If We Could See Wi-Fi, Washington, D.C., Would Look Like This

Depending on where you are right now, chances are you’re either taking Wi-Fi access for granted, or cursing a device for failing to deliver on-the-fly data. But whether Wi-Fi signals are playing the hero or the villain, they still exist, at least in some crucial but imaginary and invisible realm.

“We use Wi-Fi so many times a day but don’t really know how it works or the complexity of the technology,” says artist Nickolay Lamm, who decided to take on that ignorance by imagining what the National Mall in Washington D.C. would look like if we could see Wi-Fi signals. Lamm tells Co.Design that he created the renderings purely to satisfy his own curiosity. But the spherical energy fields in his illustrations were designed with the help of M. Browning Vogel, an astrophysicist and former NASA employee.

To best approximate the looks and sizing of the signals, Lamm consulted a map of wireless coverage in the D.C. area, and extrapolated that information to imagine the waves in the third dimension. The results resemble long exposure light photography, or in some instances, mid-summer heat radiating off pavement (a phenomenon not unfamiliar in our nation’s sweltering capital this year).

In an era of Google Glass and a rising landscape of augmented and alternative reality, perhaps Lamm’s work is an effective way of using our digital dependencies to draw our attention back to the real world: “It makes people look at the National Mall, and other places, from a new perspective.”MR