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Title: Colourful life in cyberspace and the real world : visualising urban wi-fi landscapes with web colours
Author: Liu, Jung-Hua
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2012
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In this thesis, I visualised landscapes of urban Wi-Fi (wireless connection) networks as a hybrid of art and anthropology. The process involved 'how the subjects are defined in Wi-Fi networks,' 'how the data is collected in cities' and 'how the conversion between Wi-Fi networks and artistic landscapes takes place.' The subject of my project is Wi-Fi access points, which allow users to connect to and access the internet. I viewed Wi-Fi users as cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) because they entered cyberspace with their Wi-Fi-equipped computers or phones. Access points and the users' devices as myths are necessary elements used in immersing themselves in different worlds. Claude Levi-Strauss considered myths as bricolage in organising heterogeneous events to create structures; that is, people can explain the occurrence of events in daily life with structures. Wi-Fi users' wireless equipment represents an internet-enabled structure to help users go online. In other words, Wi-Fi users' identities are tied to their particular structures - Wi-Fi equipment and the devices used to access it. In addition, the mixture of flesh and machine contributes to defining human users as cyborgs. I transformed the access points of the cyborgs' houses using metaphor and the house concept inspired by Levi-Strauss's house society theory. Houses, as places where people live, form basic economic/political units. Both invisible titles and visible, physical buildings forge the identities of the houses' occupants. In my works, access points have similar features, so I used houses as the source metaphor. With common attributes and functions, the house metaphor creates a connection between different objects (houses and access points) on the same level. All Wi-Fi access points have a unique 12-character identifier code composed of numbers (from 0 to 9) and letters (from a to f). As I walked through different cities along specific collection routes as a native Wi-Fi cyborg, I collected the Wi-Fi access points' identifier codes. Time was a unique element that added to my works, in that the sequence of time-related variables (including signal strength, new Wi-Fi APs, and abandoned APs) could be experienced only once. Following data collection, the identifier codes were converted to colour grids and arranged along the collection route to depict Wi-Fi landscapes. Although the mapping was carried out by computers, the collection routes formed the personal features of landscapes, as in Impressionist paintings. The use of colour grids/squares was widespread in modernist artworks, such as those by Josef Albers and Donald Judd. These artists pursued a notion of pure art by creating isolated colour compositions with simple geometrical shapes in their works. As relates to Lucy Lippard's terms 'dematerialization' and 'deemphasis on material aspects,' some postmodemist artists, such as Liam Gillick, applied modernist art language in specific contexts, rather than isolating their works as closed systems. Art for postmodemists was the process and context of the creation as opposed to the objects represented. The colour grids in my work are interwoven creations that juxtapose the hybridity of modernism and postmodemism. The colours relate to social contexts because they come from access points along the streets of different cities; moreover, the colours interact with each other to create a relationship first proposed by Albers. My works aim to reflect that our current situation, as it relates to technology, is juxtaposed by different hybrids, including modemism/postmodernism and humanismlposthumanism. Wi-Fi landscapes in this thesis did Dot contain all access points because Wi-Fi devices are still growing in cities. In other words, one can only present the complete features of contemporary societies via their incomplete and heterogeneous composition.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available