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The Network Society
If there is anything we know for certain about the network society, it is this: today's networks are global and have the power to make space and distance irrelevant. Julian Bleecker's Wi-Fi Bedouin project takes this conventional wisdom and stands it on its head. In short, it is an effort to reverse the logic of global communication, which seeks to make the local global, and instead, re-deploys the apparatus, structure, and protocol of global information networks to revitalize our conceptions of the local.
The local, in Bleecker's vision is not a fixed locality, but rather, it is defined by mobility. While our traditional notions of networks posit a free floating subject able to move freely throughout a stable and clearly defined global network, Bleecker envisions an unmoored network, thoroughly local in character, which itself moves and changes based on locality. Those localities are even able to hijack the network and transform or re-write the Internet into a radically different form.
Doing so not only poses the question, "What if the Internet was not the same everywhere?" but forces us into the realization that because of economic, political, and ideological differences the Internet is not the same everywhere. Accordingly, Wi-Fi Bedouin forces us to ask not only how does the local matter, but where does it matter?
This refiguring of localization and mobility, challenge the most basic binary construction of the information society, the binary in which the global is privileged over the local. In doing so, Wi-Fi Bedouin is also an invitation to think through and deconstruct that binary, asking us, for the moment, to invert the privileging of terms and to examine the ways that the local character of communication is erased within the homogeneity and fixity of contemporary networks.
As a result, this project does much more than simply provide a means to create mobile, local networks. It provides the means to think through a new political economy of network communication and community, revitalizing our conception of the local and reframing notions of mobility.
- Douglas Thomas, University of Southern California, 04.16.2006