ADAM –Distributed Architecture and Multiple Multimedia Services– is an ANR project (National Research Agency) led by the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI – Mines ParisTech), Telecom ParisTech (Economics & Human Sciences Department) and CERSA (Politics and Administrative Sciences Research Center, Pantheon Assas – Paris II, CNRS).

The object of this research project is to implement an exploration of socio-technical implications of distributed architectures in computing environment.

For Telecom ParisTech – Economics & Social Sciences Department CoDesign Lab & Media Studies- it is led by François Huguet, Annie Gentès & Maya Bacache.

 

Context

The development of services based on distributed architectures is claiming its place among the most important evolutions of the Internet and communication networks in general. This project aims at developing an in-depth knowledge of the issues and questions raised by such architectures in terms of uses, technologies, economic models, rights and norms. More specifically, the project focuses on systems based on peer-to-peer (P2P) technologies, in two different cases: Internet-based P2P services for a variety of uses, including information search, storage, sharing or communication; and mobile P2P networks aiming at harnessing contextual resources in communicative environments, in a perspective of ubiquitous computing or resource sharing among co-localised individuals. Our research at the CoDesign Lab is focused on the second case.

 

Question

(by François Huguet)

Since 2011, I’ve been working on the mobile aspect of Internet decentralized architectures from a Sciences & Technologies Studies perspective but also in a media studies view and a touch of political sciences. My research studies the open source “devices-as-infrastructures” distributed and flexible MESH communications platforms and more precisely, their audiences, their locations (especially in the city of Detroit, MI), their designers, the people who care about these infrastructures.

In my PhD dissertation I show how MESH networks (or MANET Mobile Ad-Hoc Networks) are able to create a new kind of community. They are tools for community organizing, tactics to re-negociate the link between users and infrastructures, a tactic to « impose » bottom-up structures in front of the top-down ones, a way of designing a new type of relationship to the Internet by using “inverse” peer-to-peer infrastructures instead of dominant centralized architectures at all levels of Internet services, using “chains” of peers and their devices to connect seamlessly between each other and/or to share an internet access. I try to show how a networking principle, in this case, the decentralized architecture and the use of Community Wireless Networks, is able to suggest a new type of democracy, a new type of relation to the public services infrastructure, to the media, to the fact of communication, to engagement and participation.  I want to politicize something that is generally taken as common sense:

The idea that social mobility today depends on gaining access to and expertise in the use of information technology. The basic questions guiding my dissertation research are:

    • What does Internet access mean to different communities with different resources and cultures?
    • How well does the social mobility narrative surrounding Internet access travel?
    • How does the design of “alternative” networking infrastructures travel?
    • How is it related to the narrative of mobile and autonomous infrastructures?

 

In this work, and after Andrew Feenberg and Serge Proulx, I’m trying to develop a critical perspective on how practices contribute to real infrastructures and participate in the creation of economic value under informational capitalism. My goal is to show that the politics of Internet access are not a matter of one set of information haves sending supplies to another set of information have-nots. It’s a question of user empowerment, users skills, users pedagogy. And we could expand this conversation, to show how who has access to what, where, and when is a political process wrapped up in gentrification, labor markets, and cultural beliefs about individualism and self-efficacy.

 My hope is to eventually show that the framing of the ‘digital divide’ conceals more than it reveals and that we’d be better off focusing not on a gap that might one day be bridged, but on a complex set of social relations native to the current stage of capitalism. And the distributed infrastructures principles and their adoption in our main Internet based services are at the core of these stakes.

The remaining question in the media design field is also here: how are these medias designed? How do they redefine what social and participatory design is?

To know more about the project click here.