[NetBehaviour] A new public wireless interface: Hivenetworks successfully launch (UK)

marc garrett marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Thu Mar 27 11:21:24 CET 2008

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

Text by Armin Medosch.

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

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 future.

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: http://www.thenextlayer.org/node/378

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

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