24 Sep

Newspapers go wi-fi

Newspapers are struggling with the realites of revenue losses and changing reading habits.  They look to wireless, but don’t really have much sense as to why.

As newspaper content zaps to more and more handheld devices, readers
will rely on daily papers not just for news, but also to solve life’s
little problems, predicts Robert S. Cauthorn, vice president of digital
media for the San Francisco Chronicle. On command, newspaper staffers
will transmit information to their readers’ cellular phones, pagers,
personal digital assistants and laptops, perhaps helping them to locate
a restaurant and even find out how long the wait for dinner is.

Link: NAA: Wireless: The Strategies (TechNews, July/August 201).

24 Sep

Philly says no to corporate monopolies

Link: PHILA.GOV | City @ your service.

Just as Verizon now must still let other phone companies offer local and long distance services, WiFi’s winning lead contractor will have to offer access to any company at a fair wholesale rate.

But the big difference is that Verizon will always own the wires, while the city will continue to own the entire wireless system and all its equipment. So far, the scheme is working. Even before Neff’s announcement last week, corporations like AT&T and Lucent Technologies had effectively signed on — by helping to finance pilot programs in Powelton, Olney, Norris Square and elsewhere. And with last week’s announcement of HP and Earthlink going head-to-head came still more good news that megacorp Intel will stay in for long haul. The chipmaker has already donated $100,000 for the current crop of test hot spots and now says it will help put some 10,000 computers into homes in poor neighborhoods — featuring Philadelphia as one of 13 cities worldwide in its Digital Communities initiative.

24 Sep

City-wide Wi-Fi Efforts

Wireless05

Minneapolis is very bold.  It’s unclear why other major US cities are not taking such initiative, or why there aren’t national organizations being formed to figure out a viable plan.  Why should every city have to reinvent the wheel?  Portland is making considerable strides towards going wireless.  And of course, Philadelphia has been through a number.  But is anybody talking?

What Minneapolis is proposing – a privately built and operated Wi-Fi network available to every home and business – has never been done on such a large scale. And while the ownership plan may ward off unfair-competition charges from telecom companies, who bitterly attacked Philadelphia’s initial notion of a city-owned system, its feasibility rests on a business model that has yet to be developed, let alone tested.

For example, it’s an open question what the Wi-Fi owners would pay Minneapolis for access to its light poles and rooftops – or what they would charge the city to provide high-speed data streams to its police cars and firetrucks, as well as 300 city park shelters, schools and office buildings. Profitability will require widespread sales of network access – and probably of special services or content – to residential and business customers. But at what cost, and under what rules?

23 Sep

Do Networks Equal Publics?

I think it’s great that cities are going wireless.  I think it’s magnfiicent that one day, I’ll be able to open my laptop on any street corner and download the latest on this or that or post to my blog.   I think it’s great that we’re always just a stone’s throw from the information we need, or want.  But, I wonder what it does to the possibilities of public space?  Devices shield us from publics.   They allow us to be in public space but only engage when we choose to.  For instance, with my laptop open, I can choose whether or not to engage with other people.  It’s my excuse to retreat or to treat others as selections in a vending machine.  But wireless allows me to connect to a network as well.  I’m connected to other people, they just might not be present.  So my question is: do networks equal publics?  If not, how do we move from networks to publics?  Or perhaps these categories disintegrate with the introduction of wireless technology.      

19 Sep

information bomb

I’ve just re-read Paul Virilio’s "Cyberspace Alarm!" essay.  He says something very interesting about the way cyberspace is adjusting contemporary perspectives.  He says in that Virilio kind of way that cyberspace has created a tactile perspective.  To see at a distance, to hear at a distance, are perspectives introduced by the old media.  Cyberspace introduces contact at a distance – or telecontact. 

So, as the world virtualizes, we in fact have the perception of contact with it.  That’s a complicated irony.   One to which we could devote a good deal of time struggling over.  Telecontact for Virilio is absolutely inauthentic.  It is a lie constructed in self-defense as we are disoriented and entangled in cyberspace.  It is, what he calls, a technique of dissuasion – a method of combating the information bomb. 

I’m interested in Virilio’s perspective, but only insofar as he would acknowledge that our new perspective is something other than a lie.  That telecontact is a legitimite desire that does not necessarily replace actual contact, but supplements it.  I take this one step further in an essay I’m working on entitled "Becoming Data".  I suggest that the perspective manufactured by the digital culture is such that we experience ourselves being experienced over networks.  That consciousness is in fact distributed over networks as actions are represented in networks.  I am always consuming other people as I traverse the various vertices of my life; likewise, I am consumed by others by virtue of being in the network.  This is, I argue, the foundation of a new perspective that distributes not only time and space, but consciousness and experience.