North Troy Mesh Wi-Fi Network

On July 11, 2012 The Sanctuary for Independent Media received a prestigious National Endowment for the Arts grant along with matching funds from a previous legal settlement with the City of Troy, New York. This money is going toward the design and construction of a block-wide found art project, the largest portion of which, is an outdoor performance art space made from found objects. Design meetings for this project, as well as public presentations of models have been occurring since September, 2012. Freedom Square was built in May of 2013 and decorated in early June under the direction of famed mosaic artist Isaiah Zagar. I volunteered at the sanctuary for most of the days that Zagar was in town directing workshops and decorating the stage. I have taken extensive field notes since the beginning of this process and have developed a rapport with the members of the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

In the Fall semester of 2012 I conducted an Independent Study titled “Community Wireless Theory/Practice” with Branda Miller, professor of Media Arts at RPI and Arts and Education Coordinator at the Sanctuary for Independent Media. During that semester I worked with Sanctuary volunteers to set up a “mesh” Wi-Fi network using the Open Technology Institute’s (OTI) Commotion Wireless software. A mesh Wi-Fi network relies on multiple points of access to blanket a wide area in a single Wi-Fi network. An antenna is currently broadcasting “Troy Community Wireless,” making it one of the first installations of the Commotion Wireless software without the direct assistance of OTI’s staff. I have conducted interviews with OTI’s field analyst and technical director. On August 5th, 2013 I contacted several members of OTI that organize the “Digital Stewards” program. “Digital Stewards” provides training and support for setting up and maintaining Commotion-powered networks. OTI staff have agreed to offer remote help and trouble-shooting help (resources providing) in the short term with a long-term goal of implementing a full Digital Stewards program in 2014. Through the Sanctuary I also have access to the Vice President and Director of OTI, Sascha Meinrath. In the coming year, I will conduct beta testing of new versions of the Commotion software in collaboration with OTI staff and North Troy participants. I aim to use OTI’s previous Digital Stewards case studies in Red Hook, New York and Detroit, Michigan as models for my work in North Central Troy.