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From the protests in Hong Kong to Occupy and Sandy in New York, a new generation of tools is allowing communities to connect without using the Internet. Can they have a use in news too?
In the rush to get from here to there, not many travelers in Boston’s South Station are likely to notice the two blue wifi icons near the Martin’s News Shop informing them that they are now in range of the “Pulse of South Station.” And if they did, they might rightly assume that it was some kind of marketing campaign.
But at its inception in 2005, the Pulse of Boston (of which that sign was a part) was also much more than this: It was a cutting-edge experiment in hyperlocal, offline, wireless news and community. And while the original Boston Globe effort lasted less than a year, today both global events and advances in DIY wireless technologies are rebooting interest in this physically proscribed approach to hyperlocal communications — exploring how wireless connections that don’t rely on the Internet can serve as both community hubs and crucial information sources.