The invisible world around us pulses with radio waves, an electromagnetic tide that washes over everything. If you could see it, everything around us would ripple with information, like dropping a tab of acid after watching The Matrix.
The next best thing to that? The Architecture of Radio, a new exhibition by Dutch designer Richard Vijgen that uses an augmented reality iPad app to visualize the network of radio waves that surrounds us, revealing the invisible traffic of smartphones, GPS units, Wi-Fi routers, cell towers, overhead satellites, and more.
“As an information designer, I’m interested in visualizing things we cannot see,” says Vijgen over email. “Most of the information we consume is delivered to us over the air via radio waves . . . We are connected 24/7 through devices that communicate wirelessly over Wi-Fi or cellular networks, yet contrary to the radio towers and transmission stations of the early days of radio, the infrastructure that underpins our information society is barely visible. Wi-Fi routers are hidden behind bookshelves and cell towers are mounted to existing buildings or disguised as trees.”
The aim of Vijgen’s app is to reveal this invisible architecture around us. On display at ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, Vijgen’s exhibition invites visitors to use an iPad to view the data webs around them. The app uses GPS to get the user’s location, then finds cell towers within reach using OpenCellID and any satellites passing overhead from NASA’s [JPL](http://pds.jpl.nasa.gov/) data. Within ZKM, the app also has been programmed to “see” the wired communication infrastructure around you: for example, the data pulsing off of Wi-Fi routers and ethernet cables embedded in the exhibition space. It then animates all of this information on the iPad’s screen, simulating the “infosphere” that surrounds us all and allowing us to see its patterns.
It is this infosphere that Vijgen hopes visitors to the Architecture of Radio will think about long after they leave the exhibition. “We cannot see the very thing that is defining our time, and that concerns me,” says Vijgen. “As technology is becoming more and more transparent, I think data visualization can help us to relate to things that are invisible, yet play an important role in our lives.” It will be on display at ZKM until April 2016.
[via Creative Applications]