The beauty of waves

We are surrounded by waves – from telephones, Wi-Fi and other sources. What if they were suddenly revealed before our eyes? The Architecture of Radio app does just that, floating waves right onto a smartphone screen. This scientific but poetic project takes a deep look at our relationship with technology, says its Dutch creator, Richard Vijgen.

Technologist: Where did you get this idea?

Richard Vijgen: I head a design studio specialising in data visualisation. Much of what we do deals with how technology is changing our daily lives. I wanted to start a personal project on the topic, and this is the first step.

T. How does the app work?

R.V. It combines two elements. It calculates your position using your smartphone’s GPS, and the multiple databases available that list the location of all mobile telephone antennas, Wi-Fi access points and satellites. It then translates these data into geometric patterns, giving a physical presence to this otherwise invisible world.

T. Could the information be used by people concerned about the health effects?

R.V. I get quite a few comments from these people, who mostly seem to be afraid of a phenomenon beyond their understanding. But the purpose of my project is to be neutral, simply showing things as they are. My app can be interpreted in different ways. People can see it as a symbol of the beauty of technology or as a sign that technology is out to hurt us.

T. What about you? Are you afraid of these waves?

R.V. I trust science. The prevailing consensus is that these waves don’t have any proven negative effects on our health.Should that be refuted, I’d reconsider my opinion. But that would be a huge blow to our society. We’ve become so dependent on these networks.