Wireless Utopia, 100 Years of Free Energy, Wireless Socialist Dreams and Telecommunications monopoly, Armin Medosch
Armin Medosch is a writer, curator and artist. He co-founded the on line magazine "Telepolis" in 1996 and co-edited it till summer 2002. With "Telepolis" he won the European online journalism award 2000 for investigative reporting and the Grimme online award 2002 for media journalism. He curated the online exhibition "Shopping Windows" (2001) and organized the free networking meeting Berlon (2002). Current work includes the book and CD ROM dive for "Kingdom of Piracy" and a forthcoming book on free networks.
After Heinrich Hertz was able to proof the existence of radio waves and to establish their fundamental properties - amplitude, frequency and polarity - inventors like Guglielmo Marconi rushed to exploit the technology. His wireless telegraph earned him a fortune based on a number of patents and a near worldwide monopoly. Improvements of the technology soon led to experimens with wireless speech transmission. Fraudulent businessmen in the US of A launched stock market schemes based on wireless telephony empires that did not exist. At around the same time Nikola Tesla tried to transmit energy wirelessly. Utopian hopes flourished, of free energy and a wireless future that would make everybody free and equal. Russian Futurists sang in their poems about the waves that constantly surrounded the earth.
100 years later we see a similar variety of hopes and expectations attached to wireless technologies. The promise of mobile personal telephony had finally been made good with GSM. Now, the introduction of 3G in some countries in Europe stimulates high-flying dreams again, a sector-specific resurgence of the new economy. Others believe that the real revolution is already underway and carried by the DIY technologists who build wireless community networks. The peer-based network philosophy of meshed networks turns every node into a personal telecommunications switching station. With wireless the physical-material layer of network communication is set free. No central server architecture is needed anymore; everybody shares bandwidth with everybody in community networks bound by the "PicoPeering Agreement"; we all become walking personal telcos.
Are these latest emanations of wireless euphoria just proof that after all history repeats itself or is there more behind it? With many 100 year anniversaries in the air the high-times of modernism powerfully make themselves felt in the 21st century. In the much more hypercomplex and interconnected world of today are there ways to avoid the mistakes of the past and use the utopian potential of wireless technologies in a more sustainable and human friendly way? Utopianism leads to totalitarianism, but without a firm believe that we can do better in the future than in the past all efforts would be useless.
Wireless Utopia presents snippets and fragments of an ongoing research into electromagnetic waves and technologies and ideas based on them. The final goal is an exhibition with the working title "Waves" that bridges the 100 year gap between Marconi, Tesla, Khlebnikov and current artistic and social-activist practice like Acoustic Spacelab, Kunstlabor, Raylab, Consume, Makrolab, to name just a few.