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Strangers and friends alike gather with their computers, which they connect to a local wireless network within a "wifi bubble" set up by the organizers. With a range of about 30 metres (98 ft), this bubble is completely autonomous; it is not connected to the Internet and can therefore be set up easily anywhere. Participants (bubblenauts) are connected to each other inside the bubble via a chat room, where they interact both physically and virtually. Participants are invited to partake in creative actions, discuss theme-based topics, exchange documents, pics and videos, or simply get to know one another.
Specific content, accessible only within the confines of the bubble, is sometimes made available to participants and a collaborative work may then be pursued by participating Bubblenauts opening the way to all kinds of possibilities in the associative and cultural domains and in the field of citizenship.
The aim is to place technology in the service of mankind, human interaction and sharing. As the creators of the concept put it, it is an invitation to 'take a walk on the other side of the screen', the creation of a "micro-network" on a human scale that offers a new kind of conviviality and playful interaction. Their motto is: "Make bubbles, not war."
This concept is uncommon for three reasons: the complete autonomy of the bubble; a voluntary return to geographic proximity — promoting encounters and bonding among participants — a playful simultaneity between virtual and real exchanges. In this way, while Internet has abolished to some extent physical distances, Wifipicning, conversely, is the fusion of the cordless network and the local physical world. The initiators of the project have also spoken to this effect about Web 3.0, which would be the total fusion of Internet with its spatial and social environment, as well as that of individuals with their avatars.
The concept was created in 2005 in Paris (France) by the Natacha Quester-Séméon, Sacha Quester-Séméon and Tristan Mendes France. With the aim of encouraging people to interact, share or socialize at cultural, artistic and social events, via new information and communication technologies, they created the association "Incredibulle" (Incredibubble) and the concepts of wifi bubble, bubble master and bubblenauts.
The first Wifipicnings took place in 2005 in Paris and Provence. The concept was launched in the Luxembourg Garden (Paris) on the occasion of Neighbours' Day with thanks to the Senate Quaestor. A second one took place in Maussane-les-Alpilles in Provence in the presence of the town's mayor. In 2006, two more were organised: on 30 May in Paris during European Neighbours' Day ("Immeubles en fête" in France) and on 15 July in Maussane-les-Alpilles. The fifth Wifipicning took place in Paris one week before the first round of the French presidential elections in April 2007 and was devoted to the theme of citizenship.
A voluntary network and pioneer in the associative web, The Associated Humans has sponsored these events, the aim of which is the creation a more humane network and the reappropriation of technologies often experienced as impersonal and remote, in order to bring people together in a new and more welcoming environment. The initiative has been favorably received abroad. Through support from Howard Rheingold, a theorist with expertise in flashmobs and cyberculture, the concept has spread to a wider international audience as well as making its way into the blogspheres of different countries, Spanish-speaking for the most part. A gathering took place in September 2006 in Vila-Seca, Spain.
- Le Parisien (31 May 2005)
- Elle (27 June 2005)
- France Info (Brigitte Benkemoun's column, 15 July 2005)
- La Provence (22 and 23 July 2005)
- Le Nouvel Observateur (1 September 2005)
- Europe 2 (Loïc Lemeur's radio broadcast on blogs, 16 December 2005)
- Vidéo programme «Le Mag» d'Orange World (April 2006)
- Europe 1 (Catherine Nivez's broadcast «Revue de blogs», 5 April 2006)
- Netizen (April and May 2006)
- Canal Plus (Daphné Bürki's show «Nous ne sommes pas des anges», 11 May 2006)
- Noticiasdot.com (11 July 2006)
- El País (12 July 2006)
- Libération (column «Vous», 14 July 2006)
- PC INpact/Yahoo News (8 July 2006)