Please let me introduce myself: My name is Tijmen Schep, I am a student of New Media and Digital Culture at Utrecht University, as well as a member of the NetNiet.org Foundation. which promotes wireless media art in public space. I have been asked to join this blog, and so I gratefully have. Thanks for having me.
My interest lies in the areas of wireless media and public space, so I will blog about those mostly. Starting now!
Portable, battery-powered cellphone jammers are hitting the spotlight. In discussions here [Slashdot.org] and here [New York Times] the use of cellphone jammers is framed as being funny to downright dangerous. They are for sale for about 60 dollars, and you can own them as long as you don’t use them. But who could resist?
“Andrew reached into his shirt pocket and pushed a button on a black device the size of a cigarette pack. It sent out a powerful radio signal that cut off the chatterer’s cellphone transmission — and any others in a 30-foot radius.”
“She kept talking into her phone for about 30 seconds before she realized there was no one listening on the other end,” he said. His reaction when he first discovered he could wield such power? “Oh, holy moly! Deliverance.” (New York Times)
Active jamming is illegal though, and creating this kind of electro-smog can be discovered fairly easily. But what about passive blocking using Faraday cages? Usually citing a fear of radiation, a need for privacy or securing corporate networks, slowly but surely more space is shielded from eagerly traveling wireless signals. Demand is starting to meet production, for instance in the shape of wallpaper or paints that dampen wireless signals.
Practices like these raise a lot of questions about the line between public and private, about sharing public space versus claiming it, which is what both the “mobile phoneurs” and the jammers do. Do new wireless media help proliferate a new digital public sphere within urbanity, or are we just finding anonymous ways to tell each other to shut up? How can we design space, laws and technology to deal with these problems? Questions like these boggle my mind, and for the foreseeable future I will share these boggles with you.