Air is invisible, it is the breath of life, the invisible carrier of microbial life-forms, gases, pollens and particulates. Recent studies have found that plants and insects share complex chemical messages within vast soupy pools of air, making it one of the oldest means of communication. Human computer interactions generate similar complex communications through air, as satellites, radio, television, radar, wifi and cellphones broadcast electromagnetic wave vibrations through walls and skeletons.
Drawing on the sociological writing of Gabriel Tarde, this project conceives air as a social assemblage: a space of vibrations and flows that generates affective atmospheres at macro and micro levels. Here, the established dualisms of nature/culture and organic/technological are set adrift. For Tarde, social interactions often pass without conscious thought, as the human sleepwalks through life mesmerized and contaminated by its environment. Yet as the relation between technological networks and biological experience intensifies, processes of social communication are increasingly open to exploitation.
Within a few miles of the University of Lincoln lies RAF Digby, a GCHQ intelligence gathering station which specialises in electronic communication surveillance. Adjacent to Digby, above the disused airfield at Metheringham, Project Sky Cube analysed and recorded high frequency transmissions within a one kilometer cube of air. A total of 64 recordings are replayed using mobile phones and low frequency speakers, while a projected video animation indicated the altitude audible.
Finally, a high frequency analyser was sensing live signals in the room, breaking up the projected image in response to unseen electromagnetic activity. This interruption aimed to increase awareness of our own contribution to these invisible flows, helping to highlight the vulnerability of our communications, and audibly puncturing our perception of a ‘natural’ air space.
This exhibition was for project three of a Digital Media Master of Arts degree, and was shown at the Interactions Gallery, British HCI Conference 2015 at the University of Lincoln. Please contact me if you'd like more information.