Online, Writing

28/06/2004

The Free Visible Network

[Article published in Furtherfield, 2004]

It is no mystery that we live in a society based on, and immersed in, different forms of communication. Every day we find ourselves in public spaces surrounded by the conversations of others, which we can hear, share or ignore. Words pronounced roam freely for any bystander to listen to them, although we tend to consider this a lack of education and an invasion of privacy. In a much similar way, wireless networks surround us with their flow of data, the conversations of machines, in which we can take part by switching on our laptop, PDA or mobile phone. As important a part of our everyday life as they are, these forms of communication remain mostly unnoticed because they are free, and invisible.

Free is a word that is hard to apply to anything. Talking is free in the sense that it is costless to address somebody, yet freedom of speech is a controversial issue. Wireless networks are free as long as the community that supports them does not limit its access or charges a user fee, yet the fight for Wi-Fi to be or remain free is also a controversial issue.

On the other hand, it is obvious to state that both speech and wireless communications are invisible. We cannot see the words we pronounce just as we don’t see the data flowing from our wireless device to the server. The invisibility of words has already been the subject of an electronic art project, The Hidden World of Noise and Voice(2002), by artists Golan LevinZachary Lieberman and the Ars Electronica Futurelab. In this project, Augmented Reality technology was used to create the illusion of one’s words becoming colourful worms floating in the air and mixing with other people’s “word-worms”in a visual form of conversation.

Now the wireless network is to become visible in the art project Free Network Visible Network by artists Clara Boj and Diego Diaz. The project advocates the need of free, public access WiFi networks by making them visible, thus demonstrating how they are part of a community. Users will be able to easily locate the area which is covered by the wireless network, and to actually see the data flow from their computers to the nearest node. This is made possible with the use of AR technology and a customised carnivore PE client. Augmented Reality is the result of the incorporation of virtual computer-generated objects into the image of a real three dimensional space in real time, such as the image seen on a webcam. This enables the creation of illusions such as that of Golan Levin’s project. On the other hand, Carnivore, a packet sniffing program developed by the Radical Software Group, enables the creation of clients, applications that interpret the network traffic in various ways. The combination of these resources in Boj and Diaz’s project is a software that permits users to see the data travelling from their computers to the network in the form of colour cubes floating in the air towards a panel located in the balcony of the house where the node is.

In order to achieve this, the first step is to signpost the territory which is covered by the wireless network. This is done by hanging a set of marks of a specific shape on balconies and walls of the places where the nodes are located. Thus, the network already becomes visible in a way that implies the participation of the community. Then, both the server and the client must install the software developed by the artists. By means of this software, the specific shape of the mark is recognised and a virtual visualisation of the data flow is projected on the real-time image captured by a webcam.

But seeing your data flow as colour cubes is not the main aim of the project. The network is now visible, so what do we do with it? Boj and Diaz have developed a range of uses of this technology to further integrate it into the community, such as multiuser games that merge real and virtual space, or the possibility of customizing AR marks and their contents to display personal messages or virtually change the urban landscape.

Presented at Ciberart Bilbao festival in April 2004, the project has received a grant and will be developed in the city of Bilbao during 2005.[Artículo publicado en inglés en Furtherfield, 2004]

It is no mystery that we live in a society based on, and immersed in, different forms of communication. Every day we find ourselves in public spaces surrounded by the conversations of others, which we can hear, share or ignore. Words pronounced roam freely for any bystander to listen to them, although we tend to consider this a lack of education and an invasion of privacy. In a much similar way, wireless networks surround us with their flow of data, the conversations of machines, in which we can take part by switching on our laptop, PDA or mobile phone. As important a part of our everyday life as they are, these forms of communication remain mostly unnoticed because they are free, and invisible.

Free is a word that is hard to apply to anything. Talking is free in the sense that it is costless to address somebody, yet freedom of speech is a controversial issue. Wireless networks are free as long as the community that supports them does not limit its access or charges a user fee, yet the fight for Wi-Fi to be or remain free is also a controversial issue.

On the other hand, it is obvious to state that both speech and wireless communications are invisible. We cannot see the words we pronounce just as we don’t see the data flowing from our wireless device to the server. The invisibility of words has already been the subject of an electronic art project, The Hidden World of Noise and Voice(2002), by artists Golan LevinZachary Lieberman and the Ars Electronica Futurelab. In this project, Augmented Reality technology was used to create the illusion of one’s words becoming colourful worms floating in the air and mixing with other people’s “word-worms”in a visual form of conversation.

Now the wireless network is to become visible in the art project Free Network Visible Network by artists Clara Boj and Diego Diaz. The project advocates the need of free, public access WiFi networks by making them visible, thus demonstrating how they are part of a community. Users will be able to easily locate the area which is covered by the wireless network, and to actually see the data flow from their computers to the nearest node. This is made possible with the use of AR technology and a customised carnivore PE client. Augmented Reality is the result of the incorporation of virtual computer-generated objects into the image of a real three dimensional space in real time, such as the image seen on a webcam. This enables the creation of illusions such as that of Golan Levin’s project. On the other hand, Carnivore, a packet sniffing program developed by the Radical Software Group, enables the creation of clients, applications that interpret the network traffic in various ways. The combination of these resources in Boj and Diaz’s project is a software that permits users to see the data travelling from their computers to the network in the form of colour cubes floating in the air towards a panel located in the balcony of the house where the node is.

In order to achieve this, the first step is to signpost the territory which is covered by the wireless network. This is done by hanging a set of marks of a specific shape on balconies and walls of the places where the nodes are located. Thus, the network already becomes visible in a way that implies the participation of the community. Then, both the server and the client must install the software developed by the artists. By means of this software, the specific shape of the mark is recognised and a virtual visualisation of the data flow is projected on the real-time image captured by a webcam.

But seeing your data flow as colour cubes is not the main aim of the project. The network is now visible, so what do we do with it? Boj and Diaz have developed a range of uses of this technology to further integrate it into the community, such as multiuser games that merge real and virtual space, or the possibility of customizing AR marks and their contents to display personal messages or virtually change the urban landscape.

Presented at Ciberart Bilbao festival in April 2004, the project has received a grant and will be developed in the city of Bilbao during 2005.[Article publicat en anglés a Furtherfield, 2004]

It is no mystery that we live in a society based on, and immersed in, different forms of communication. Every day we find ourselves in public spaces surrounded by the conversations of others, which we can hear, share or ignore. Words pronounced roam freely for any bystander to listen to them, although we tend to consider this a lack of education and an invasion of privacy. In a much similar way, wireless networks surround us with their flow of data, the conversations of machines, in which we can take part by switching on our laptop, PDA or mobile phone. As important a part of our everyday life as they are, these forms of communication remain mostly unnoticed because they are free, and invisible.

Free is a word that is hard to apply to anything. Talking is free in the sense that it is costless to address somebody, yet freedom of speech is a controversial issue. Wireless networks are free as long as the community that supports them does not limit its access or charges a user fee, yet the fight for Wi-Fi to be or remain free is also a controversial issue.

On the other hand, it is obvious to state that both speech and wireless communications are invisible. We cannot see the words we pronounce just as we don’t see the data flowing from our wireless device to the server. The invisibility of words has already been the subject of an electronic art project, The Hidden World of Noise and Voice(2002), by artists Golan LevinZachary Lieberman and the Ars Electronica Futurelab. In this project, Augmented Reality technology was used to create the illusion of one’s words becoming colourful worms floating in the air and mixing with other people’s “word-worms”in a visual form of conversation.

Now the wireless network is to become visible in the art project Free Network Visible Network by artists Clara Boj and Diego Diaz. The project advocates the need of free, public access WiFi networks by making them visible, thus demonstrating how they are part of a community. Users will be able to easily locate the area which is covered by the wireless network, and to actually see the data flow from their computers to the nearest node. This is made possible with the use of AR technology and a customised carnivore PE client. Augmented Reality is the result of the incorporation of virtual computer-generated objects into the image of a real three dimensional space in real time, such as the image seen on a webcam. This enables the creation of illusions such as that of Golan Levin’s project. On the other hand, Carnivore, a packet sniffing program developed by the Radical Software Group, enables the creation of clients, applications that interpret the network traffic in various ways. The combination of these resources in Boj and Diaz’s project is a software that permits users to see the data travelling from their computers to the network in the form of colour cubes floating in the air towards a panel located in the balcony of the house where the node is.

In order to achieve this, the first step is to signpost the territory which is covered by the wireless network. This is done by hanging a set of marks of a specific shape on balconies and walls of the places where the nodes are located. Thus, the network already becomes visible in a way that implies the participation of the community. Then, both the server and the client must install the software developed by the artists. By means of this software, the specific shape of the mark is recognised and a virtual visualisation of the data flow is projected on the real-time image captured by a webcam.

But seeing your data flow as colour cubes is not the main aim of the project. The network is now visible, so what do we do with it? Boj and Diaz have developed a range of uses of this technology to further integrate it into the community, such as multiuser games that merge real and virtual space, or the possibility of customizing AR marks and their contents to display personal messages or virtually change the urban landscape.

Presented at Ciberart Bilbao festival in April 2004, the project has received a grant and will be developed in the city of Bilbao during 2005.