Fine Art Study Plan






Colorful Life In the Cyberspace and the Real World

---An Immersive Game and The Identity Metaphor in Wi-Fi Network Study












Liu, Jung-Hua





This project is investigating the impact of Wi-Fi on social networks in order to understand how Wi-Fi users as cyborgs (cyborg organisms) construct their identity by applying metaphor and material culture in both the cyberspace and the real world. By this research, we are able to identify and understand how technology effects community identity and boundaries between groups.


This is important because there is a gap between existing research and the domain. There were some works in this domain, but none of them explores the specific community relations in terms of the very major impact of Wi-Fi on social movements and visualizing the invisible Wi-Fi network. The larger social impact of connectivity for communities is an issue of empowerment. The artwork will present that people as a cyborg can construct their identity by sharing the similar Wi-Fi connectivity route that is different from the regional wire connectivity.




This project will include both offline and online information collection to study the cyborgs identity holistically. In the offline aspect, London, Seoul, New York, San Francisco, Tokyo and Taipei are the areas I am going to observe the infrastructure and hot spot providers since Wi-Fi are so popular in those places. In the online aspect, the project website will be established to record Wi-Fi users' data and geographic information. Both fieldwork and website will provide the clear outline of Wi-Fi distribution and application. The final artwork will transcribe the unique Wi-Fi MAC address (Media Access Control address) code to webpage color code to visualize the Wi-Fi network and social identity.


History Context:

Wi-Fi is the logo of Wi-Fi Alliance (2006) that “promotes Wi-Fi worldwide by encouraging manufacturers to use standardized 802.11 technologies in their wireless networking products”. 802.11 technologies are developed by working group 11 of the IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.) LAN/MAN Standards Committee (IEEE 802). Owing to the promotion of the vendor, such as Intel’s centrino and governments, Wi-Fi becomes the popular wireless networking service standard.


With the growing development of Wi-Fi, artists take different ways to express the combination of Wi-Fi and art. Eyebeam & Parsons School of Design Collaboration Studio had a “Wireless Art” course and placed the data and information on their blog (Wireless Art 2003). The course teacher and artist Yury Gitman also has his wireless artworks, one is Noderunner, (2006) which is created by Yury Gitman with Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena, and another is MagicBike. (2004) Noderunner is a competition and immersive game. Two teams take photo around the free Wi-Fi hotspot and upload the photos from the hotspot to a blog to get scores. The whole city is a game playfield and the routes are chosen by the teams which are to decide whether the team is the winner or loser not (Gitman & Gomez de Llarena 2003). Another Gitman’s work is MagicBike. MagicBike is a bike that can receive Wi-Fi signal then become a Wi-Fi mobile hotspot which people around the bike can go online through the Wi-Fi device in the bike (Gitman 2003). Gitman’s works emphasize that the distribution of Wi-Fi change the users’ habitual routes and habitus.


Dana Spiegel makes made a website, which is called “Wi-Fi Thank You” ( The site provided a place for the Wi-Fi users to send a thank message to the free Wi-Fi provider or the site owner. Spiegel makes the hotspot map and constructs the two-way communication between the providers' wireless service and users’ “thank you” messages (Spiegel 2006).



Theory Context:


Stone (1995) has analyzed the identity with the psychiatry in the Internet age. People have the multiple identities in the Internet and she questioned whether the identity is the same in both cyberspace and in real world or not. She has focused on the new technology challenge the physical-body-based identity in western culture, because the Internet gives the users chances to play so many different roles to construct different identities.


In Gitman’s and Spiegel’s works, they created a new public art to show how the new technology emerged in our daily life and how it could give us more mobility. Gitman’s works, such as MagicBike and Noderunner, focuses on the wireless hotspot geographic locations in the city, but he ignores how users interact with the hotspot and thus fails to reveal the usage patterns and habits of users with the new technology. Spiegel’s work provides a space that enables the users to respond to the wireless hotspot provider, but his work is limited to the geographic distribution of hotspots with fundamental neglect of the cultural traits behind the interaction. 


To know how the users’ interaction with new technology may be affected by their respective cultures and produce the transnational identity in through the new technology, this study regards the Wi-Fi users as the cyborgs (cybernetic organism), and we aim to write a cyborg ethnography to explore the cultural influence behind the new technology in order to create an anthropology-like artwork.


In this study, a cyborg is defined as an actor that presents his concept and idea in the intangible and tangible ways. The cyborg is the information carrier; the human body and cyberspace are the different presentations of information. People choose different ways to express the information in both the real world and the cyberspace. The cyborgs cross the boundary between materials and non-materials, and the cyberspace and the real world is distinguished in the ways of the information presentations of the cyborgs. For example, a user buys a book at online bookstore in the cyberspace and receives the book from a postman in the real world. The information of business is expressed in a different ways in the cyberspace and in the real world, so the user is simultaneously a cybernetic and physical creature. Because the user becomes the hybrid of human culture and cyberspace, it is worth to consider how the change of the network affects the user’s conception of his position and identities in both the cyberspace and the real world.


Hayles’s study provides an important opinion for the above question. Ahrens (1999) points out people as a cyborg will reconfigure and understand the cyberspace according their knowledge in the real world. This study thus assumes the Wi-Fi network reconfigures the body as an informational system from different connection methods. Unlike the wire network where people go online through the physical wires, Wi-Fi users must aggregate near the Wi-Fi access point to go online. Due to the unique traits of Wi-Fi network, we take Wi-Fi access points into consideration to explore how the users are conscious of the role of Wi-Fi access points in the cyborg world. This study will apply the concept of “biographical object” (Hoskins 1998) to deal with this issue.


The concept of “biographical objects” is proposed by Hoskins (Hoskins 1998). She asserts that the objects have two traits:  person-centered and cosmos-centered. She employs “biographic objects” to illustrate the life history in the Kodi in Indonesia. Personal objects have their particular history of utilization, and the informants employed the objects to describe their life; the objects were also utilized and produced in the social context, and therefore the informants utilized the objects as a metaphor to anchor their position in the social network. When “anchoring” in the social network, the Kodi identify themselves as a member of the group simultaneously.


The present study suggests that the Wi-Fi access point is can also be conceptualized as users’ “biographical object” from the view of “Wi-Fi access point is the human extension”. People go online to enter the cyberspace through the Wi-Fi access points in the social spaces that involve personal interests, jobs, habits and other daily life in relation to the users’ position in the real world. Based on my anthropology education background, this study will adopt the house study in anthropology.


In anthropology, a house is an important object and concept to understand the position of a man in the social network (Janet Carsten and Stephen Hugh-Jones 1995). The Wi-Fi access point is similar with the house, the direct and elementary space that people must enter in order to get a position (identity) in the social/computer network, as like a “biographical object”. Besides the “house metaphor”, the users’ route along the different Wi-Fi access points is another metaphor that focuses on the information carriers’ movement in the cyberspace. The route is both the users’ life history and biographical object in the network, and the route can help us understand the cyborgs’ identities from the view of “Wi-Fi access point is the cyberspace extension”.


Except for some special designed Wi-Fi access points, the other Wi-Fi access point has a unique MAC address which is known as hex code (like f0-11-22-3a-45-f5, the first three code which can identifies the manufacturer). Hex code is neutral for people but is the special identification for the Wi-Fi access point in the cyberspace. In the mentioned art works, they all focus on the geographical locations in the real world, without giving a glance at the geographical location in the cyberspace. To make the Wi-Fi access point visible and conscious for the user, the number of the Wi-Fi access point should be transcribed in another kind of representation. Use of color will be a good representation because of number of reasons. First, the color of the webpage is hex code (like FFFFFF, which presents white color) that is same as the MAC address; second, color is also the significant identification in human culture, especially in art. Different ages have the different color traits in art, such as Impressionism and Renaissance. Since Abstract paintings, color also can be the main theme in the artworks gradually, such as Kandinsky ‘s abstract paintings. Color is also the important factor in the contemporary art, especially in political and feminist issue. This project will translate MAC address hex code into webpage color hex code to give Wi-Fi access points full of meanings, symbols and metaphors which are perceptual for human in the real world.



This study will take the “house metaphor” and “route metaphor” to analyze and use color to present the Wi-Fi network. This will bring contribution to future scholars in the field of art, anthropology, and community technology and computing. The result can contribute knowledge about how house concept works and how Wi-Fi technology changes people’s route pattern to build their identities in the transnational Internet space, while people become the cyborgs who live in a world which have both realities--- real and virtual.




The work is important because it represents the mechanism of new technology as an object by which construct identity and there are few studies in this domain and is original because none combines art, anthropology and technology to analyze and interpret the relationship between social network and Wi-Fi network and will benefit the field of art, anthropology and technology. I will undertake in study using conceptual metaphor and house theory and undertaking practice-based art which in the form of webpages and ethnography.


To achieve the aim and objective which are mentioned above, this study will adopt a website to record the Wi-Fi access points and users’ information as an immersive game as Gitman’s Noderunner. The immersive game is a cross-media genre of interactive story-telling and puzzle-solving game, and it emphasizes the immersive and collective goals rather than the structure and rhetoric (McGonigal 2003; The Belonging Initiative 2007). In this immersive game, the users tell their and Wi-Fi access points’ life history with finding the Wi-Fi access point’s unique MAC address and record the related information as their puzzle. Finally, this game will visualize the invisible Wi-Fi network and social network to represent the Wi-Fi users community with the hex color that is transfer from the Wi-Fi access points’ MAC address. To understand the identity in Wi-Fi users community, this study will apply the conceptual metaphor to analyze the information in this game.


The conceptual metaphor study in linguistics offers us an important way to explore the cultural mappings between different categories, such as the real world and the cyberspace. Ahrens (2002) has proposed using “entities,”  “functions” and “qualities” to analyze conceptual metaphors and to explore the mapping principles that are the underlying reasons in the conceptual metaphor. Take “IDEA IS BUILDIBG” for example. BUILDING is the source domain (SD) to describe IDEA (target domain). In this metaphor, “entities” means the items that BUIDLING has, such as foundation, structure, base, model, layout, cement, brick and steel bar; “functions” refers to the utilities of a building, such as to protect, to shield and to shelter; “qualities” means what properties a building has, such as shaky, high, short, strong, weak and flimsy. Her method provides researchers with accurate procedure to analyze metaphors. Ahrens also adopts this method to study cultural concepts that are hidden behind the conceptual metaphors  (the underlying reasons for the source-target pairings).


Employing Ahrens’s method, the present study will not only analyze the mapping principles between the users’ and Wi-Fi access points’ information, but also develop Ahrens’s work further to present how the Wi-Fi access point as a biographical object metaphorically anchors the users in the cyberspace to build the users’ identity.



Work Plan:

This project will include two approaches, one is webpage and the other is ethnography:


First, we will set up a multilanguage web site that will introduce this project, the aim and the objective, and how the data will be presented and published. If users agree with the project term, this site will leads the users from different countries to input the Wi-Fi access point’s information. The information includes Wi-Fi access point MAC address and the notes for the Wi-Fi access point by which they use the service. The notes are like Wi-Fi access point blog.


Second, we will have a page to show the information according to the different regions and countries. The page will produce two charts: one is user-centered, and the other is access-point-centered. The MAC address (Wi-Fi access point’s unique number) will be converted to 7 colors, and be arranged to 7 rectangles that comprise a bigger rectangle. The shape (strips comprised with rectangles), texture (density of the notes) and the color (MAC address) will construct Wi-Fi-access-point-centered and user-centered bar charts that display by time. Besides, we will provide a feedback page to discuss the color meaning for users themselves.




This project will choose London, San Francisco, New York, Tokyo, and Taipei whose Wi-Fi networks are popular to do the fieldwork. By participant observation, the Wi-Fi map and the users’ behavior will be recorded as ethnography and documents for the webpage works.


After finishing the two works, we will compare the data from the webpage and fieldwork.

First, we will analyze the information to find the mapping principles between the users’ route (user-centered bar charts) and the Wi-Fi-access-point (Wi-Fi-access-point-centered bar charts). The interview with the Wi-Fi users and the feedback in the webpage will help us to find the mapping principles. This will need 6 months to complete this step.


Finally, we will arrange the network and Wi-Fi access point according to different mapping principles in the previous steps. The purposes of the connection of the Wi-Fi access point will be classified as “functions”; the content of notes will be classified as “entities”; the number of the connection in the same Wi-Fi access point will be classified as “qualities”. The final result will be displayed as the life history of the users to show the importance and metaphor trait of the house-like Wi-Fi access point in the route-like life histories.



Prediction of the Form of the Final Presentation:

The final result will be presented in the form of color bar chart to visualize the relation between the user and Wi-Fi access point in the webpage. This will be an ethnographic document that takes color as an anthropology language to visualize the cyborg’s life history after the emergence of Wi-Fi. Besides ethnographic document, the final presentation will include text thesis that records and explains how the Wi-Fi make the cyborg have a transnational identity.


The rapid development and wide spread of WiMAX will affect the Wi-Fi networks and the user’s habitus. The ethnography work will record the change of different wireless technology in daily life to explore the identity with the new technology.



Main Study List and Bibliography:

Ahrens, Kathleen  (2002), " When Love is not Digested: Underlying Reasons for Source to Target Domain Pairing in the Contemporary Theory of Metaphor", Proceedings of the First Cognitive Linguistics Conference, Taiwan, Cheng-Chi University.


Appadurai, Arjun (2000), Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization, London, Minneapolis.


Archer, Michael  (2002), Art Since 1960, New Edition, 2nd edn, London, Thames & Hudson.


Astuti, Rita (1995), People of the sea: identity and descent among the Vezo of Madagascar, Cambridge [England]; New York, Cambridge University Press.


Carsten, Janet & Stephen Hugh-Jones (1995), About the house: Lévi-Strauss and beyond, Cambridge; New York, Cambridge University Press.


Clifford, James  (1997), Routes: travel and translation in the late twentieth century, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press.


Crampton, Jeremy W.  (2003), The political mapping of cyberspace, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.


Dodge, Martin (2001), Mapping cyberspace, London; New York, Routledge.


Friedman, Jonathan (2002), "From roots to routes: tropes for tripper", Anthropological theory, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 21-36.


Gilroy, Paul  (1993), The Black Atlantic: modernity and double consciousness, London, Verso.


Gitman, Yury (2003), Wireless Art - Eyebeam & Parsons School of Design Collaboration Studio, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from

                        (2004), Magic Bike:: wireless internet, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from


Gitman, Yury & Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena (2002), NodeRunner, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from

                                                                           (2003), Noderunner, Retrieved November 28, 2006,


Guss, David M. (1997), To Weave and sing- Art, Symbol, and Narrative in the South American Rain forest, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press.


Hayles, N. Katherine  (1999), How we became posthuman: virtual bodies in cybernetics, literature, and informatics, Chicago, Ill., University of Chicago Press.

                                      (2005), My mother was a computer: digital subjects and literary texts, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.


Hoskins, Janet (1998), Biographical objects: how things tell the stories of peoples' lives, New York; London, Routledge.


Joseph E. Behar (ed.) (1997), Mapping Cyberspace: Social Research on the Electronic Frontier, New York, Dowling College Press.


Lakoff, George & Mark Johnson (1980), Metaphors we live by, Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

                                                      (1999), Philosophy in the flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought, New York, Basic Books.


Lovejoy, Margot  (1992), Postmodern currents: art and artists in the age of electronic media, Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall.


Lunenfeld, Peter (ed.)  (1999), The digital dialectic: new essays on new media, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press.


McGonigal Jane (2003), ‘This Is Not a Game’: immersive Aesthetics and Collective Play, Retrieved March 28, 2007, from


Rheingold, Howard (2003), Wireless Art Course/Blog, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from


Spiegel, Dana (2006), Wi-Fi Thank You, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from


Stone, Allucquere Rosanne (1995), The war of desire and technology at the close of the mechanical age, Cambridge, Mass. : MIT Press.


The Belonging Initiative (2007), Convergence of Virtual and Physical Worlds, Retrieved March 28, 2007, from


Vishmidt, Marina & Mary Anne Francis, Jo Walsh and Lewis Sykes (ed.) (2006), Media Mutandis: a NODE.London Reader, London, NODE.London


Wi-Fi Alliance (2006), Wi-Fi Alliance - FAQs, Retrieved October 4, 2006, from