Sean McIntyre · designing tech to create great things

Rooftop Tour of Brooklyn

Feb 18, 2013

This past weekend I embarked on a rooftop tour of North Brooklyn and Long Island City. (It was one of the coldest and windiest weekends of the winter. Brr!) It was good to scout how precisely the network could be laid out and to engage potential network hosts about the idea to generate some interest and feedback.

Many thanks to Mark Krawczuk for facilitating some of the meetings and encouraging the tour.

Proposed network map

I’ve been thinking that creating network links between art institutions such as Silent Barn, Flux Factory, and 319 Scholes is a good way to start. These spaces are well-established and could be home to the first real users of the network. I could imagine a simple video booth between spaces being a first application of the network.

Other network design considerations include ease of access, network redunancy, application ideas that require certain spaces to be connected, and how they connect to me – because it’s important for me to experience the network as the initial designer.

The map is rather optimistic and likely a subset of the locations will be connected by my project presentation at ITP and Bushwick Open Studios.

network map

Rooftop views

Creating a roofnet has many challenges, one of which is getting up onto roofs! Lucky for me, I have friends with roofs that graciously have given me access, and friends who want to help the project who have friends with roofs.

Trying to understand the neighborhood layout by rooftop was as unexpected challenge. I have experienced North Brooklyn in many modes. First by the subway, then by bicycle, then by walking. Each mode provides a new experience of the neighborhood, the amount of detail perceived inversely correlated to the speed of the mode. A place that is so familiar on the street can be so foreign viewing it from far away.

Here are selected photos from my rooftop tour of Brooklyn. (Roll over images for annotations.)

The key rooftop I visited was at 56 Jefferson St (location 1 on the network map) in Bushwick. This building is one of the tallest buildings in the neighborhood and overlooks most of the East Williamsburg Industrial Zone, as shown in the picture above.

As a fortunate coincidence, many of the buildings that I’d like to connect to the network lie in a straight line from this building, including 250 Moore St, Kitchen Table Coders, and the Queens Plaza Clock Tower, requiring only one antenna to reach all of them.

319 Scholes, rooftop view pictured above, will be a spiritual hub for the network, with possible special events for the network being facilitated by the space. It has a clear view of the Kitchen Table Coders loft space.

This rooftop view is from 566 Johnson Ave, home to the Active Space, a artist building and gallery that I rent a studio in. Connecting this building to 319 Scholes will connect a number of artists in the area away from the main thoroughfare of the network.

This rooftop view from the ITP House is courtesy of my classmate Nick Johnson. His thesis proposal is for an emergency SMS distribution system using a GSM network he is creating. His system could be aided by a backbone network that I could provide for him. Working with Nick on a similar timeframe would be nice to provide an application on the network. However, the location is rather far away from the core of the network and it doesn’t look like there will be a way to connect ITP House to the network

Moving forward

With an understanding of how the network can be created, I can now focus on the user, host, developer, and network operator experiences of how the network will be interacted with, maintained, developed, and setup. My next step is to create prototypes of the physical and coded product to be deployed in the mapped out locations.

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