DRHA paper: boattr – towpath as urban commons

During the DRHA 2018 conference Adnan gave the paper “boattr – towpath as urban commons”. This paper discusses the towpath of the British Waterways as a digital urban commons, through the researcher’s journey on the narrow boat ‘Quintessence’ and the development of the ‘boattr’ prototype in collaboration with MAZI (for “together” in Greek), a Horizon2020 research project. The boattr project connects narrow boats to the ‘Internet-of-Things’ and allows for open wireless mesh-networking within the narrow boat community, by using affordable microcomputers. The paper analyses the technology and knowledge that aims to 1) empower those narrow boats who are in physical proximity, to shape their hybrid urban space, together, according to the specificities of the respective local environment, and 2) foster participation, conviviality, and location-based collective awareness of the canals.The paper looks into capabilities offered by Do-It-Yourself networking infrastructures – low-cost off-the-shelf hardware and wireless technologies – and how small communities or individuals can deploy local communication networks that are fully owned by local actors, including all generated data. These DIY networks could cover from a small square (e.g., using a Raspberry Pi) to a city neighborhood (e.g., RedHook initiative) or even a whole city (e.g.,, and in the case of boattr the towpath of the canal network. Boattr integrates existing Free and Open Source Software software (like those under development by the P2Pvalue project, mobile sensing devices, and recent developments in open data and open hardware), allowing it to be appropriated by different non-expert users according to their respective context and use case.This paper is being proposed in combination with a 360 installation, alongside a running boattr prototype, and the boattr micro-computer book launch (see boattr 360 installation proposal). The conference visitors will be able to experience boattr through a VR headset, and access the boattr prototype and book over any WiFi enabled device.