Armin Medosch on Thu, 27 Mar 2008 12:46:32 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> A new public wireless interface: Street Radio by Hivenetworks

sorry for x-posting


A new public wireless interface: Hivenetworks successfully launch
'Street Radio' in Southampton

On Friday the 14th of March 2008 ten 'street radio' nodes went
live in Southampton narrowcasting Hidden Histories -- stories from
Southamptons Oral History Archive selected and arranged to correspond
with the location of the 10 nodes.

Participants started to meet at around 11 am at the gallery cafe in
Southampton's Civic Centre. There they received maps of the Hidden
Histories trail and those who needed them could borrow little FM radio


On a tight budget and close deadline, we were very happy to be
able to deliver. On 10 light poles in the centre of Southampton on
Above Bar street weather proof little boxes have been mounted which
contain repurposed commercially available hardware. The unique hard-
software combination implemented by Hivenetworks is playing soundfiles
in a loop on FM radio on 89.0 MHtz. The very low powered USB FM
transmitters are said to have a range of about 10 to 15 meters. Thus,
around each lighhtpole in a radius of 30 meters approximately you
can hear one particular radio art piece created by me with excerpts
from the Oral History Archive. The boxes also scan the surroundings
for mobile phones with the bluetooth function on. Asking the carrier
of the mobile phone to accept a message first, a short bluetooth
text message is transmitted announcing the node, the frequency and
its content. The Hiveware contained in the boxes also creates a mesh
network based on the OLSR protocol. Currently we do not provide access
point services, the mesh is only there for maintainance reasons. Via
the internet we can 'see' the boxes in Southampton and check if they
are working and upload new content.

I have been working on this project since the beginning of last autumn
but the past two months in particular I was in oral history universe.
I could never have finished the 10 short audio pieces on time without
the support of Sheila Jemima and Padmini Broomfield from the OHU.
They know the archive very well and have carried out already many
projects where they made selections and put together specific excerpts
of the archive, from Titanic to maritime workers, female seafarers
and early memories of cinematic experiences. In the remnants of the
bombed out Holyrood Church they have created a different type of oral
history station, a piece of hardware with buttons to select different
audio extracts from. Their advise and expertise saved me a lot of
time and provided valuable guidance and inspiration. So for about 2
months continuously I spent under the headphones, listening through
the archive, becoming intimate with voices and the tales that they
told. After such an intense phase of work in seclusion, me and the
voices from the past, spending together hours and hours, it was a
particular type of joy for me to see and hear this project launched.

First of all, it worked. To be precise, 9 out of 10 nodes worked. One,
the 10th and last node by chance, had a technical failure which could
not be solved by means of software or frequent restarts -- the whole
box has to be replaced which we will do shortly. For a pilot project
with such a smalll budget 9 out of 10 was not a bad achievement.
Moreover, the FM reception in the vicinity of the nodes was generally
very good. Because of traffic noise it is advisable to use headphones,
yet by using those the voices are coming through quite clearly and
very well understandable. Some of the nodes have a slight high pitched
buzz at the background, but it is not loud enough to diminish the
experience and other nodes are totally clear. The bluetooth function
worked but very very slowly, which is something to be addressed in the

But technical functioning aside, the project also worked as a whole. I
simple loved drifting from one node to the other, headphones on, radio
in hand, listening in to one story and then, after a while, moving on
to the next.

Full story:

The article contains links to further texts, images, a sound example
and external links.

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