The technology of the Architechnologist is all about the changes in our experience of the real world, but what about the actual, yet unseen, world created by the technology that we embrace? The invisible signals of bandwidth that surround us and provide the data that we consume constantly have been made visible in a newly released application called “Architecture of Radio.”
Richard Vijgen and his “Studio for Object Oriented Information Design & Research” present a data visualization in Architecture of Radio based on open datasets of cell tower, Wi-Fi, and satellite locations. Using the GPS location of your device, the application presents a 360° visualization of the signals surrounding the user by sifting through the nearly 7 million cell towers, 19 million Wi-Fi routers, and hundreds of satellites that the application refers to.
Vijgen calls the networks of data cables and radio signals from access points, cell towers, and overhead satellites represented in this dataset the “infosphere.” He describes the infosphere as an interdependent environment, like a biosphere, that is populated by informational entities–while the sphere of information is commonly referred to as “cyberspace,” infospheres are not limited to purely online environments and represent both physical and ethereal components.
The data presented in the application is not live, but referring to public datasets, so the router in your home or office will not be shown, but the data is still remarkably robust. Of course, it can be taken further; an installation in Germany (open through April 2016) features a site-specific version of Architecture of Radio with added visualization of the wired communication infrastructure embedded in the exhibition space. More information on the exhibit can be found at the Architecture of Radio website. In our use of the application, the view from the offices of the Architechnologist in lower Manhattan shows a near “white-out” signal density to the east over the Financial District and Wall Street and a fraction of that to the east over the Hudson River.