17 Apr 2011

Light Paintings Illustrate WiFi Networks for You

Light painting WiFi has given form to an ignored part of the urban environment: the many wireless signals, radio waves and text messages passing unperceived through the air we breathe and move around in. A group in Oslo made some of the networks visible to our naked eye and I detail exactly how this was done below. The reason this interests me is that for a long time I've been concerned with how these signals effect us, our bones and possibly due to the high amount of water content in our body, our own electrical signals which are the manner in which the body transmits its own messages as part of its everyday function.

This concern had always been present. When teaching English in India, we used a newspaper article on how primary schools had banned wireless from school grounds, going back to cabled internet to protect the children. Studies had shown that children, with their softer and as yet unformed bones, were susceptible to some kind of damage from the microwaves in WLANS and Wifi that no one seemed to want to explicitly give a name to in the media.
Years later came studies of bees, birds using inbuilt navigational techniques to fly from UK to Africa, and these being destroyed by our polluting the air with masses of different signals. Also those going up to adjust the Resonance 104.4FM broadcast aerial were warned to wear standard LEAD PANTS by the building managers, to protect their private parts while they were in top of the building as the concentration of radio waves and mobile phone masts up there are harmful.

The questions remain unanswered and I am not appeased by those studies that 'prove' there is no harm in this collective effect of the various signals we are creating on our bodies.  Often those quoting the study have a vested interest in the outcome of the study. Just to think of the sheer mass of information passing through the air right now as I sit here makes me dizzy.

So it is with interest that I republish this video, where yet again art shows rather than tells about a topic we are not yet concluded on. The system these three have created explores the actual presence in the air of wireless signals in the eerie setting of a snowy Oslo.

The group attached 80 lights to a 4 meter long measuring rod with a WiFi antenna on it so that the lights respond to the Received Signal Strength (RSSI) of a WiFi network. The pole becomes a giant paintbrush, as long exposure allows it to light paint various WiFi signals around Oslo, creating a 4 meter tall line graph that reveals this presence in the air. Nice one, Timo Arnall, Einar Sneve Martinussen, and Jørn Georg.

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.