Technically Brooklyn

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Oct. 14, 2013 10:30 am

The Digital Stewards youth group growing Internet access in Red Hook

Young adults are building a wireless network in Red Hook that can stay on without the Internet; the work earned them a spot at an international conference on community networking.

Digital Stewards Troubleshooting a node in their network

From the Red Hook Wifi Instagram

Updated: 10/15/13 @ 12:30pm: An earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the ages of the majority of the Digital Stewards, who are mostly in their early 20s, not teenagers.

People in Red Hook can communicate by computer, even if the whole neighborhood loses access to the Internet. At least, if their device is a part of the mesh network going in, piece by piece, by the Red Hook Initiatives crew of youth organizers, The Digital Stewards.

The crew of young adults are gradually building a neighborhood-wide WiFi system, giving Red Hook denizens broader access to the Internet and readying the neighborhood to communicate if another disaster like Sandy cuts it off from those outside. This is especially important for Red Hook, as it is a neighborhood more vulnerable to getting cut off from the rest of Brooklyn, by water and by the BQE.

Digital Stewards in BerlinThe group, which includes some teen members, is getting good enough at this work that the Red Hook Initiative has started exporting their skills. Four Digital Stewards were in Berlin in early October, for the International Summit for Community Wireless Networks, where they helped to set up a mesh network in advance of a conference.

Building this network doesn’t only take technical skills. It takes people skills, too. The Stewards are also canvassing the community and convincing locals and businesses to add their internet connections to the mesh network. The more that get onto a network like this, the more resilient it becomes.

Watch this video for a primer on what the Digital Stewards team is building.

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Brady Dale

Brady Dale is a freelance writer, comedian and storyteller. A native of Pittsburg, Kansas, he went to Cornell and worked as a progressive community organizer for over a decade before quitting his job to pursue writing and performance. He lives in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn.

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