Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, is introducing a “large scale sculpture”:1 that will “visualize people’s use of the University’s wireless network”:2. Artists Jesse Allison, John Fillwalk and Keith Kothman created the sculpture.
bq. “Part of what we hope to accomplish with the sculpture is to help people see a wireless network as a physical thing,” Fillwalk said. “When people think of this form of technology, it usually doesn’t bring to mind something that is tangible.”
bq. Fillwalk came up with the sculpture’s concept with help from music technology professors Keith Kothman and Jessie Allison. Creating the piece of public art has taken months and required the assistance of University Computing Services, Kothman said. The project is sponsored by the Center for Media Design.
Visualizing network traffic through physical, interactive sculptures has been around since computer networks came into common use. Pioneering work by Natalie Jeremijenko at Xerox Parc in 1995, “Live Wire”:4 “is an 8 foot piece of plastic spaghetti that hangs from a small electric motor mounted in the ceiling. The motor is electrically connected to a nearby Ethernet cable, so that each bit of information that goes past causes a tiny twitch of the motor. A very busy network causes a madly whirling string with a characteristic noise; a quiet network causes only a small twitch every few seconds.”
The sculpture is intended to celebrate Ball State University’s ranking by Intel as the nation’s most wireless campus. Most of the network’s equipment was provided by Cisco, which provides all of the live data that feeds the artwork. “A live camera and processed video feed”:3 is available for viewing remotely.