For the latest version/thesis/video of TidePools.Read More
In the section on “Mesh as a Way to Connect Communities and Provide Local Services”Read More
The clear, warm day yesterday was a great time to ascend a rather tall rooftop in Red Hook to install a new nanostation to beam connectivity to Coffey Park and (theoretically, the Trip Towers as well, based on line of sight). It was quite windy up there, and of course the ladders were old, rusted and wobbly
Stringing down the cat5e cable from the little tower on top of the roof and over the side to a window halfway down the building (of course we strung this cleaner around the side to avoid people tripping over it).
Wireless mesh networks provide low-cost, shared Internet access to communities that can’t afford standard access to the Internet. Socially engaged users on these interconnected devices are also more resilient against threats that cripple centralized communication infrastructures, like censorship and natural disaster. However, for long term social sustainability, these community networks need ritualized, face to face interaction between residents and defined roles/social capital to occur.
Current civic and community platforms are not very engaging – they don’t tailor to the subtleties of cultural expression and community needs on a micro-level. They are usually designed top-down, with static housing boundaries, user needs and regimented user data that don’t take into consideration the cross-pollination of cultural and migratory patterns across borders. By demonstrating the value of locally meshed resources and by preempting outages, Tidepools extend network value beyond simple access to the Internet.
Working with the Open Technology Initiative at New America Foundation and the Red Hook Initiative, Tidepools is tailoring a custom engagement platform, based on local needs and interests, for the Red Hook Housing Projects – a remote and unconnected area of Brooklyn, with little WiFi and Internet access primarily through Android mobile devices. At the same time, it is bringing low cost Internet access through the same wireless mesh that Tidepools is hosted on.
Tidepools is about bringing granularity of expression to individuals and communities, through creation, sharing and collaboration on custom, hyper-local maps on mobile and desktop devices that bridge the digital and physical space. This “Ushahidi” meets “The Sims” gaming-style, hyper-local mapping web app is hosted on community plug servers, with an internal DNS name system specific to the community (e.g. http://redhook.news). Delivered through mesh networked WiFi routers and antennas, Tidepools augment communication and civic awareness at a local level, by providing tools for modular, user-generated map population. The project aims to spark interest in the cultural and needs-based values of shared networks, from the ground up.
Users can drop in various geo-coordinated, metaphorical and literal landmarks to new or pre-existing maps, to signify: Upcoming Meetings & Events, Alerts, Civic Reporting, Coupons & Deals, History & Notes, Secrets & Mysteries, Physical Buildings & Groups, and Wildcards. Users build reputation and gain awards over time, based on how valuable others find their contributions. Others can follow and comment on these landmarks in a Twitter-like feed of local announcements and news. Visual feedback of landmarks comes through fluctuations in their size and color, based on number of followers, activity level and public opinion. For example, foliage might grow around the Red Hook Initiative community center if a large number of meetings have taken place there, recently.
The Tidepools interface has organically evolved over months of community meetings, brainstorming sessions and feedback with residents from a “shoutbox” anonymous chat feed hosted on the wireless network. Creating and sharing custom maps emerged from the concern for and desire to plot Alerts of where police “stop and frisks” were occurring in the neighborhood. Potholes and broken building signs led to integration of the civic reporting tool, Open311 “SeeClickFix.” The need to spread awareness of locations and times of Upcoming Meetings & Events at the Red Hook Initiative and other organizations in the area soon followed.
Long Term Applications
Long term community and civic engagement, is reinforced through chronicling the passage of time over that of space. As the social network of a fixed location fluctuates more with the progression of time, it integrates years long migratory patterns of people and culture, the mapping and visualization of rituals, seasons, and holidays. On the short term, this is seen through the day and night cycles of the map, synced up to the actual time zone.
For long term networks, API aggregation onto a global map and a community app marketplace stimulate a pan-regional, ecosystem of sharing. In order to counteract the instability of wireless grassroots networks past the community level, metropolitan and policy involvement is recommended, from advisement with the Harvard Berkman Center and New America Foundation.Read More
Advanced functionality has been mapped out for a first round of interactive wireframes that will be tested with Community Change Workers in the Red Hook community. Coding of wireframes is occurring at the moment, stay tuned!
Main questions for our first round of testing involve: is the UX/UI intuitive? Does it make sense to create new pieces of information this way? How can it be improved? Is it too complex?
Ordered lists and number to landmarks
News feed from a landmark
Landmark filtering by category
Dropping a new landmark onto the map
New Landmark form options
Leaflet JS and TileMill are amazing tools to build custom map interfaces. Leaflet JS uses HTML5 canvas, while TileMill can accept OpenStreetMap data for a huge range of customization.
My Feed / My Maps (logged in user home)
LIVE EXAMPLE << CLICK ME
Explore the Map / Maps
Community FAQ / Directory Map
After showing the current interfaces and the previous visual iteration, the Community Change Workers in Red Hook responded very well to the “The Sims” – like visuals of the neighborhood. The prospects of a visually diverse and expressive community view, where anyone can create their own interpretation of the neighborhood (and add relevant information) was received positively.
We then had a mini session of brainstorming ideas for the community FAQ / info directory, breaking items into categories and needs, as well as what languages will be needed for translation (Spanish, Arabic, and Tagalog):Read More
Tidepools social software is an “Ushahidi” meets “The Sims” gaming-style, hyper-local mapping web app hosted on community servers. Delivered through mesh networked WiFi routers and antennas, Tidepools augment communication and civic awareness locally.
The project aims to spark interest in the cultural and needs-based values of shared networks, as socially engaged users on interconnected devices are more resilient against threats that cripple centralized communication infrastructures, like censorship and natural disaster. By demonstrating the value of meshed resources and by preempting these types of outages, Tidepools extend network value beyond simple access to the Internet.
Grassroots networks become unstable past the community level, so metropolitan and policy involvement is integrated on a larger scale. For long term implementation, APIs and a community app marketplace stimulate a pan-regional, sharing ecosystem.Read More