Building networks together, as commons

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On April 22nd, I will give a talk at University College London,  at the  Communications and Information Systems Group, which summarizes two new Horizon2020 CAPS projects in which NetHood proudly participates, netCommons and MAZI (meaning "together" in Greek). The abstract of the talk describes the motivation for the existence of these two complementary projects which focus on different types of community networks, different research disciplines, and different case studies.

Building networks together, as commons

Panayotis Antoniadis, NetHood Zurich

Wireless community networks and other forms of DIY networking can serve two different objectives: 1) to improve Internet connectivity in a certain area and 2) to support local interactions and services.  Since the nodes of such networks are owned and operated by individuals, significant coordination is required around various issues: from purely technical, like the underlying networking protocols, to more social and political, like the design of the applications running on the network and the governance of the whole ecosystem (access and resource allocation, cost recovery, community support, conflict resolution, etc.).

To enable the proliferation of such networks for the common good, and manage them as true commons, a wide variety of actors ---researchers from different disciplines, practitioners, hackers, and activists, among others--- need to exit from their comfort zones and work together around complex issues for long periods of time.

The main argument of this talk is that for such interactions to be productive and fruitful, i.e., to lead to the development of tools for communities that are both powerful and convivial (a la Illich), one should carefully distinguish between the two main roles of a community network, Internet access vs.  local services, and their possible combinations.

In this context, I introduce two new EU Horizon2020 projects that approach the question of DIY networking from two different complementary perspectives.

netCommons,, sets as its starting point the existing large-scale (wireless) community networks in Europe, such as Barcelona's, which are used today mostly as gateways to the Internet.  The project brings in contact these communities of mostly engineers and technology enthusiasts, with experts on legal, economic, political, and urban aspects that can help those networks to become more resilient against recent developments that threaten their existence, and more inclusive and useful for the local communities around them (beyond Internet connectivity).

MAZI (meaning "together" in Greek),, takes the perspective of existing grassroots initiatives whose goals are social and political in nature, and explores ways that DIY networking technologies can help pursue them.  For this, it follows a transdisciplinary methodology that brings together different aspects of design (engineering, human-computer interaction, interation design, design research, and urban design) around the development of a DIY networking toolkit as the "boundary object", and four concrete pilot studies: Berlin's urban garden prinzessinnengarten and neighbourhood academy, Zurich's cooperative housing and living project Kraftwerk1, London's network of local communities in Deptford, and the nomadic group unMonastery.

The overall objective of the talk is to open up the discussion on the role of DIY networking and community networks in the city, and include actors from different fields toward building common vocabularies, common understandings of complex issues, and common strategies for addressing them.


P. Antoniadis, I. Apostol, M. Gaved, M. Smyth, A. Unteidig, DIY networking as a facilitator for interdisciplinary research on the hybrid city, Hybrid City Conference, Athens, September 17-19th 2015. Available at:

P. Antoniadis and I. Apostol, The right(s) to the hybrid city and the role of DIY networking Journal of Community Informatics, special issue on Community Informatics and Urban Planning, vol. 10, 2014. Available at:

P. Antoniadis, J. Ott, and A. Passarella (eds.), Do It Yourself Networking: an interdisciplinary perspective Dagstuhl reports, 4(1): 125-151, June 2014. Available at: