The MAZI project aims to provide the means for citizens to deploy and configure local collective awareness platforms that can operate outside the public Internet. This is not to replace the Internet, but to complement it with local networks to support interactions that are meant to be local.
The MAZI toolkit is the core element of the project, both our starting point and the final outcome: a concrete set of hardware components, open source software, artefacts, and guidelines which we will bootstrap as a compilation of existing elements.
With the MAZI toolkit, a much wider population owning one or more cheap networking devices will be able to very easily customise a DIY networking solution based on a large variety of templates for software functionality and presentation. This person (or organisation) could be a street musician offering digital versions of her music and local information to tourists; a newcomer in a residential area who would like to meet his or her neighbours; a traveller who would like to exchange tips or socialise with those in the same bus or train; a researcher who would like to carry out a context-specific survey; a company or public organisation that wishes to receive anonymous feedback on the services provided; a municipality that would like to build local knowledge for a participatory planning process.
A MAZI zone
There are endless possibilities and MAZI pilot studies represent some good examples. The final version of the MAZI toolkit will include the following components:
- Installation scripts and step-by-step guides for the deployment of one or more wireless routers, the MAZI nodes, in a given area with an embedded web server hosting a captive portal, and accompanying input and output devices.
- A set of local web applications ready to be installed on the captive portal. The functionality will range from very simple communication services, like chatting, forums, wikis, and polls to more sophisticated collaborative applications for social networking, deliberations, community organising, project development, etc.
- Data collection and visualisation tools that will allow the owners of MAZI nodes to collect and aggregate data generated in different locations to interesting visualisations to be projected in public space or made available through online maps.
- A customisation interface (the administrator panel) which will enable the owner(s) of a MAZI zone to decide on important design details, like wording, identity management, input constraints, moderation rules, data collection, and more.
- A set of ideas and blueprints on possible physical elements that could contain and communicate the MAZI nodes, such as mobile or fixed containers (like a built structure, a mobile cart, a public intervention that combines analogue and digital ways of interacting, or other artefacts that would be used both to protect and transfer the nodes, but also signify their presence in public spaces and to engage individuals and groups to connect to the nods and to use the application)
- Templates for posters and stickers for advertising, explaining and representing the respective application offered by a MAZI zone.
- Guidelines for the selection of appropriate applications and customisation according to the context and the objectives of the local administrators.
The MAZI toolkit components
Hardware: Open Source Platform
The hardware platform of the toolkit will be the core component, since our choices regarding the other parts will rely on it. During the project, we will come up with situations where we will need to deploy one single MAZI node and with other situations where we will need to deploy multiple nodes connected with each other, forming a MAZI zone. Therefore, we can choose from various existing low-sized, low-power platforms that enable us to build simple, portable MAZI nodes or from larger platforms that enable us to build advanced, energy-demanding MAZI nodes.
Depending on the placing of the MAZI node, there will be different requirements for the physical casing of the unit. Permanent outdoor installations of nodes will need to be weatherproof, and resistant to tampering and vandalism. Environmental sensors might need to consider more extreme conditions, e.g. submersion in water, requiring IP67 or above rated cases. Portable MAZI nodes on the other hand might be constructed of lightweight materials. A central focus within and across the different MAZI pilots is the physical representation of the MAZI zone. With physical representation we hereby mean the ways possible users encounter, become engaged by and interact with the hybridity of the space they are moving in.
3D printed cases for MAZI Toolkit v1
Context and Support
One of the assumptions of MAZI is that context matters and ICT solutions need to be customised and developed in a bottom-up fashion to address the real needs of local communities. For this, appropriate guidelines should be provided to the different actors to be able to adapt the toolkit’s functionality to the specific environment where a MAZI zone will be deployed. Guidelines for the MAZI toolkit will provide both technical and social support for deploying and maintaining a MAZI node. The MAZI toolkit has at its core a configured network technology, however MAZI recognises that the social, political, and cultural context of its deployment must also be considered. Therefore guidelines will include not only technical advice on how to set up and operate the hardware and software components but also guidance based on the outcomes of the pilot studies and their experiences in trial deployments.