Monthly Archives: July 2008

End of an Era

I’m about to pack up my desk. For four years (almost to the day) this apartment has been the place I’ve returned to, to entertain, relax – and work. Even when I’ve been away for long periods, the same view out my office window has been waiting for me when I return. It seems somehow fitting that the first thing I unpacked when I moved here was my desk, and now it will be the last thing to be dismantled.

Of course I’m a “mobile worker.” After all, my academic work grew out of an interest in working in places other than homes and offices. I’ve hauled my laptop downtown, to the library, across the ocean, and into the living room. I’ve tried to find community in cafés, bars, and libraries, as well as in the long hallways of university departments. But this place seems to invite writing and thinking, even now that the files are on servers and the books are in boxes.

I’ll be unpacking the boxes in another home office with another view (these days, of the blooming lilies I planted in a fit of procrastination in January). But also, for the first time in a long time, I’ll also be working in an office. As a visiting fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, I’ll have to leave my cozy home office three days a week and go sit in a room with other people. It’s an exciting proposition, after the isolation of writing.

Even more exciting (and terrifying) is the whole matter of moving to a new country permanently rather than temporarily. No more Montreal pied à terre. No more splitting time between a city I love and one that terrifies me. Time, perhaps, for a new kind of love affair, and a new kind of life.

For now, for the last little while that I can, I’ll be sitting here in my sunny home office, writing and thinking, looking outside at a wonderfully familiar view.

Thesis: Bite Size Version

I can’t believe I am copyediting the last version of my PhD thesis! So many people have worked and played, participated, contributed, critiqued and otherwise walked along with me. Here’s the ‘official abstract’ – more coming soon once the blog interface is fixed.

Co-productions of Technology, Culture and Policy in North America�s Community Wireless Networking Movement

Alison Powell, July 3, 2008

This thesis investigates the visions and realities of community WiFi�s social and political impact from a communications studies perspective, examining how communication technology and social forms are co-produced and providing a communication studies perspective on the transformation of social visions of technology into technological, social, and policy realities. By following the development of local WiFi projects and the emergence of broader policy-oriented mobilizations, it assesses the real outcomes of socially and politically progressive visions about information and communication technologies (ICTs). The visions of advocates and developers suggest that community WiFi projects can inspire greater local democratic engagement, while the realities suggest a more subtle bridging of influence from community WiFi actors into policy development spheres. The thesis describes local WiFi networks in Montreal and Fredericton, NB, and the North American Community Wireless Networking (CWN) movement as it has unfolded between 2004 and 2007, arguing that its democratic visions of technology and their institutional realities have been integral to the politicization of computing technology over the last four decades. Throughout the thesis, WiFi radio technology, a means of networking computers and connecting them to the internet by using unlicensed radio spectrum, acts as an example of how a technology’s material form is co-produced along with its symbolic social and political significance.