Tidepools and the Red Hook Inititaive WiFi Network started as a collaboration between Alyx Baldwin's Design + Technology Master's Thesis project at Parsons, the New School for Design, and the Red Hook Initiative, Brooklyn.
This Case Study, documenting Tidepools and RHI WiFi development before and after Hurricane Sandy will be published in the forthcoming edition of Wireless Networking in the Developing World and is cross-posted at oti.newamerica.net
Wireless mesh networks provide low-cost, shared Internet access to communities. Socially engaged users on these interconnected devices are also more resilient against threats that cripple centralized communication infrastructures, like censorship and natural disaster. For long term use, community networks need ritualized, face to face interaction between residents and localized incentives. Working with the Red Hook Initiative and OTI at New America Foundation, Tidepools is tailoring custom social software, based on local needs and interests of the Red Hook Housing Projects - in a remote area of Brooklyn, with little WiFi and Internet access primarily through Android phones and computer stations.
Visually inspired by local artwork, this "Ushahidi" meets "The Sims" hyper-local mapping web app is delivered to mobile and desktop devices through meshed WiFi routers. In this way, Tidepools augment communication and civic awareness from the ground up, through modular, user-generated population of maps.
Tidepools evolved over months of community meetings, brainstorming sessions and feedback through a forum on the WiFi network. Creating and sharing custom maps emerged from the desire to plot Alerts of where police "stop and frisks" were occurring. Broken building signs led to integration of the Open311 civic reporting tool. Bus arrival alerts came from the sparse, inconsistent public transportation in the area. Spreading awareness of locations and times of Upcoming Meetings & Events soon followed.