Floating amongst the urban landscape is various unseen data like radio waves and WiFi signals. The latter allows for the networked communication that keeps us all so engaged, in touch, and hunched over our screens. But its invisibility means it doesn’t form part of the make up of our cities like a building, a bench, a letterbox or any other apparatus of urbanity. It just hovers there hidden, its importance measured by how quickly a web page loads or a film is downloaded. Its functional design unseen, yet so integral to our lives. Tough luck, huh?
Well not if Timo Arnall, Einar Sneve Martinussen, and Jørn Georg have anything to do with it. In their project Immaterials: Light painting WiFi they’ve given form to this neglected part of the urban environment. To do this, they attached 80 lights to a 4 meter long measuring rod with a WiFi antenna on it so that the lights responded to the Received Signal Strength (RSSI) of a WiFi network. Using the pole as a giant paintbrush, they used a long exposure to light paint various WiFi signals around Oslo, creating a 4 meter tall line graph that reveals its ubiquitous presence.
On the website Touch Timo describes the project as such:
When we walk through architectural, urban spaces with this probe while taking long-exposure photographs, we visualize the cross-sections, or strata, of WiFi signal strength, situated within photographic urban scenes. The cross-sections are an abstraction of WiFi signal strength, a line graph of RSSI across physical space. Although it can be used to determine actual signal strength at a given point, it is much more interesting as a way of seeing the overall pattern, the relative peaks and the troughs situated in the surrounding physical space.
The networks revealed are situated in the Grünerløkka area of Oslo, Norway. The fences of light created as they wander around the neighborhood are like a manifestation of the information superhighway, except this highway is vertical rather than horizontal. You can check out more photos on Timo’s Flickr.