Dawn Walker is a researcher and PhD candidate at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on values and social transformation in the design of decentralization projects. Her previous research included co-design to investigate how community mapping increases participation in urban agriculture. She also imagines possibilities for grassroots and community infrastructure with a variety of groups including EDGI and Data Together, as well as co-organizes Our Networks. A keen amateur agriculturalist, Dawn would rather be in the garden.
Alternative networks have an uneasy position alongside dominant digital communications. In one way they have been entwined; Packet Radio and Satellite infrastructures that developed alongside ARPANET and were envisioned as a critical part of the pre-internet and its future use through internetworking. In other ways, they have explicitly potistioned themselves as a radical break; Usenet, which relied on the "Unix-to-Unix Copy" (UUCP) dial-up network, emerged when access to ARPANET was still tightly-controlled and was informed by more radical and countercultural approaches to information access and the distribution of power.
This talk provides a brief overview of the history of "alternatives" in order to unpack the relationship between emerging decentralized web projects and existing mainstream networks including the Internet. This talk also draws on the way alternative infrastructures have be neglected and subsequently reclaimed in network histories in order to further investigate the ways these alternatives as "alternative" on the one hand providing space to imagine new forms of networking while on the other performing a capture of pluralistic practices.