Internet as a City Workshop

If the Internet were a city, what would be its roads, buildings, and parks? How do people, businesses and governing bodies produce insights into the qualitative characteristics of distribution beyond the tired triptych of centralized, decentralized, and distributed?

In this hands-on workshop, we'll examine decentralized forms of networking through the lenses of cities, urbanism, and architecture. In small groups, participants will be provided with “urban” elements to construct landscapes that tease out models of decentralization and governance for the “Internet as a city.”

We will extend this exploration to modes of governance in decision making, and notions of “public space” or the commons. 

This workshop was a provocation for seeing the Internet not as a regroupement of servers, computers and signals, but as an environment that shapes and is being shaped by its inhabitants. We asked: If the Internet were a city, what would be its roads, buildings, and parks? How do people, businesses and governing bodies produce insights into the qualitative characteristics of distribution beyond the tired triptych of centralized, decentralized, and distributed?

The first part of the workshop consisted of warm-up exercises that helped attendants think (and draw) websites as buildings, and map a browsing experience to a walking trail. They were then divided to groups of about five people, and provided with “urban” elements we had previously constructed out of cardboard. We then asked them to collaboratively construct landscapes that tease out models of decentralization and governance for the “Internet as a city”, and we also assigned roles, ranging from the state to the anarchist. Each team took some time to reflect on what they had built, and what decentralization would mean in each team’s context.

https://internetas.city/
https://play.internetas.city/
slides

 

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Agnes Cameron
Research Assistant, MIT media lab

Agnes Cameron is a master’s student in the Viral Communications group at the MIT media lab. Her work is focussed on distributed forms of co-operation, and self-organisation in network systems. Her background is originally in Electronic and Information Engineering.

 

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Kallirroi Retzepi
MIT Media Lab

Kalli is a graduate student at the Viral Communications group at the MIT Media Lab. She has a background in engineering, neuroscience and design. She is interested in the making and politics of online interfaces, in the User’s behavior, agency and assumed roles.

 

 

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Sam Ghantous
Teaching Fellow, MIT Architecture

Sam is a Teaching Fellow in the Department of Architecture at MIT where his work addresses issues of networked image culture. The medium of his recent work spans the likes of a twitter bot, a sticker set, an augmented reality app, and chocolates.

 

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Gary Zhexi Zhang
Artist, MIT

Gary Zhexi Zhang is an artist and writer interested in socio-technical objects. His current research investigates the role of work within decentralised organisations such as swarms, mycelia and markets. He has published essays on many-headed slime moulds, Chinese internet culture, blockchain ethnography, and is currently working on a thesis about decentralized aesthetics and the seduction of systems theory. He is a graduate student in the Program in Art, Culture, Technology at MIT.
 

 

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