bcchang.com / Art / The Jackals

Data Weather Balloons

The Data Weather Balloons, built from scavenged surplus home alarm systems, are designed to pick up WiFi transmissions and sonify the data*. Each cluster of balloons carries an antenna, circuitry, speaker, and battery pack. By guiding the balloons through the air, through different spots and at different altitudes, one can find currents of WiFi transmission. When converted to audio streams, the WiFi data is reminiscent of bird calls; grouping a large number of the data balloons around a specific site creates a chorus of electronic squawks, chirps, and trills in response to different WiFi frequencies. Carrying the balloons around a site, one can identify 'hotspots' and follow vectors of network transmission. The data weather balloons are a way of allowing a direct, embodied understanding of the invisible currents of information that permeate the air around us, reminding us that even in as radio waves, information does have a physical presence.

* actually, the balloons are not fully functional. The only actual components are (1) hacked alarm system and (2) bunch of helium balloons. There is not really a WiFi sensor of any kind on the balloons, they're instruments cleverly controlled by the Jackal performers through some basic electronics and a little sleight of hand.