Block Networks

Cristina Cochior


From the late 90s to mid-2000s, Romania’s internet landscape buzzed with block or neighbourhood networks. These grassroots networks emerged from a blend of devices, neighbourly bonds, and urban structures, spanning apartments, blocks, and suburbs, delivering internet to diverse groups. Residents strung cables across balconies for shared access, enabling self-sustained services. Gradually, these informal networks morphed into official micro-ISPs, acquired by commercial giants that absorbed network maintainers, formalising their setup.

‘Block Networks’ archives memories of this period, where grassroots initiatives shaped an infrastructure later claimed by the tech industry. Oral histories, online forums, news, and documents recount these experiences. These are displayed on three computers set up to demonstrate the dynamics of a block network. Connected to the exhibition site’s router, the computer network depicts computational and social interdependence.

The project explores self-organised networks’ social, political, and economic facets in Romania, examining a kind of user-administrator relationship in which a certain intimacy was established through file sharing, technical knowledge exchange, and physical proximity. When these networks were absorbed by larger companies, these relations were replaced by the commercialised services and transactions.

Courtesy the designer

Cristina Cochior is a researcher and designer with an interest in automation, situated software, and peer-to-peer knowledge production. Her work largely revolves around knowledge organisation systems and collective digital infrastructures.

  • Conversations with: Paul Sorin Alexandrescu, Eric Baleanu, Una Maria Andruchovici, Ioana Raileanu, Alin Vrajitor, Ciprian Cincheza, Alex Csordas, Val Muresan
  • Featured conversation: Una Maria Andruchovici, Ioana Raileanu
  • Transcription and video editing: Ioana Tomici
  • Online resources are referenced in the archive.