What is Occupy.here?
A peer-to-peer network of virtual spaces (autonomous from the Internet) for open political discussions. Anyone within range of an Occupy.here wifi router with a web-capable smartphone or laptop can join the network “OCCUPY.HERE,” load the locally-hosted website http://occupy.here, and use the message board to connect with other users nearby. The open source forum software offers a simple, mobile-friendly interface where users can write messages and post replies.
How does it work?
The project has developed in parallel with the Occupy movement and seeks to offer a new kind of venue where both committed activists and casual supporters can engage with each other. The project complements the work of the Free Network Foundation and official NYCGA working groups who have been providing critical infrastructure to the OWS movement. Occupy.here is more about supporting an emerging community through decentralized hardware and location-specific web services.
When I started the project in October 2011, my goal was to create a written supplement to the spoken conversations I was enjoying in Liberty Square (aka Zuccotti park). I wasn’t able to spend as much time in the park as I wanted, so I thought about how I might connect with others who passed through intermittently via an “offline forum.” Restricting the forum to those within the local wifi range created a self-selecting audience, but also created one more incentive to visit the occupation.
Since Liberty Square has been cleared and the Occupy Wall Street movement is more decentralized, my goals for the project have adjusted. Instead of (or, perhaps, in addition to) augmenting the experience of being in an OWS encampment, I’m creating an archipelago of virtual spaces to host conversations similar to those in Liberty Square. More than ever, both “activists” and ”non-activists” alike need to have spaces for open discussion.
The new focus is to create a distributed network of wifi locations, each running an instance of the forum software, each serving those in its immediate vicinity. The content from one location’s forum can also migrate to other locations through a syncing mechanism that takes advantage of users moving from node to node. The long term goal is to deploy a broad network of wifi hardware running the Occupy.here software. In the short term the focus is limited to deploying the network throughout New York City in a number of locations to be determined.
About the technology
localStorage mechanism. Each user can copy the local forum’s database to their mobile device or laptop and. This backup is then merged into the database of any subsequent Occupy.here nodes they encounter. The process works a bit like a honey bee sharing pollen between flowers.
Installing Occupy.here on a router only takes a matter of minutes if you know what you’re doing. Initial tests were done with the venerable Linksys WRT54GL, the original hackable wifi router. But more recently I’ve been using this Netgear router (easily found at retail stores) and this TP-Link one (cheaper and more awesome looking). The new file sharing features of occupy.here rely on routers that can be expanded with USB memory sticks.
How you can help
The project is still very early in its development, and seeks collaborators of all kinds. You can help write the code, find suitable locations for wifi nodes, help moderate, or simply participate in the conversation. The exact approach for how the software should work is an ongoing discovery process.