Fictional radio-spaces

In spring 2007 interaction design students at AHO participated in a research-driven course called Tangible interactions that investigated themes around RFID, NFC and the Touch project. This is one of the projects that emerged from the course.

Visualisation of GSM

In this project called “the bubbles of radio” Ingeborg Marie Dehs Thomas used critical, visual design as a way 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 functional purposes?”

Inspired by Hertzian Tales by Dunne and Raby as well as other projects including Cell Phone Disco, Ingeborg explored many critical design products or services that would engage with the landscape of radio. Some of these early concepts can be seen on her weblog.

Using inspiration from richly illustrated books on botany, zoology and natural history, Ingeborg arrived at the concept of an encyclopeadia of radio waves that contains a selection of fictional radio ‘species’. Armed with a well researched and advanced knowledge of the use, application and technicalities of each radio technology she created fictional visualisations of the ways in which radio waves inhabit space. These are creative expressions based as much on personal creativity as on technical or scientific data like range and signal strength. Six contemporary radio technologies were visualised: Bluetooth, DMB, GSM, RFID, Wifi and Zigbee.

Like all good scientific guides, the bubbles of radio includes a visual scale:

Scales, from phone to architecture

The scale of radio is usefully measured at the scale of the device, at the scale of the body and at the scale of the building (see also Everyware on scale). The visualisations are thus placed in this context and we are left with the drawings themselves, where the shape, texture, direction and density gives us a sense of each technology. Click on the following for full size images:

Bluetooth visualisationVisualisation of DMBVisualisation of GSMVisualisation of RFIDVisualisation of WifiVisualisation of Zigbee

These visualisations are not intended to be technically accurate or to offer actionable information. Instead they provide a playful cue to reflect and consider radio as something tangible and physical to be experienced by other senses, not just through a screen.

Just for fun, here are the latin names of each field:

Bluetooth : Nevrotis Dentus Aquarae
DMB : Spherum Elektrum Multanum
GSM : Spherum Magnea Globalum
RFID : Raptus Arphadus
Wifi : Videus Fidelus
Zigbee : Nevrotis

Ingeborg then hand-crafted a pocket field-guide from these illustrations, in a physical form that even smells like an age-old dusty guide to flora and fauna.

Bubbles of radio

This book also included pattern samples; a mixture of wallpaper, fabric and textile patterns that could act as ways of identifying wirelessly augmented spaces or objects. Here is a pattern for RFID:

RFID pattern

And here is a pattern for Bluetooth:

Bluetooth pattern

This project explored radio in a unique way. Ingeborg has created visual expressions of radio that are immediately accessible and beautiful. Although their usefulness is harder to define they have provided us with many opportunities to discuss and reflect on these intangible technologies.

Download a poster (PDF) of all the radio visualisations here.

The Bubbles of Radio poster (PDF)

See more student work from the Touch project.

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42 Responses to Fictional radio-spaces

  1. AG 7 December 2007 at 5:40 #

    That is so insanely lovely. I love the Haeckelian aspect of it, and especially that it has a smell. Top marks!

  2. poirpom 20 December 2007 at 8:14 #

    Waves are beautiful.

  3. Dries 20 December 2007 at 17:24 #

    Marvelous work, any way of getting hold of (a copy) of the booklet? I’d love to use this in my research…

  4. hugh 29 December 2007 at 5:03 #

    have you done any studies of the shapes of waves of particular types of content (not the transmission media, but the content?): text data vs. streaming AM talk radio, vs. a blog post vs my favourite, audio public domain literature?

    I suppose they would all have particular profiles within each transmission medium …

  5. DJ Fadereu 7 January 2008 at 2:30 #

    This project is very beautiful…..and I’m not surprised that Bluetooth (“Mr. Undependable”) looks so freakin ugly.

  6. sarah 17 January 2008 at 0:25 #

    This is very lovely. Well done Ingeborg. I like the inclusion of the wallpaper.

  7. Julian Bleecker 14 February 2008 at 17:58 #

    This is fantastic!

  8. qwerty 22 February 2008 at 6:01 #

    It is possible to get/order a copy of the printed book/pocket field guide?
    I just love the project!!

  9. Stan Wiechers 17 March 2008 at 15:42 #

    very intriguing visuals. remind me on images in library that shipped with the atari st image software neochrome i always loved. great work!

  10. Jon Goldman 10 November 2009 at 20:45 #

    yes the Haeckleian influences are strong and so is the imagery, making visible the invisible…

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