Chapter 1 Introduction
This paper aims to introduce and explain how my fine art project "Colourful Life in Cyberspace of the Real World" visualise and perform urban Wi-Fi landscape and personal Wi-Fi routes to explore how cyborg (the combination of human and machine) identities are produced in modern cities. What will you expect to see new and fast-growing social spectacle in globalized cities? Wi-Fi may be the answer. Wi-Fi has been developed fast in the first decade of 21th century. World’s metropolitans have their Wi-Fi infrastructure plans, and private and commercial Wi-Fi access points also distributes everywhere in the cities. To depict this globalized Wi-Fi era, this project chooses online website as the main media to present the Wi-Fi spectacle for global audience. The code-translated colours are important medium to visualize Wi-Fi, because the colours cross the boundary of human beings and machine by its code-based natures and human’s vision. Wi-Fi performance is the other part of this project. This performance was real-time show to display how I collected, uploaded and translated data in real world and cyberspace. It intended to point out that we are living in ubiquitous Wi-Fi city. The artworks don’t only show static Wi-Fi landscapes, but they also reflect the social and political effect on urban Wi-Fi images.
B. Cyborg awareness and cyborg identity.
In this project, Wi-Fi is the represented object and Wi-Fi is also a way which can display our ideas and theory. In its first role, this project visualizes Wi-Fi to colour house image, and the other role means that I walk in cyborg world by popular Wi-Fi networks.
How does this project depict Wi-Fi to emphasize its importance to our life? There are many good Wi-Fi maps to provide our where Wi-Fi service is available but they focus on geographical location not social location/position. To understand Wi-Fi in our society, we had better place it in the context from social and individual perspectives. What is the elementary unit to study Wi-Fi? House is my hypothesistical unit because Wi-Fi machines exist in different houses and home house is my major analytical subjects. Wi-Fi is popular in residential area and there is higher Wi-Fi density in residential area than other places. So I take home house images to describe and depict Wi-Fi.
Visualisation is an important part in this project because information visualisation is useful to increases our ability to perform cognitive activities . This visualisation creates Wi-Fi abstract landscape paintings by web scripting language, PHP, and database, MySQL and paintings are social/cultural representations of technological development and globalised transformations.
Visualisation is composed of aesthetics and data representation. Art provides us a special way to present the idea and concepts in an abstract and representational method. It creates an object or a field to present the contrast, ambiguity and hypothesis. Artworks are metaphor which can break the boundary between different objects and ideas to expand our view and deepen our points.
This project applies metaphor to break the boundary between real world/cyberspace, human/machine and society/technology. The project outcome web pages are metaphor of Wi-Fi access points in real world and the colours produce a link between human and machine. The web pages are not only aesthetical in form and they are also the power tool to reveal our invisible urban landscapes and cyborg’s behaviours. By querying data from this project database, the signified colours present our views and theory to explain how and what Wi-Fi reshapes our life and makes us become cyborg.
Besides depicting colourful urban Wi-Fi landscapes, the other part of this project is "collecting and walking in Wi-Fi networks" performance. We can't see Wi-Fi signals, but we can be aware or conscious of walking in Wi-Fi networks. Stumbling and collecting Wi-Fi, we know how density of Wi-Fi in cities and know where Wi-Fi can be accessed, such as McDonald's. Even if we don't use any Wi-Fi-equipped devices, we still know we are in Wi-Fi networks. The performance show how we shape cyborg awareness and consciousness. We remember and know Wi-Fi location by Wi-Fi devices or Wi-Fi notice boards. The knowing break the boundary of human and machine and create a cyborg awareness. We know where we can access Wi-Fi and we become a member of accessible networks which is the medium to construct the identity which is involved with real world/cyberspace and human/machine.
E. Thesis structure
In the first part, this paper will outline Wi-Fi development after 2000 and how different cities planned their city-wide Wi-Fi infrastructure. Then, I will discuss the previous Wi-Fi artworks which reflect the social and cultural background and political intention. Besides artworks introduction, I will cite "house society" theory in anthropology to explain why I apply house as Wi-Fi metaphor as Wi-Fi's image and role in this project. House is important material/immaterial object which help its members to shape their identity by tangible/intangible way.
In methodology section, my fieldwork and collection method will be introduced. At the same time, Conceptual metaphor comes from linguistic and philosophical study and it was applied to discuss how we imagine our invisible concepts or object by tangible or clear objects according to our cultural background. Conceptual metaphor is helpful for us to create urban wifi image and explain what the images mean.
I will also describe how this project translates unique MAC address (or BSSID) of Wi-Fi access points into web colours. This is more technical and it is important to explore how Internet-related technology has the similar features and concepts.
After methodology, this part will introduce the cities background which I have my fieldwork on. This paper will create tables to compare the infrastructure in different cities and conclude mapping principles according to conceptual metaphor and house societies study.
In artwork part, I will explain the works on web pages and performance in the real world. For web page, I will introduce PHP and MySQL which are not only tools but also the logical/signifying ways to create the artwork. Open systems and John Cage will be engaged with the performance and interpret how the behaviour and environment change us from human beings to cyborg.
The conclusion will review the theories and artworks. This section will confirm artworks are both representation and analytical productions and they also are political movement which interacts with our society.