid so that they never have to learn to share. The “Global South” is rich when it comes to sharing and community, and non-reliance on technology. The “Global South” is rich in natural and healthy food and lifestyle and work-life balance. The “Global South” can still see the stars without any special equipment. For how long still?

My favorite thing about working on the internet, and working in the rural world: It is a 2 way street. The modern world has forgotten its rural roots, and is only now barely starting to listen… thanks in part to the work of people like us.

Consequently, many of us could unwittingly be paving the way to ruin to some communities. So there definitely are some things that we do need to teach and reinforce, that has not been part of the Human V2 “way” before.

Working in the rural world has helped me to see that nobody is better or worse off than anybody else, and that no problems are better or worse than any other problems.

Even the richest person in the world has problems, it just looks different. And all the money in the world couldn’t cure Steve Jobs’ cancer. Not that I am particularly fond of him - but he did get some parts of a problem that is near and dear to me, right - making technology accessible and easy. He just went too far by trying to control it too much and fell short by not being able to bring it to within reach of more people.

We are fundamentally problem seekers and problem solvers. For every problem we see, we try to find solutions, and every solution we create, makes more problems. Everybody has problems and there will always be problems - everywhere. Who are we to judge which problems are better problems to solve than others?

Maybe we can reach consensus on what problems are relevant to Human V2. (This is what the UN does, I think.) But who is representing Human V1. Or Human V3. Maybe all of us don’t want to be Human V2. And even amongst each of these, there will be many subgroupings with different needs and dreams and desires… and traps.

That is why I think that the best thing that we can do, is to only help show how all problems are the same. (If they are not, then by doing this we will find that out…) I think many religions speak to this, but religions fall short too by using symbolism that is too closed - and of course each religion has been abused by some system of power to control and subdue people, even if the content of that religion taught otherwise - but even that explains why the symbolism was needed - exactly so that it could fly above the heads of those abusing it, so that the wisdom inside could still survive and propagate - and those who understood how to look for it so that they can learn from it, could still find it. But here again, we are problem solvers, and to solve problems we have developed pattern seeking, so we are also pattern seekers and if we spot a pattern we see it in everywhere suddenly because we now understand this new pattern, but it is just one of many and we haven’t learned how to see the others yet - but there are other people that can. There are skills that we can learn to help us overcome this narrow focus bias. I would even go so far as to say that the only difference between a scientist and a non-scientist, is that a scientist knows that he can’t trust his own senses - most non scientists believe that if they see something, it is real. Only when you have caught out your senses lying to you, do you start noticing it more.

I would like to be part of a group that creates the space within which people can understand these problems, and also the problems that they see, in context of others, and the solutions that others have come up with for the same, today and in the past, and how their own thinking fits into those, and to help them see as far ahead as they can - by all means, stories, rituals, education, technology - so they can see the problems that their solutions would create and how others have approached those… and indeed, how many have made and lived through those, many times in the past, and how many similar things can look the same if you focus on just a small part, or different if you don’t know how to see another part yet… how wars have been faught, and still are, about some of these issues, and how people are deceived and manipulated to some effect, in reaction to some perceived problem by some powerful minority who understands manipulation. I would like to be part of a bigger group that brings knowledge about all of this this to within everyone’s reach, in their own relevant language, customs and metaphors, in an unmanipulative way, without prejudice or bias.Perhaps it is something that can merely be aspired to, but it is something that calls to me nonetheless.

I think travel fellowships coupled with spaces where this can be done, and the right kind of facilitators, is one part of this solution.

I think that this is an important conversation that the world needs to start having. What do you want to be? Human V1. V2. V3? V4? What is each? Why do you want to be it? For how long? What then? And for us to not assume that just because most of us look similar, that we want similar things. Or that similar things can look like opposites, depending on your context and viewpoint, or history. Or the fallacy that what others want is less important that what I want, more people need to see that they help themselves by helping others. That we all have splinters in our minds and that it takes a certain nature to see that might well allude to the idea that there are some things or ways that are “better” than others, but on what time scale? Maybe it is okay to let somebody do something stupid, because it will make them happy, and they will have a short life anyway, and it will not affect you - and maybe when they do it you will realize that it is not stupid like you thought before. What problems do you like more than others? Maybe a balance is best, overall. Or maybe balance needs to be balanced by enough imbalance. Or maybe tried and tested methods need to be supplemented by random methods - because maybe a random method can find a better method that can one day become part of the tried and tested method. In this case, rural has a lot of tried and tested things…

Shouldn’t it be a completely acceptable life choice to live without healthcare and electricity - if it is a choice that you made, while fully comprehending the alternatives? Maybe not everybody wants to be associated with- or have the things that go with taking chronic medicine, or being hooked up to machines. Won’t exactly the wish to not have that, make them more human, than someone else who doesn’t mind? Or at the very least, more “Human V1.0” Of course, I think almost everybody would agree that nobody should die of sepsis - and a lot of people still do, even in well developed areas. I see this as a failure of governance and education - and people throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

What part of life is so complicated that a story or two that illustrates the trials and tribulations of different cultures and settings can’t be told, that someone who did not have the same upbringing, or who have had completely different life experiences, can not understand it - or that it can not help someone to realize their bias, and to overcome it? Really, no Ph.d’s needed for this.

I have learned more about some of these things, from the old people who live without electricity and healthcare than I have been able to teach them.