13. Invention, intellectual property, and income

Amsterdam, April 29, 2020


  • develop a plan for dissemination of your final project
  • prepare drafts of your summary slide (presentation.png, 1920x1080) and video clip (presentation.mp4, 1080p HTML5, < ~minute, < ~10 MB) and put them in your root directory.
  • It is also time to catch up on former weeks.

To do

Description status
Finish assignment week09 done
Finish documentation week09 done
Add video of working sensor readout done
Develop a plan for dissemination of final project done
Prepare draft of summerary slide pending
Prepare video clip done


Description link
Index of this week’s topic http://academy.cba.mit.edu/classes/invention_IP_business/index.html
Global lecture video https://vimeo.com/413242327
Global review video https://vimeo.com/415632276
Recitation education https://vimeo.com/414831034

Plan for dissemination of final project

To do

Description status
Summary of dissemination plan done
Educational services done
Online presence done
List potential partners done
Apply for open call
Write story
Write manual
Create slide done
Create video done

Summary of final project

Building your own community networks

The goal of my final project is to enable people to build community networks. I’m making a modular device with networking capabilities using as few hardware components as possible. The goal is develop a modular networking device that people can easily make themselves even in circumstances of resource scarcity. The name of the project is post-collapse network. A communication network that can be erected with few resources, no need for prior knowledge and in a short amount of time. The collapse can refer to an economic collapse, but also a collapse in trust in existing networks because of rampant surveillance capitalism.

Community networks have many benefits:
- Operators and users of the network are one and the same, eliminating conflicting interests of the userbase and commercial or state-led Internet Service Provicers (ISPs).
- Knowledge about operating networks resides within the community itself.
- Communities are in charge of their own information and communication channels.
- The network accommodates local needs.

With these benefits community networks provide what has been rapidly disappearing from the global, commercial internet: autonomy, control, self-determination and

Make your own hardware

There are three main elements to building a community network:
- The organizational skills of pulling a community together and making it happen.
- Knowledge of networking protocols.
- Physical infrastructure

This project focuses on the physical infrastructure.

The benefits of making your own hardware:
- Knowledge: The internet has become an integral part of our lives. To know how it works on the physical level is to understand the world around you.
- Autonomy: DIY All The Things!
- Resource scarcity: The coronacrisis has reminded us we can’t take the status quo for granted. When the global supply chain faltered the electronics industry was affected severely. Exploring how to make devices from simple components increases a community’s self-sufficiency and preparedness.
- Fun! Anyone who has ever made something, knows that feeling of satisfaction. Imagine how you’ll feel when you’ve built your own internet! - A new economy: DIY hardware is part of a larger paradigm of local fabrication. Rather than an economy of work for pay and pay to consume, invest in developing skills and knowledge locally to produce locally.

Sharing knowledge

My final project rests on two pillars:

  1. Build a networking hardware device with as few components as possible.
  2. Provide a comprehensive manual on how to make the device.

To enable other’s to learn how to make networking devices, I will write a comprehensive manual. I also hope to involve people who don’t see themselves as Makers. Many people have the prejudice about themselves that they ‘can’t understand how technology works’ and are reluctant to try it out. Therefore the manual will be hidden inside a science fiction story. When you finish reading the story, you have read about all you have to know to build the device.

How I will share my project with the world

Future vision

Building community networks requires, above anything else, people. I will build a platform where people can learn and exchange ideas about community networks. I would like to see it grow into a network of people and initiatives who are into this topic. Embedded in this network of people is know-how, skills and relationships to build community networks.
There is a second target group I would like to reach: people who don’t feel at ease at making their own technology. Among this large group there are many who could benefit from community networks. The platform therefore will focus a lot on making people enthusiastic about Making and teaching how to do it.
In order to invite people to join there needs to be an anchorpoint and a structure. You need to be able to show what you are inviting them into, and what particpation looks like. Therefore, I will lay down the first foundations of the platform. At the same time I will reach out to people and organizations to informally discuss the idea. This is to gauge if people are interested to get involved and if so in what way.

Online presence:
Create an online presence I can point to when inviting people to particpate. The platform will exist on the open web. I will present it as a place where people can share their knowledge about building community networks, exchanging ideas and finding fellow enthusiasts. All three elements can be addressed: organizational skills, networking protocols and physical infrastructure. My device and a how-to tutorial will serve as an example of what a contribution may look like. A Gitlab repository will enable people to contribute their own ideas. There will also be a means for people to contribute directly via the site, because Gitlab may be daunting for some people (it was to me until FabAcademy).

Involve like-minded people
I will approach people and organizations to see if they are interested in getting involved. Here is a list of parties I consider approaching. These are all parties that are in my network and so are easy to approach on an informal basis. After I have received some feedback from them I will look further out to parties outside of my network. I want to be clear that I have not yet approached these parties and at this time none have committed to this project.

FabLab Waag: Of course I will invite my local FabLab to get involved.
Fab network: I will also look into how this project can become a meaningful addition to all the things happening in the Fab network.
Six-pack_CNC: The mini, DIY, affordable milling machine project from FabLab BCN. A milling machine is a tremendous asset when making your own hardware. It be great to collaborate with them.
Internet Society: ISOC’s mission is to work on an open, globally-connected, secure, and trustworthy Internet for everyone. One of the focus points to accomplish its mission is community networks. ISOC has published policy briefs on the topic, provides online courses on building online networks and offers grants. It has a number practical projects running through its chapters around the world. As a board member of the Dutch chapter of the Internet Society a can propose to make one of our themes community networks. As a member of ISOC global I can join Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on community networks and join a global network of people active on this topic.
Grip Foundation: The foundation which I founded with Dorien Zandbergen (more about that below).
My friend L_*** who is working on projects with community networks.
Elektor electronics magazine: I’ve been writing for Elektor for nearly a decade. I can offer to write a How-To to spread interest about building your own communication network. And/or we can consider a more extensive plan to get people involved. Elektor has a big network in the electronics industry and we can try to find interested partners.
Boldport: Boldport is a company that makes electronics art. Doing things your own way is at its core. It would be nice to collaborate.

Services: the Red Hat model
To generate some income for the project I will follow the Red Hat model. Red Hat is build around the Linux operating system (OS). The OS itself is open source and free as in free beer. RedHat generates income by offering services around the OS such as support, training and consulting. The contents of the project will be open source and freely available. Additional services are offered for a fee. In the first stage I will focus on educational services. In a later stage other services can be added.
I already provide educational service through Gr1p, the foundation I co-founded with Dorien Zandbergen. Gr1p’s aim is to democratize digital technologies. To name a few of our educational programs and workshops: We annually teach the course Toward Digital Freedom at the University of Amsterdam. We’ve also taught an abbreviated version on the Volksuniversiteit (People’s University - where anyone can follow courses). We’ve given workshops on the ethical and inclusive smart city for municipality of Rotterdam and Assembly of Dutch Municipalities (Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten - an umbrella organization for municipalities). Other educational projects are the documentary In Search of the Smart Citizen and We Know How You Feel a critical look at the rise of wearables in collaboration with the Dutch broadcaster VPRO.

The educational programs can take different forms:
Face-to-face workshops and courses.
Webinars are also an option: this has the benefit of a lower barrier to entry geographically wise.

Another way of finding resources for the project is applying for funding. Relevant funds are:
SIDN Fonds which funds initiatives to make the internet stronger.
Eyebeam: Apply for the open call to provide projects for a better digital future.

My contributions to the platform will be shared under the Creative Commons license: CC BY-NC-SA. This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. I would like all contributions to be shared under this licence but that decision should be made when more people are involved and more minds have given it thought.

Video scenario

The video starts with the classic trailer trope ‘In a world…’

Add FabAcademy 2020 logo to video.


Characters: Voice over: friend Filip



A representation of the internet glows happily. The famous star graph pulsates soft warm light. In come the logo’s of Amazon, Facebook et. al., bombarding the graph. The light speeds up and turns dark ugly colors.

                                            VOICE OVER
            In a world where surveillance capitalism has corrupted the global communication systems,


Montage scene of milling machine, Freerouter(!), KiCad, FreeCad, 3D printing, laser cutting, soldering CNC milling, laughing people, As we hit the lines ‘Of the people’ etc. these words are splashed across the screen.

                                            VOICE OVER
            a community builds a new internet based on a revolutionary idea. Of the people. For the people. By the people.


Montage scene: World map of FabLabs fades into exterior of Waag Fablab. Cuts to learning activities in Waag: Our class viewing Neil online. Regional review. Henk teaching. Rutger teaching. Hyejin explainng something to Harm.

                                            VOICE OVER
            Finding strength in the collective power of Fablabs all over the world, sharing global and making local


Screenvideo of a terminal downloading an open source software packet, shot of 3D printers, vinyl cutter and lasercutter, screenshots of Gitlab, issue tracker, collaborative projects

            Harnassing open source, machines as a shared resource and distributed learning,

EXT. MONTAGE SCENE FIVE We see each individual component and how they are put together.

                                            VOICE OVER

            they fabricated networking devices from as few components as possible.


Making of and finished version of the handmade manual.

                                            VOICE OVER
            Sharing schematics, manuals and code


Device powers up. Bleeps up and displays on its monitor: INITIALIZING … Hello world! Autonomous community network is now online.

                                            VOICE OVER
            They enabled everyone on earth, to build their own autonomous community network.


Link to Vimeo in case the self-hosted video does not work.


Slide with the description of the project and pictures of the processes used.