The Invisible Politics of the Public Airwaves

Last month, as part of Breakout! – a collaborative team project that is part of the Architecture League’s ongoing Toward the Sentient City exhibit – a small group including NYCwireless co-founder Anthony Townsend gathered at The Triangle – a slice of pavement equipped with tables, chairs and umbrellas parked in between The Diner and the 14th Street Apple Store to experiment with iPhone applications for mobile work.

Of course, no experiment in mobile work would be complete without “jail breaking” an iPhone in order to enable tethering, the feature that allows one to use their AT&T phone service to connect to the Internet via a laptop computer.

When the cellular network nestled in the “mobile office kit” – a design intervention from the Breakout! project — proved to be too slow for downloading large files, Townsend switched to the Apple Store’s open Wi-Fi network. That’s when things got interesting. The store was blocking the file required to install tethering. (For more details, see the Breakout! session transcript).