Artefact 08

Mesh Bowl and Data Tokens

As the mesh expanded across India it created a new network; an Internet that could be transmitted from house-to-house and across villages, towns, and cities in a radically decentralised way, each iteration reflecting local needs and benefitting from diverse knowledge. The mesh placed privacy controls in the hands of everyone in a transparent manner with people and households given agency to steward their own data.

As the network grew in Karnataka, a partnership sprang up between the lacquered wood-toy-making village of Channapatna and rural hack labs. They collaborated to make bowls and tokens that people could use to create glanceable interfaces to control the privacy of different types of data on their home’s mesh network.

The ‘Mesh Bowl’ acts as a node within a broader mesh network. It also gives people the ability to control the data that flows from their devices through the Mesh. The five tokens represent five different types of data; Aadhar, Text, Camera, Location, and Sound. A token inside the wooden dish indicates that the data type is private. Moving the token to the fabric mat changes it into a transferable data type. As new forms of data are recognised, new tokens can be added to control them. Beyond Karnataka, different areas are developing their own tokens – often drawing from local craft cultures, privacy customs and behaviours peculiar to the people of the area.

“Tanveer! Stop messing with the mesh… I need photos. Put it back. Give me back my photos.”

“I need privacy. You don’t need the photos”.


Tanveer lets the brightly coloured token fall into the Mesh bowl just as his mum enters the room.

“Tanveer, the Mesh is for the whole family. Your sister wants to send her friends photos of her project. We can turn photos off when she’s finished”. Tanveer is clearly disgruntled. Last Tuesday, one of the founders of data stewardship, Jayalakshmi K, had come to visit his school and given the best talk he had ever heard. Privacy, she had said, was a basic need in the same manner that water was but it also had to be constantly cared for and managed within homes and villages. He had heard of an update to the Mesh Tokens that would allow one to exclude photos of specific people. He could hardly wait for that update! He could then glue its token into the mesh bowl and protect himself from his sister’s constantly clicking camera. Until then, he would continue to take the Photo token out anytime he could.

Mesh Bowl and Data Tokens. Mesh Bowl. Turned, oiled wood, various electronic components. 2045. Five Data Tokens. Turned, lacquered wood, various electronic components. 2045. Mesh Mat. Khadi Cotton with hand embroidered detail. 2045.