chapter  2
6 Pages

6 electromagnetic weather

To materialize the immaterial Dunne Raby propose a pillow that enables the user to

recognize and interpret the electronic environment. Dunne writes:

The Electroclimates Pillow makes the user aware of the fluctuations in a single point

of electronic space. It does not show the larger ebbs and flows of electromagnetic

weather, which it implies are relatively benign. Dunne Raby use other terms to

identify the worst excesses of the electromagnetic landscape: ‘The rapid expansion

of uses for the electromagnetic spectrum has resulted in a new form of pollution, or

electrosmog.’6 Consequently, they argue that ‘The challenge today is not to create

electronic space, but electronic-free space.’7 In 1998 they proposed a Faraday Chair,

an enclosed day bed that counters the flow of electronic information. Dunne writes: ‘I

realised that today all space is electronic, and that the challenge to designers is to

create an “empty” space, a space that has not existed for most of the century due to

The Electroclimates Pillow and Faraday Chair offer different responses to electro-

magnetic space; one surveys and the other excludes a point of electromagnetic

space. A third response, evident in another Dunne Raby project, Lovetectonics, is

to ‘play in its enchanted landscape’. Set in Helsinki in 1999, Lovetectonics uses WAP

enabled mobile phones to create a city full of chance dating encounters between

people who do not know each other:

Electromagnetic space is ripe for semantic, sensual and spatial gaps between the

space itself and the means we use to create, control, represent and perceive it. For

example, a semantic gap exists between electromagnetic space, which we cannot

sense without a mediating device, and terms such as electromagnetic weather and

electrosmog, which allude to the specific characteristics of the space. In using famil-

iar terms, such as weather and pollution, Dunne Raby make electromagnetic space

comprehensible and open to new applications. If electromagnetic weather were as

easy to perceive as natural weather, users could choose to immerse themselves

within it, search for specific weather conditions or avoid it completely, using each of

the strategies – survey, exclude and play – in Dunne Raby’s projects. In Design

Noir: The Secret Life of Electronic Objects, Dunne Raby cite the City of Façades, a

project for Berlin designed by Oliver Michell in 2001.10 Using familiar domestic sur-

faces, such as net curtains and wallpaper, Michell proposed a multiple layered build-

ing that its users could adjust to create subtle and complex configurations of

electromagnetic space. For example, to create a space that could be easily trans-

formed Michell provided electromagnetic shielding with minimal physical mass. He

constructed a Faraday Curtain from a domestic lace net curtain soaked in clear resin

and coated in copper. Dunne and Raby write: