The Mobile Commons (GSM Network)

The Mobile Commons

Facilitators: (Rachel O’Dwyer, Seamus McGettrick, Keith Nolan and Colman O’Sullivan. Visuals by Tim Redfern)
When: 10am – 6pm, June 30th and July 1st
Where: HackLab, Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin
Participation: Free and available to all visitors to the Science Gallery with a mobile phone!

On June 30th and July 1st, visitors to the Science Gallery will have the opportunity to leave their proprietary phone network (Meteor, Vodafone etc.) and instead join ‘The Mobile Commons’ a free GSM network that will run inside the gallery for this 2-day period.

Mobile networks are often leading exhibits of closed proprietary networks, locked down for non-market public or creative use by telecommunications companies and hardware manufacturers. The Mobile Commons wishes to challenge this model and engage critical issues concerning the architecture of cellular networks. As mobile computing and communications become increasingly ubiquitous, there has never been a better time to elaborate an agenda and usher in urgent debate about open mobile networks; their affordances, models, users, audiences, publics and implications. While there have been isolated and fitful attempts to do this, cellular networks have yet to be integrated into passionate general debates about access, connectivity, and resources that surround, for example, public space or the internet.

Using OpenBTS software to replace the physical infrastructure of the core network, we will host an open access mobile network in the Science Gallery on the 30th of June and 1st of July. Maintained by a team of artists, engineers and core developers of OpenBTS, the project will entail a large scale experiment involving visitors to Hack the City and the Openhere festival.

Visitors to the gallery will be given the opportunity to leave their proprietary network and join the mobile commons. They will receive a text message from our network, welcoming them and assigning them a unique identification. A user can now send and receive calls and sms messages within the Mobile Commons network free of charge.

As well as talks and workshops on the subject of the mobile commons, network activity will be visualized through a real-time graphical display by artist Tim Redfern that monitors network events such as people joining the network, placing calls and sending messages.

The Mobile Commons project is funded by and forms part of the Hack the City exhibition in Science Gallery this summer.