Free Wifi (Proposal)
VPNs play a pivotal role in providing free access to information on a global scale. Whether that information is geolocated to only be accessible within in a certain country, think some online TV content from the USA or blocking the access of content within a whole country which is the case in China with “The Great Firewall of China”. VPNs create a workaround for a more connected and educated global civilization giving the opportunity for access to all information to those without the basic right of unfiltered or censored knowledge. The scale and complexities of national censorship can be difficult to fathom, on both a technical and logistical premise but also the severity and impact that digital censorship can have on a populous.
Using a series of publicly accessible networking and programming tools and an open Wifi network, Free Wifi will communicate the ubiquitously of digital surveillance and censorship. The hardware will be installed within XPACE and display a digital dashboard that visitors will have the freedom to browse, observe and experience the granular capabilities that are possible using publically available digital analytics tools that can observe their physical surrounding. The user navigable dashboard consist of many areas, to highlight a few; one area will display visitor movement patterns within the XPACE gallery and its surroundings via a heat map. To gather this IRL location information, visitors do not even need to connect to the open Wifi network, they only have to be carrying a mobile device. The second area of the dashboard shows the network logs of every device that connects to the network. These logs collect device name, operating system, data usage, websites visited, manufacturer, among other user data. Giving visitors access to see the information being collected about them in real time will challenge visitors assumptions of what free information truly is and if digitized information can ever be truly free. What are the trade offs society needs to make to have access to information?
The piece will include a wall mounted monitor that will display the analytics software collected by the wall mounted wifi hardware situated beside the monitor. A plinth will be beside the display with a mouse, connected to the computer. The mouse will be accessible to the gallery visitors to freely browse through the dashboard slowly discovering the data that is being collected about them. There will also be verbiage promoting the free wifi available through the project during the show.Free Wifi peals back the invisibility of our connected IRL worlds to challenge the perception of privacy within the public sphere. Offering a rare opportunity for the public to browse and interact with the analytics available to institutions, network providers and governments. Free Wifi brings the physicality of surveillance and censorship to our immediate attention emphasizing the influence it has on our immediate behaviour digitally and IRL, all while highlighting the severity of digital surveillance that some people have to live within on a daily basis.