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Consumer Lifestyle
Published: 4 Aug 2014

Digital Ethereal: Wi-Fi Spectres

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Ghostly wi-fi presence by Luis Hernan

The invisible world of wireless signals has been made visible in a series of dazzling images and installations by a researcher at Newcastle University.

Digital Ethereal is a research project by doctoral researcher Luis Hernan from the Architecture and Interaction Design (ArchaID) group, who seeks to reveal the "spectral" infrastructures underpinning our digital technology.

Hernan designed a Kirlian Device (named after paranormal photographer Semyon Kirlian), which detects local wi-fi characteristics and translates them into colour and sound – redder and high-pitched for stronger signals, bluer and low-pitched for weaker signals.

With the help of long-exposure photography and swirling performances carried out by people holding the devices, wonderful trails of multicoloured light make visible the subtle fluctuations of the signals we rely on for our digital lives. Hernan has also created an Android app that turns smartphones into a Kirlian Device.

Hernan commented: "The fact that we are more and more dependent on something that we can't see intrigues me. It's an incredibly fragile and volatile infrastructure that holds together our technologies and affects the way we interact with the digital world."

The desire to make the invisible digital worlds more human and tangible will be explored in our upcoming Macro Trend, Post-Digital. To see how a pair of artists used ancient analogue communication to achieve this aim, see Digital Smoke Signals.

For more on surprising and unanticipated visual effects created through experimental digital media, see Interact, part of our Spring/Summer 2016 Colour Spectrum, and Engineered from our S/S 2015 Colour Spectrum.

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