Jessica Kam - ASSIGNMENT #3 - Hybrid Space

Assignment #3 -

In this day and age, where the height of technological advancements has become so great that past traditional distinctions between physical and digital spaces have become “blurred and no longer clearly distinguishable,” thus forms a hybrid space. (Adriana de Souza e Silva, 2006, From Cyber to Hybrid - Mobile Technologies as Interfaces of Hybrid Spaces, p.264)

In Usman Haque’s article, ‘Invisible topographies’, he discusses how mobile phones are “sensors of the invisible electromagnetic environment that surrounds us, making us aware of what has been called "hertzian" space.” He bases his argument on his own experiments, mainly based upon mobile phones, including his most recognized artistic design, Sky Ear.
Haque’s electromagnetic-sensor balloons demonstrated the concept that the invisible natural hertizan space not only exists but changes when phone calls are received or made because “the phone itself becomes a transmitter of microwaves… microwaves penetrate the wired connection and ripple local hertzian space.”

My example of hybrid space is based upon wireless internet. There are a number of similarities with Haque’s mobile phone examples and he does lightly touch upon hybrid space involving Wi-Fi.

In my video, the camera pans from the router – which is clearly operative, indicated by the flickering of the green lights – to the laptop which is on the kitchen bench a few meters from the router. My video has its differences, as it is not a depiction of how hardspace (physical space) can interfere with softspace (digital space) as argued by Haque that “hardspace affects our ability to make mobile phone calls because it has a direct effect on the electromagnetic intensity of the signal” – as I did not move throughout the house with the laptop to test the different frequency signal strengths. Instead, I wanted to demonstrate that as easily as an electromagnetic force can exist between two physical mediums (router and laptop), it is also possible to disrupt this connection with the flick of a switch. When the camera focuses on the laptop screen – it demonstrates what happens to the Wi-Fi strength detector (‘Wi-Fi Catcher Network Locator Availablle Networks’) as the Wi-Fi switch is switched off (signal is disrupted) and then on again (internet reconnected).

We are able to “perceive” the electromagnetic waves emitted by the router by means of technology, being through the laptop computer. The laptop can be seen as a form of translator for detecting the humanly undetectable.

Although my video is not an artistic depiction of sampling the electromagnetic spectrum in the Hertzian space above London’s Greenwich Park, as Haque’s Sky Ear had done, it does however demonstrate the underlying concept of Haque’s argument. It demonstrates that although we are unable to physically see the emission of electromagnetic waves from the router to the laptop computer or the potential alteration in shape of this hertzian space caused by such an electromagnetic connection (theorist Anthony Dunne), we acknowledge that they must exist in the soft space in the environment, as without the existence of these waves, wireless internet connection would not be possible.

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Jessica Kam

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