This summer I was traveling in Jordan’s Wadi Rum desert, an otherworldly landscape of red sand and towering rock formations. Its topography is alien enough that it was used as the Red Planet film location for Ridley Scott’s The Martian (2015), but what made it feel especially distant from the rest of the Earth was the complete lack of cellphone reception and internet. If you’re living in one of the world’s connected regions (and since you’re reading these words on an exclusively digital publication, I’m guessing you are), it can be easy to forget that large populations in the world remain disconnected.
White Spots: A Journey to the Edge of the Internet was launched last year as an app for iPhone and Google Play. It visualizes the digital networks around us, mapping those “white spots” where there is no network connection. It was collaboratively created by designer Richard Vijgen (who previously made the Architecture of Radio app as a network “field guide”), documentary filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak (director of Offline is the New Luxury), and visual artist Jacqueline Hassink. The app was recently a finalist at the Dutch Design Awards, and will be the focus of an exhibition opening February 2018 at the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam. The multimedia project involves a VR experience where you can use Google Cardboard to scan local digital signals in real-time, as well as a smartphone world map pinned with short documentaries on living with and without the internet. If you visit a white spot, you can add a pin with the story of your experience.
On launching White Spots, my screen was immediately swarmed with cellphone networks and a jarring digital noise. You can click the text “get me out!” to map directions to the nearest white spot. From my apartment in Brooklyn, I am 156 km (97 miles) to the nearest one, a quiet corner of Lake Waramaug State Park in Connecticut. However, for me, and potentially most White Spots users, disconnecting would be a choice. The app’s world map shows much of North America and Europe in the black, while large sections of South America and Africa are white voids.
Filmmaker van der Haak told Forbes that one inspiration behind the project was the commitment by world leaders at the 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos to connect the unconnected by 2020. The short documentaries accessible on White Spots highlight the current global realities. They include a visit to a digital detox spa in Baden, Germany; one man’s struggle to get online in Mwiogo, Kenya; the Amish in Shipshewana, Indiana, who are choosing how new technology fits with their values; an adult internet-free summer camp in Mendocino, California; a doctor treating internet addiction in China; and a secret meeting room in Prague that shields users from networks.
White Spots joins other recent projects to visualize the visible and invisible communication networks around us, such as Ingrid Burrington’s internet infrastructure field guide for New York, and Julie Anand and Damon Sauer’s photographs of Cold War-era satellite calibration markers, overlaid with current satellite paths. It is increasingly difficult to escape the electromagnetic cloud covering the planet. However be warned, the White Spots app is a bit of a phone battery drainer, so you may find yourself more quickly offline than expected if you venture out to wander the networks in virtual reality.
From Remedios Varo to Francisco de Goya, artists have long turned to witchcraft as subject matter.
The auction house partnered with Highsnobiety to sell “Art Handler” shirts for up to $125, drawing ire from workers in the field who say they’re overworked and underpaid.
Funded fellowships support on-site graduate and postdoctoral research spanning a variety of disciplines on cultural works in the center’s collections.
Black-crowned night herons have not returned after abandoning their nests during a building project at the Chicago History Museum.
What is a feminist picture? A MoMA exhibition is the latest to attempt to answer this question.
Students work in a collaborative studio environment with a faculty of practicing artists and premier facilities in the heart of Boston.
With exhibitions like Sing Our Rivers Red, Danielle SeeWalker, JayCee Beyale, and others make visible the number of missing people for whom they are demanding proper attention and justice.
In this assemblage of multinational artworks, a cohesive postcolonial canvas fails to fully emerge, owing to Dream City’s lack of bold vision.
Students in this two-year graduate program in New York enjoy access to the Hessel Museum of Art, the CCS Bard Library and Archives, and opportunities to curate in practice.
The British monarch and Donald Trump have both tried to impose neoclassical architecture on their countries — and one of them actually succeeded.
Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” was sliced out of its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art in a notoriously brazen theft.
The advent of AI generators has led to an avalanche of rip-off artworks that have used Grzegorz Rutkowski’s name as a prompt.