Fields and seams

This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating.

Don't place bank cards, hard disks, etc. here. “Don’t place your bank cards, hard disks, etc. here”.

With increasingly ubiquitous wireless networks the physical world is becoming layered with a spectrum of radio waves. These fields range from massive GSM, 3G and DVB cells, through to household sized wifi and bluetooth networks, to tiny RFID and NFC bubbles. Each of these invisible bubbles offers functions or services that can be accessed from various devices. When inside the appropriate field mobile phones may be able to carry a voice call or pay for a subway ticket, laptops can transfer data, while smart cards can authorise access or payments.

What does the increasingly radio-saturated landscape – and our reliance on wireless infrastructure – mean in our everyday use of applications and services? Can we use fields as a material for creative purposes?

This is a central issue for ubiquitous computing where wireless functions or services are embedded – invisibly – into the environment. For a user, knowing what kinds of fields are available and knowing what kinds of functions, applications or services they offer may be a critical usability problem in the near future. If certain fields become critical for our use ubiquitous functions or services, how can we cope with the edges, seams and failures? Do we need to increase the usability and awareness of various radio fields?

Can we introduce certain kinds of visibility back into ‘invisible computing’? How should we visualise the available options? Should we represent them technically, according to applications or services, or should we visualise the kind of information or risk involved in the interaction?

Visual references

emf_visualisations-2.jpg emf_visualisations-1.jpg emf_visualisations-3.jpg emf_visualisations-4.jpg emf_visualisations-5.jpg emf_visualisations-6.jpg emf_visualisations-7.jpg emf_visualisations-8.jpg emf_visualisations-9.jpg emf_visualisations-10.jpg emf_visualisations-11.jpg emf_visualisations-12.jpg emf_visualisations-13.jpg emf_visualisations-14.jpg emf_visualisations-15.jpg emf_visualisations-16.jpg


The work of Matthew Chalmers on seamful design is relevant, particularly: Seamful Design and Ubicomp Infrastructure: “In this paper, we discuss taking a ‘seamful’ design approach to ubicomp systems. Some features that we designers usually categorise as infrastructure problems may, to users, be useful interactional features. Examples include the edges and gaps in 802.11 coverage, and the patterns of where one can and cannot get GPS positioning.”

Mobile Landscape Graz in Real Time. “harnesses the potential of mobile phones as an affordable, ready-made and ubiquitous medium that allows the city to be sensed and displayed in real-time as a complex, pulsating entity. Because it is possible to simultaneously ‘ping’ the cell phones of thousands of users - thereby establishing their precise location in space at a given moment in time - these devices can be used as a highly dynamic tracking tool that describes how the city is used and transformed by its citizens.”

Photos of wifi space. “Wifi Camera Obscura reveals the electromagnetic space of our devices and the shadows that we create within such spaces, in particular our wifi networks which are increasingly found throughout cities of the developed world.”

Cell phone disco. “An experimental installation made out of flashing cells. By multiplication of a mobile phone gadget, only slightly altered consumer product, we created a space to experience the invisible body of the mobile phone.”

Usman Haque. “The domain of architecture has been transformed by developments in interaction research, wearable computing, mobile connectivity, people-centered design, contextual awareness, RFID systems and ubiquitous computing.”

Dunne & Raby, Hertzian tales. “The subject of these proposals is the role of electronic products in the aesthetic inhabitation of a rapidly dematerialising, ubiquitous and intelligent environment.”

Gadget allergy. “A university is trying to unravel the truth behind a 21st century “disease” produced by exposure to electrical equipment.”

EMF Absorption by the body. “The public are concerned about the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Scientific research is needed to find out exactly how electromagnetic fields interact with the human body. These measurements cannot be done on live people and so calculations must be used.”

When wireless dreams come true. “Waves, a recent exhibition and conference in Riga curated by RIXC and Armin Medosch, tuned in to artistic engagements with the electro-magnetic spectrum. By exploring the material, if imperceptible, base of the information sphere, this event attempted to escape the conventional fetishisation of message over medium.”

ætherspace. “With ætherspace I would like to make hertzian space audible, make the invisible sonic. Briefly, wearable transducers/antennae would pick up the various components of hertzian space as the user walked around in the city, home, or workplace.”

Maxwell city workshop. “A workshop proposing an artistic investigation into electromagnetic substance within the city of Oslo and its surroundings.” Video

Electroprobes. “The Electroprobe allows you to listen to electronic objects while they are talking and dreaming.”

Phantom geometry and tissue-simulant liquids. “Investigating the visualisation of electromagnetic fields.”

EMF meter. “A scientific instrument for measuring Electromagnetic radiation.”

EMF fabrics & household materials, paints & plastics from Block EMF and Less EMf.

On the Effectiveness of Aluminium Foil Helmets: An Empirical Study. “Aluminum helmets serve as the protective measure of choice against invasive radio signals. We investigate the efficacy of three aluminum helmet designs on a sample group of four individuals.”

Read more about these design briefs.

Related things:

  1. Making radio tangible Next week we’re launching some new work that explores the spatial aspects of RFID. So before we publish that, here is a quick summary of existing work on radio, sensors and space that I’ve......
  2. Phantom geometry and tissue-simulant liquids I’m investigating the visualisation of electromagnetic fields, part of our exploratory process to look at the materiality of RFID. What are we talking about when we say ‘touch-based interaction’ or ‘near field’ for instance?......
  3. The universal controller This is a design brief, one of many themes that the Touch project is investigating. Much research in ubiquitous computing focuses on the idea of a universal controller; a device that can adapt from......
  4. Touch design briefs The Touch project has been investigating applications and services for RFID and NFC since 2005. Although RFID and NFC have been much hyped, the technologies have been relatively little explored from a design perspective.......

This entry was posted in Design briefs, Research. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

4 Trackbacks

  1. By Touch design briefs · Touch on 3 July 2007 at 13:23

    [...] Fields and seams [...]

  2. By Fictional radio-spaces · Touch on 5 December 2007 at 22:41

    [...] of exploring the perception of many kinds of electromagnetic fields. The project answered the brief Fields and Seams that asks “How can we use the increasingly radio-saturated landscape for creative or [...]

  3. By Making radio tangible on 10 October 2009 at 13:46

    [...] in her project the Bubbles of Radio (that emerged from our Fields and Seams brief) Ingeborg Marie Dehs Thomas imagined and visualised many fictional representations of radio [...]

  4. [...] Fields and Seams What does the increasingly radio-saturated landscape – and our reliance on wireless infrastructure – mean in our everyday use of applications and services? Can we use fields as a material for creative purposes? No Comments by Nic on May 9, 2010 filed in Articles, Poster, Production, Theory, Uncategorized « Previous postNew ways of articulating info [WIP] [...]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *


You may use these HTML tags and attributes: