[Air-l] (no subject)

csandvig at uiuc.edu csandvig at uiuc.edu
Tue Sep 6 15:38:25 PDT 2005

Dear AoIR colleagues,

There are still a few spaces available for this but they are
going fast.  It would be great to fill up the vans so I am
posting this to AoIR both because (1) it would be great to
completely fill up the vans so that we will break even and (2)
the title of this workshop was misprinted on the registration
page -- the actual title may interest you if the misprinted
title did not.  Please feel free to forward.

See you in Chicago,



A Guided Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum in Chicago:
Wireless Internet Mapping and Visualization

1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m., Wednesday, October 5th
*** $40 materials fee to pay for vans/handouts ***

A Preconference Workshop of the 2005 Annual Meeting of the 
Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR). 
(Register: http://conferences.aoir.org/index.php?cf=3 )


When Internet researchers study what people do with the 
Internet, they usually do so by asking questions (in a survey 
or interview), arranging to watch users (via observation or 
ethnography), or looking up aggregate statistics about use 
(e.g., from sales figures or representative surveys conducted 
by others). Recent wireless Internet technology (like 
802.11a/b/g, a.k.a. "Wireless Fidelity" or "Wi-Fi") allows a 
very different approach. Rather than asking users questions 
about their use of wireless Internet, researchers can sample 
the electromagnetic spectrum directly, gathering data and 
producing visualizations of wireless Internet use. In terms 
of older technologies, this is like counting telephone poles 
instead of surveying telephone users.

Visualizations are being produced by Internet diffusion 
researchers (such as the Public Internet Project in New 
York), professors who teach about the Internet (the 
University of Washington Wi-Fi map of Seattle), hobbyists 
(wifimaps.com), artists and provocateurs (Yury Gitman), and 
activists hoping to draw attention to both the "digital 
divide" (the Pioneer warwalking competition in Austria) and 
the commercialization of the Internet in public spaces 
(Newbury Open.Net’s WarCar). However, this area remains new 
enough that the published research about these techniques or 
the results from them is still scarce (e.g., Byers & Kormann, 
2003; Sandvig, 2004). 

Data produced using these methods allow researchers to locate 
802.11b/g wireless Internet connectivity and record 
characteristics of wireless Internet "access points" and 
devices connected to them. These methods can measure the 
number of users, amount of traffic, speed, signal strength, 
and security settings. Location data can then be linked to 
satellite imagery, street maps, Census data, land use 
databases, and other geographic data sources. Here is a 
simple example map from a common mapping program, kismet:


In the last four years, the technology required to produce 
complex maps of wireless Internet signals has become 
relatively inexpensive. This has led to widespread interest 
in the surveying, mapping and visualization of Internet 
access and data from the electromagnetic spectrum. In this 
workshop, we will explain how to obtain data about wireless 
Internet use by using handheld or portable computers to 
sample wireless signals. After an initial orientation, this 
workshop will board vans and "tour" the electromagnetic 
spectrum in selected neighborhoods of Chicago, actually 
producing maps of wireless Internet use. We then hope to 
initiate a thoughtful and interactive discussion of how 
researchers and activists can use these data in their 
projects. This will include discussion of the collection, 
analysis, visualization, ethics, limitations, costs, 
pedagogical value, and application of these methods. 

These methods may be useful for many different purposes, 
studying technology deployment, penetration and diffusion 
(Rogers, 1995) but advancing studies of diffusion by 
employing geographic methods (see Zhang, Fan, & Kai, 2002), 
and investigating the interaction of the Internet with space 
(Grubesic, 2002) and representing the Internet using maps 
(Dodge & Kitchin, 2000; 2001). It is here that these methods 
are likely to be the most revolutionary. Combining these 
methods with documentary photography (Hall & Sandvig, 2004) 
and/or ethnography, it is possible to add context to a 
research project using a more traditional method. Finally, 
these methods have been provocatively used to produce art and 
activism, where a great deal of effort has been spent 
developing compelling maps and visualizations.

No technical knowledge is required to participate in this 
workshop, however, familiarity with (or a willingness to 
learn) Linux and advanced GIS software will be helpful. More 
advanced practitioners are also very welcome. We will 
demonstrate and discuss Netstumbler, Kismet, GeoDA, and 

This workshop is based on a mapping project funded by the US 
National Science Foundation where researchers tested 
different mapping solutions and developed workarounds for 
sources of error and customizations to improve our geographic 
analyses and visualizations. 

This is a four and a half hour workshop that includes a 
substantial break.


1. Orientation session and opening discussion. (60 minutes)
2. Off-site mapping expedition and spectrum tour using one or 
two 15-passenger university motor pool "Sprinter" vans 
equipped with antennas and on-board video screens to display 
laptop computer output. (45 minutes)
3. Vans stop for break at location convenient to mapping 
site. (30 minutes)
4. Off-site mapping expedition resumes. (45 minutes)
5. Closing discussion of applications, analyses, and other 
issues. (60 minutes)
(Total time 4:00)

All equipment will be provided. However, a materials fee is 
required to defray the cost of fuel, van rental, and color 
duplication of maps (for handouts). Participation is limited 
to ten (one van) or twenty participants (two vans), depending 
on interest.


  Christian Sandvig (organizer)
  Department of Speech Communication
  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  Dave Chan 
  Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  Elizabeth Lyon 
  Department of Geography
  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  Siddhartha Raja
  Department of Speech Communication
  University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  Rajiv Shah
  Department of Communication
  University of Illinois, Chicago

Questions?  e-mail Christian Sandvig (csandvig at uiuc.edu)

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