Well conversed

bucharesttramstreetbucharestschoolarchitectInura held it’s 26th annual conference this year in Romania, between the city of Bucharest and Transylvanian village, Sibiel.

YT joined several other members of MAZI project for the closing day of the ‘city’ conference, before jumping on the coach for the ‘country’ retreat, a day ride over the infamous mountain peaks and lush valleys.

lushgreenThroughout the trip Gruia Badescu fed us all with rolling history and tales of the region whilst we tested out a ‘standalone’ Mazi Playground prototype, encouraging upload of images, recordings and texts to the OwnCloud and EtherPad services it offers as well as mobile broadband tethered through it to Panos smart-phone!

philipvillageOur destination was a hillside hotel and conference centre, where we spent four busy days reviewing  experiences of Bucharest and reflecting on the many projects and fascinating activities of all those attending. sibiuworkhouse

Continuing our tour we visited nearby medieval city and regional capital Sibiu. We trawled it’s fine churches, layered antiquity and twisting cobbled streets until afternoon when we reconvened for a round of streetshadedresponses and commentary on local projects and investigations.

Back in Sibiel, there were more great presentations in the conference room, outside in the sunshine and just about anywhere within walking distance!

Mark Saunders of Spectacle Films showed a his recently completed documentary about Battersea Powerstation – bewildering scale of ineptness, manipulation and corruption continues as we speak about it..

byzantinedepictionOrhan Esen presented a startling report on the Byzantine struggle for power and control in Turkey following the recent ‘coup’ and political fallout. The swapping of political allegiances and the recombining of establishment power with previously incompatible adversaries, turns everything on its head. By the end of the presentation a further 100 journalists had been rounded up and incarcerated, so his liberty is similarly threatened.

Iva and Ksenija of Ne Damo Beograd talked about Waterfront Development protest movement and recent overnight illegal demolition of a City block. Subsequent denials by Mayor and government convinced nobody.

Occupy and Indymedia activists,  must wonder how so much great energy and will for change, can be digested without trace by  public and state. Five years on, the euphoric peoples assemblies, protesting the incompetence, corruption and greed, all but forgotten in the stampede for brexit and grip of longer term conservatism.

The rising feeling we are being toyed with, is nauseating. Perhaps Adam Curtis can shed some light? His latest documentary Hypernormalisation picks up on the trail leaking out from Bitter Lake and outlines much that we have allowed ourselves to trump for granted.

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YT has recently rekindled contact with Indymedia activist network members as part of an initiative to build a new hosting platform, an Activist Media Proxy – AMP.

carnivalselectioncropLittle in the way of social documentary, street protest and public information material exists outside of the youtube/googleplex. Of the many attempts to change assumptions, Engagemedia and Undercurrents have lead the way.

Our hope is that in collaboration with activist media makers and producers, further good use can be made of this vibrant social history, to review past action and inform on current struggles.

The first move of the founding group has been to appoint a coordinator and gather together an information base,  to establish communication and suitable support framework. With this foundation in place is has been possible to activate new services to begin working with the existing video collections, present tools for annotation and prepare selections for review.

Please visit the AMP project wiki for more information.

mdrkitchenpartyThe video, audio and text archives will be stored in a web accessible database. Pan.do/ra offers the combination of media processing, context annotation and collaboration management tools needed. Several other media collections are being drawn together in London using this same great system.

Community archives are reactivated at Maydayrooms events where documents are scanned and media resources organised. Their collection features a selection of period film and event documentary, available img-94over their local area network, alongside an extensive document catalogue for researchers to explore.

A complete set of the DAU film sequences, it’s huge image collection of period artifacts and extensive wardrobe as worn during filming and by residents of Kharkiv, features in their intranet media project. The DAU feature film is itself now due for release in 2017 the centenary of the Russian revolution.

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listenin-sebastienTeufelsberg, the Coldwar Field Station in west Berlin sits atop a huge mound of post war rubble, dragged from the ruined city in handcarts by the widows and wounded before city rebuilding commenced.

There, we met with artist and engineer Sebastian Casper during a recent visit, where today the wrecked shell of the spectacular structure hosts a wide range of diy and cultural activities in the last pause before inevitable expulsion and it’s reconstruction. Built by the allies to listen in on the communist block as it strived for an idealism that was finally swept away with the reviled concrete partitioning. domelandscapeThe utopian geodesic domes and great halls all now imprinted with lush solarlisteningcolourisation and witty patter that contrast the immaculate forest panoramas.  A dedicated few hold the place together for public access and creative experimentation, where a solar bus and yacht automaton rest in some anticipation of their moment, a testament to the scale of ambition the place inspires.

listeningbeesAt the launch of Neighborhood Academy building in Prinzessinnengarten (a re-purposed bomb site in heart of Kruezberg) we heard about progress of MAZI pilot Common Ground. During the workshop after commonstructurelunch, our topics of investigation track the plight of the neighbourhood, scourge of corporate corruption and the hopes for future not least for those at work in the garden, sharing the honey.

Enjoying the structure and an insight onto craft and collaborations, YT talked with Hans Bacs about solar energy e-scooters and exchanged some angst with neighbourhood architect on some of the design details! Realistic prospects of energy autonomy, peerblueeys network infrastructures and liquid democracy, once the reserve of fantasisers and frauds, are more urgently anticipated than ever.

By working in public with people to help express desires for living, taking reassurance from our own information systems. Extending the senses to improve on intuition to widen the scope for engagement and improve understanding to inform much of the process of change we soon need to settle on. So let’s strive to improve our hearing, refine our sight and stimulate all our senses smokingfagsfor enhanced intuition, responsiveness and insight to attune progress.

Back at home in SE8 we anticipate that with the help of local groups and individuals we can assemble an array of useful installations, contrasting noise, checking for oxygen, monitoring electrosmog whilst sniffing around the decisions being taken on our behalf regards environment, energy and information. Our hope to is grow a better sense of how to improve on situations we otherwise may struggle to impact or influence.

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Waterline Workout

The Minesweeper on Deptford Creek seeks refurbishment of the fire damaged hull and an evolution of support infrastructure. The collective aim to build free floating ‘data mines’ to tether in the creek, msfiredeckthat collect waterline signals and monitor environmental conditions. Remedial work on Minesweeper power distribution is urgently required if we are to install services and sensors that offer reliable data streams. Plans for exactly how to proceed with repairs and refurbishment of the damaged stern need detailing. aldworthandbondNeighbours Aldworth and Bond timber fabricators have visited to assess the scope of reconstruction work, a big structural job with limited resources but information is not yet flowing back and forth as needed. More detail about what is required and the steps to be taken, have yet to be understood and agreed by the crew. For powerdistributionminethose prepared to support refurbishment, outline proposals and illustrations of plans and costings are essential to evaluate costs and help raise the funds needed.

Energy management is one of the key issues those working and living on boats have to face. The add-hock installations aboard the Minesweeper over the years have resulted in layers of cables, multiple battery charging stations and unstable physical connections. mineprintworkshops08The adjacent Liftmore boat provides the diesel generator currently used to supply 220v AC when printing equipment is in use. minequarterdeckThis also drives a quality charging unit for several high power leisure batteries. The 12v DC is then mostly in use to illuminate work areas and recharge mobile phones and laptops. A recently refurbished wind turbine is ready to be lifted to the mast and SELCE have donated 6 x 175w solar panels which await integration.

Existing 220v audio amplification and speaker system needs replacement, so introduction of 12v powered amps preferred. Meanwhile 5v usb charging/powering of IOT devices, 12v mixed lighting and wireless network access need to remain available. Tmineprintstudiohe print studio has requirement for 3kw heat press, flashing oven and high pressure washers.. there is also a vacuum table and lightbox to expose photo reactive film for screen masking. We assume there is also a water pump somewhere to clear the bilge!mineprintworkshops01

To bring all this together alongside we have contracted I/O engineer Alexei Blinov to work with the crew to agree on priorities, audit available materials and help specify a plan to work on together during August. The objective is to provide regulated and reliable energy supply that can be managed and monitored safely. Solar and wind turbine units add to the complexity, modern voltage regulators accommodate this mixed economy well.

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Four for 4

minsweeperhatchCreeknet, is one of four project pilots being operated as part of the MAZI initiative which will bring together components for a neighborhood network toolkit. This will feature a guide for those establishing or improving on open wireless and offline collaborative systems, advising on cost effective hardware and open source software solutions, whilst refining tactics and tutorials.

To help co-ordinate and explore the many options, we worked with MAZI partner University of Thessaly, Greece, to establish a suite of software to test and use in our local networks. mazi-ballsEtherpad is a collaborative writing tool and OwnCloud is a document and media management system. UTH role is to co-ordinate and consolidate toolkit components and the first prototype, on a RaspberryPi disk image is available for testing featuring these and small selection of complimentary applications. In the simplest mode, presents a ‘stand alone’ wireless access point running webserver and other local services to promote working together. Without internet connection, any requests for webpages are redirected to local webpages listing services and describing options.

During recent workshop at the Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin, we heard about progress of MAZI pilot ‘Common Ground‘ during launch of Neighborhood Academy building in the garden. Their prototype ‘interview station’ enables one 2 one interview recording and publishing process. listenin-acadamyCompleted interviews are published directly to their offline server prototype  for review and comment by those visiting the garden academy. The same combination of powerful software options and offline network server was in use during the recent Unmonastery at Kokkinopolis, a two week meeting in the Olympus mountains in Greece where it was first tested by them for communal exchange and interaction.

Kraftwerk1 housing cooperative in Zurich is working with Nethood to identify suitable evolutionary path away from their proprietary cloud information system. Their inspirational living model has been a great success and with growth of cooperative housing across Switzerland there is increasing interest in mapping of methods and monitoring of progress not least at Inura.

The ‘Creeknet’ pilot began in April 2016 describing first impressions and identified groups from the local area whom SPC have worked with in the past, to propose key issues and ideas to explore.faircharmestatese8There are many aspects to consider, changes to the built environment here are continuing at a rapid rate, some groups are being sidelined with conditions for living and working in the area facing disruptive challenges as well as opportunities.

Our role as advocate for user owned and operated information infrastructures is well known in the area. SPC worked with individuals, neighborhoods and local businesses from 2001 on a series of DIY low tech network projects, last represented by OWN, the open wireless network established 2008. listenin-terryToday the effects of population churn, rise of portable computing, concerns for personal security as well as long term exposure to the elements have reduced the operational status of OWN to a shadow of it’s former self.

The afterglow of positive experiences gained over eight years is now being rekindled with the prospect of renewed offline network development, expressing a passion for the ‘local’, celebrating neighborhood news and wider collaboration. The access to broadband provided by OWN in the area, needs re-doubling if it is to serve the co-ordination demands of MAZI ‘offline’ network development and monitoring of process. This process is now underway with new connections being upgraded between Deckspace in Greenwich and Minesweeper on the creek. newcreeklowFrom there we will continue to redistribute access to locations of activity nearby.

Monumental civil engineering and relentless apartment block building is underway throughout the area, bringing changes to the environment for everyone. For some it will mean the end of affordable rents for both domestic and workspaces. For others, this area of London is where overheads are still comparatively low. It will certainly result in increased traffic, noise and pressure on services, a transformation in the mix of people and expectations.

Pollution concerns over quality of water, air and electrosmog, processing of rubbish and recycling urgently seek answers. The Creekside Centre and other Deptford Creek groups creekbridgecementworksare already working on the creeknet MAZI pilot to build on existing relationships and operate more effective information sharing and neighborhood network solutions. With these issues in mind early installations will include a range of passive environmental sensing of sound, light and radio.

The opportunity for social interaction in the area is limited to the few publicly accessible parks, pathways and the remaining pubs alongside west and eastern banks of the creek. swingbridgeA few new public areas have being created which have yet to be understood and adopted. For example the new footbridge at the mouth of the Deptford Creek, completes the Thames path between Deptford and Greenwich, a perfect place to focus attention and present a MAZI zone.

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just about to get a lift

just about to get a lift

After reading much of the Unmonastery website about their activities in Athens and Matera, I was very excited by the invitation to join them for an Unconvention in Kokkinopolis.

Remote it was. The  journey from Thessaloniki to Katerini was negotiated well, though just as our small group complemented ourselves on good progress, were told that the last bus toward our destination had departed. Welcome to rural Greece!

Beer eased the drama and inspired us to hitch the rest of the way. With network /data connection, battery power fading fast, signs were made to hitch along the only road to the mountains. At last we were picked up, the kind fellow had a usb lead to recharge phones – all working out.

There followed an hour of going steadily up and around tight bends, visiting a mountainside water fountain and passing many beehives. We piled out at a crossroads which seemed to be in the middle of nowhere, but not far from a very very big bull!

the schools we stayed in.

the school we stayed in.

Our destination was the Unmonastic space, previously a primary school, now a stopover for fell runners the unplugged. No kitchen, so great meals and tsipouro were provided at a nearby friendly taverna.

Sarantaporo.gr, is the mountain area community network built in 2014. Fourteen villages are now linked together and share internet connection currently provided by Larissa University, some 70km away. Ubiquiti 5ghz is used for backbone infrastructure, then connection is made public using 2.4 ghz open mesh access points. A wide range of locally hosted services and solutions to support farming, mountain living and tourism throughout the area are possible as a result, but it’s still early days!

The main signal from Larissa is received at a large parabolic dish on a garage roof in Sarantaporo and then relayed from village to village. Sparse use of wifi in the area means very good signal to noise which is great for link quality; in other words, even though we were downhill and tucked away from neighbourhood access point, we could get a usable  connection for email and a bit of web access.

tai chi on a mountain, anyone?

tai chi on a mountain, anyone?

As part of the introduction to the Unmonastic style of daily routine, we had a timetable. Each early morning we awoke to tapping ‘bells’, got ready and walked up to a stony football ground and did some tai chi, which was great. Finally, a group of people wanting to exercise and practice – on the side of a mountain!

The UnMon rituals were definitely a way to get everyone up early (with such a great view it was worth it), and days were filled with looking around the village, discussing the potential for using a larger unused school as a potential Unmonastic space.  This offered potential as refuge, for working people visiting the area and beyond to take in the views, walk in the lush forests, see the fireflies at night. In exchange, help rebuild the school buildings to be functional again – promote cultural and language exchange, digital literacy and coding.  Perhaps, English sessions would be popular, for supporting tourism or would some turf on their stony football field be a better option?

I also started conversations about MAZI options, trying out the school network, a Raspberry pi with a Lime survey system, Etherpad and Owncloud; with varying results. Etherpad is not very useful at presenting previous notes, the polling system needed more questions to be useful as an evaluation tool, IMG_1479Owncloud was quite useful as a repository of images and the recording of the singing from the local Orthodox church.

On our visits we were shown the local museum, the little park/viewing platform, and visited other tavernas. The village overall was very quiet, even with the numerous tavernas. Mostly older folk in residence, with only a few children to be seen. We collectively found out that most of the younger generations have gone to the towns and cities, leaving a situation I would say is themed across many rural areas, no matter what country. Interestingly, the presence of internet access hadn’t yet changed this dynamic, as the elderly residents saw little use or need for it and like so many of their generations, didn’t have the skills to utilize it either. Famously it’s the grandchildren who have made the best of these improvements, forging links with aging relatives in summer months and retaining the link on return to the cities.

Giorgio sharing knowledgeGiorgos was a local climber living nearby and gave a us much information about the area – at this point I realised that a MAZI initiative could be to establish a repository of local oral history to engage their offspring and visitors in village heritage; the locals were Greek speaking 2nd or 3rd generation Vlachs from Romania. We were also told by the elder running the museum that the British and Germans fought in the area too. It seems that some locals had started a web site, and needed help with putting it together. This is where the digitally skilled members of the Unmonastery could get involved.

bountiful st.John's Wort

Panayotis Antoniadis had suggesting harvesting the bountiful St.John’s Wort growing in the area and infusing into olive oil for market. The flower has a reputation for helping with depression and soothing anxiety. An irony of this proposal, is that some of the remaining bored youth take to drink and drugs, causing social problems, according to Giorgios.  Perhaps processing and sale could contribute to local economy and improve employment prospects or improve the mood for some.

Only there a week and each day was filled, it felt that much more time had passed by. Accumulated sleep deprivation from early mornings and late nights was setting in, so my silences grew longer. Doubt set in about being about to communicate coherently, so became quiet for a change. Perhaps the red oil from St.John may have helped. Having just about managed to learn Greek for yes and no plus a single swear word, my community engagement was limited. Should I decide to return for the longer haul? The harsh winters there would be a challenge, though learning Greek would be tougher. Definitely worth a second visit anyway.

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Knitted out

GSMboardThe quest for suitable, sustainable network equipment is an ongoing and fascinating one.  New products with great capabilities, low cost and power, compactness and accessibility, hold much promise.

gprsshieldThe first to catch my eye during a recent visit to Raylab is this GPRS shield v1.0. It’s a compact and versatile board featuring audio I/O, generic GSM module and 12 GPIOs. It is also fully compatible with Arduino modules so that existing controllers, radios and sensor packs fit right in!

featherfront featherbackNext on the desk was long awaited Huzzah! IoT ‘feather‘ which Alexei ordered some weeks ago and so popular it’s rarely in stock. Preliminary test returns simple but reassuring responses.. This tiny board boasts memory, processor very low power consumption and frilled with many connection options, amazing value at £12.

OpenWRTSocfrontA third product blinking innocently away across the desk,  had been delivered just that afternoon. Vocore.io is a fully featured mini OpenWRT SoC (system on chip) module with ethernet and USB dock, wireless and RAM enough to make itself indispensable. £40 ish.

Our MAZIzone assignment to identify and utilise the best of options for neighborhood activities and network development have already drawn us close to a series of interesting options for environment sensing , information storage and energy management. It’s a fragmented story so far, but one that we are bringing into focus, piece by piece.

When we next link up with guys at University of Thessaloniki research department in Volos there will be much to discuss. They have been working with a selection of off the shelf and custom pico beelabkitpc boards and adapters to interface a wide range of environment sensors to track temperature to radiation and drive Bluetooth, Zigbee, Wifi and LTE radios.

Julian Kingston is veteran ship engineer and beekeeper on Deptford Creek. We hope he will be able to link up his hives to monitoring equipment that enables a closer watch on the health of his swarms during the winter and alert him to changing conditions throughout the year. Urban bees produce great honey and the wide range of creekside wild flowers supply the quality nectar his bees seek.

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Apocryphal ecstatic

Conservative-Apocalypse-coverThis Thursday 7th July is the first pubic screening of ‘Chemi Bebia‘ (1929) with Funki Porcini soundtrack and launch event for his new LP and boxset ‘Conservative Apocalypse‘. Its at the BFI on London SouthBank where James will also show and tell about this new work and meet you in the bar for a dance off with DJ Food.

We all met up at the Mycelia event in April with Imogen Heap and friends, where research into the mechanics of music publishing, royalty collection and distribution, exploring future roles for musicians and supporters of live and recorded performance was in full flow. serveimogenThey shared the sense that as with all things, our networked lives continue to impact on preconceptions of law, autonomy and faith in institutions. Not only are the giants of PRS, MCPS and PPL attempting to consolidate the re-sculpted landscape but musicians, publishers and promoters are all seeking out a role for themselves as curators and campaigners for further decentralisation of control and fair reward.

On the other hand a revolution is underway in the hands of some very musically talented and creative digital innovators. The ODI has enlisted livecoding pioneer Alex Maclean as resident artist and his work. The do not miss event on 15th July ‘Thinking Out Loud‘ will feature his work with 10 collaborators, explore capture and encoding of data, along with fresh information, code and technology installations.

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The brexit debacle has so far proved to be a substantial distraction from much else going on this week. However, work toward the first of many MAZI reports to satisfy conditions for EU support, has been completed on time. MarknGarethOUOur academic partners at the Open University now have an additional part time researcher (Gareth) in post to help prepare the ground work for the next phase of neighborhood engagement which SPC are for preparing now. Here is Mark pointing out the Minesweeper floatilla on the creek.

weatherscape3We haven’t had many visitors to the recent Brookmill Park Monday meetups, though great progress has been made with those attending to clean and prepare the space for Redstart Arts who take up residence later this summer. Their current exhibition at the Deptford Lounge is result of 8 months work with learning disability artists and called ‘weatherSCAPE’. It has been installed in the 4 story atrium space there, very impressive!

Much of the Brookmill conversation so far, has been concerned with how to improve on use of the park and encourage a wider appreciation and support for the events and activities organised by the ‘friends’ group.brookmilpicnic Last weekend YT joined the Picnic and met with near neighbors as well as some more familiar faces. There was great interest in the MAZI activation initiative using the park keepers building and many questions on what and how might be possible. We sat in dappled light beneath a giant London plain tree with it’s bat and bird boxes, adjacent to the large pond with resident heron and frolicking water birds, to share stories, savories and cakes!

CETlowpointLater this month we will meet again with MAZI partners Common Ground in Berlin to review progress of the new Prinzessinnengarten building in progress  and enjoy the bloom of midsummer. Terry Edwards has been in a battle with slugs at the small gardens in Crossfields Estate he tends and will join us on the trip this time.

Here in Deptford there is no shortage of building work underway as seen here in this site view adjacent to CET. DLRovercreekDirectly opposite, preparations for the Tideway tunnel excavation are also advancing quickly. Intensive building work in progress on both sides of the creek reach are reaching crisis point as project increasingly coincide and collide. Any plans for environment monitoring, neighborhood awareness and useful responses may be foiled if we don’t make some rapid progress before long.

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YT visited Mobile City Garden early in June to attend EcoDA collaborative workshops  held as part of Co-designing resilience project. Hackney wick based Public Works Group hosted the group of locals, garden volunteers and representatives from Mobilecitygarden02other projects partners to consider ‘urban resilience’ within the context of the Mobile Garden City and how it relates to their current interests and garden activities.


We sat together in an open top shipping container (chilly) and each took turns responding to questions and offered insights of our own. The focus was very much on the needs and activities of the garden but also allowed for consideration of related activities of attendees. One thread of discussion investigated how to add public information systems offering wireless access that direct traffic to inform on general garden updates and biogas status. This was followed with some tasty home grown soup, bread and cake before we retreated from the rain!

Dr Davide Poggio is involved in the biogas processing prototype on the site which has a link with biogas pilot ISABEL in Humberside. A dedicated container on site holds the methane processing unit with gas reservoir in construction adjacent. Mobilecitygarden-NoelSolar panels provide the electrical energy required to activate the pumps and sustain good conditions for gas production.

Local volunteer to the garden project Noel was my very knowledgeable and helpful guide, pointing out with the aid of this site plan where the various elements of the project linked together. There is a large garden nursery area where a wide range of vegetables are grown for use in food production at the on site cafe. I also spotted an outdoor theatre, clay pizza oven and bicycle workshop.. will return soon.

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