When zoomed in, it isn't possible to view an area larger than the window of their application. The network names are embedded in the image, not as text. The online application's display is no good for producing large-scale prints - but it builds the images from information on it's database, so we could query the database directly instead. Reuben Roberts wrote the code to build vector image files, which can be printed from at any scale, in the open-source format SVG, using the information on the WiGLE database. These vector files were used to make prints on an architectural plotter, which were pinned to the wall.
Further to the visual pleasure of the printed maps, I was interested in drawing attention to some aspects of Wifi that I find interesting, and that will become more and more pertinent to South Africa, particularly ownership of networks, which can be community-owned, state or commercial. There is a certain politics that Wifi lends itself to: because it operates in a less-regulated part of the radio-wave spectrum, more autonomy is possible in developing tools and networks using Wifi; and because Wifi is both consumer-level technology and relatively cheap, but has a limited range (for legal or regulatory reasons), it has led to individuals joining their units together to make larger networks with further reach, networks over which they have greater control than if they were leasing them from another body. With the rise of political organising over networks, using applications like SMS or Twitter or email, taking control of the networks themselves is a logical next step.The combination of autonomy and collectivity that Wifi networks enable is intriguing, both for the material structures that result from it, and for ideas it suggests about technology use, economic and social models, communities and individuals, centralisation vs. distribution, and the regulation of telecommunications.
This paper is worth reading for an exploration of the politics of Wifi:
'Society in ad-hoc mode: Decentralised, self-organising, mobile' by Armin Medosch
There are community-owned Wifi networks in Cape Town and Johannesburg, including these two:
C.T.Wug - Cape Town Wireless User Group
JAWUG - Johannesburg Area Wireless User Group
Thanks to Rowan Smith for project management and installation in Cape Town, and to Reuben Roberts.