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Communicating the City

Meanings, Practices, Interactions

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Edited By Giorgia Aiello, Matteo Tarantino and Kate Oakley

How human meanings, practices and interactions produce and are produced by urban space is the focus of this timely and exciting addition to the study of urban communication.

Challenging notions of the ‘urban’ as physically, economically or technologically determined, this book explores key intersections of discourse, materiality, technology, mobility, identity and inequality in acts of communication across urban and urbanizing contexts. From leisure and media consumption among Chinese migrant workers in a Guangdong village to the diverse networks and communication infrastructures of global cities like London and Los Angeles, this collection combines a range of perspectives to ask fundamental questions about the significance and status of cities in times of intensified mediation and connectivity.

With case studies from Italy, Britain, Ireland, Russia, the United States and China, this international collection demonstrates that both empirical and critical knowledge on the relationship between communication and urban life has become vital across the humanities and social sciences.

Communicating the City will be essential reading for all scholars and students who desire to gain an in-depth understanding of the multiple roles that media and communication have in lived experiences of the city.

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Chapter Seven: Urban change and the mesh: An ethnography of Deptford’s Open Wireless Network (Paolo Cardullo)

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CHAPTER SEVEN

Urban change AND THE mesh

An ethnography of Deptford’s Open Wireless Network

PAOLO CARDULLO



ICARUS ASCENDING

This chapter engages in a transdisciplinary discussion on urban wireless networks. It presents findings from my long-term participant observation of Open Wireless Network (OWN)—a Wi-Fi mesh network in Deptford, inner-city London—and of the related “Wireless Wednesday” workshops. It wants to do two things, while narrating some of the dense exchange I had with users, owners, and developers of the network. It firstly makes visible, on the ground, the sociotechnical context in which taken-for-granted wireless works. It then investigates the inherent paradox at the centre of urban mesh networks: between localized tactics of connectedness—always in the geographically limited range of the wireless reach—and the anonymity implied by mesh networking, which the city of strangers massively expands. What does it mean for its members and developers to participate in an anonymous but open network? What are the possibilities and limitations of such an engagement in these rapidly changing neighbourhoods?

Deptford is an inner London borough with a long history of working-class labour and migration linked to the river Thames (Steele, 1993). As most of riverside London, it has been experiencing a state-led and private-developer delivered process of gentrification (Davidson & Lees, 2005). Despite the rhetoric of “Riverside Renaissance,” a vast literature now points to the cultural, as well as direct, displacement effects that...

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