This blog will show London, New York, Chicago, Taipei and Hong Kong Wi-Fi landscapes by decoding Wi-Fi BSSID code then encoding html colour codes. Wi-Fi is popular in cities around the world and it provides a invisible territorial Internet connection in contrast to network cables and spaceless 3G connection on mobile phone. This project aims to depict urban Wi-Fi landscape to explore the links among technology, culture and globalization.


From my experience in anthropology studies, I have found shortcomings and restrictions in this methodology. Anthropologists obtain abundant information by staying at particular spots for long periods to investigate and study the daily life of natives as living biographies. Under those conditions, anthropologists are passive receivers and interpreters. The text is full of native terms creating an exotic atmosphere, and every culture seems different from other cultures. The result is that every culture is seen as independent, with a difficult-to-compare existence, and hence cross-cultural studies become a battlefield of vocabulary without holistic viewpoints. In contrast, I wanted to reverse this method of study to create a specific way to conduct cross-cultural researches. This shift is different from traditional anthropology, so I needed support from different disciplines to achieve my goal. At the same time, I found that contemporary art offered me a possible way to develop my experiment.

Grids and layers were applied by Josef Albers and Richard Paul Lohse to study the interaction between colours and to transform 3-D to 2-D, similar to the way archaeologists and anthropologists position objects in the field and convert their fields to text. After the work of these pioneers, grids and layers were widely adopted in the minimal and conceptual art movements. I referred to the works of different artists and adopted colours (layers) and grids as my tools to create a hybrid of time and space as my study subject.

My doctoral project involved visualizing Wi-Fi networks in London, Taipei, New York, Chicago, and Hong Kong to explore how individual networks construct urban landscapes and their identities. According to Le Corbusier, houses are machines in which we live. I reversed his idea, assigning Wi-Fi users as cyborgs (cybernetic organisms) living in Wi-Fi houses. Then I applied the house society theory to visualise Wi-Fi access points as houses with colours and grids to construct 3-D-based 2-D landscapes. Colours were translated from unique Wi-Fi machine codes that represented individual Wi-Fi machines. The codes could also be tracked to the manufacturer, so the colours also offered a connection between individuals and capitalism. This work presents the different aspects of Wi-Fi machines as a house metaphor in their respective societies and extended anthropology to study material culture and human activity via multiple ways to reveal the connection between them.


The focus of my research is the interaction between material culture and human activity.

I had several opportunities to participate in archaeological fieldwork when I was an undergraduate student. I was fascinated by the archaeologists who created a study subject based on a hybrid of time and space by digging at various sites, and locating and categorizing the remains using horizontal grids and vertical layers via a soil color chart. Although the archaeologists focused on the analysis of the remains found, without regard to the visual aspect of the archaeological discovery progress, their grids and layers system made a great impression on me.

Based on the kinship courses I have taken, I learned about the house society theory proposed by Claude Levi-Strauss. Levi-Strauss led us to rethink how a house as a material culture helps anthropologists to explore the visible and invisible relationships and activities in societies. For my B.A. thesis, I attempted to analyze the phenomena of multiple figures of one Mazu goddess in Taiwanese Mazu folk religions utilizing the house concept. I replaced temples for houses and used incense burners as the medium for figures sharing body substances. This attempt aimed to present the connection between identity and objects via “temples as houses” to understand how believers perceived the relations between Mazu figures. At the same time, for my NSC project, I continued to develop a house study via the study of international spouses living in rural villages. In that project, I noticed that sharing food and kinship duties were the main keys to converting foreign spouses to members in the family and house. During this period, I was training myself to think broader, beyond the kinship aspect of the house society theory.

To expand my knowledge and abilities for my postgraduate study with interdisciplinary collaboration, I enrolled in psychological linguistics courses in a graduate institute of linguistics to explore the connection between external presentation and internal logic. The Conceptual Metaphor Theory, proposed by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, is a key concept that I learned from the courses in that it links objects under different categories via breaking the boundaries using the mapping principle. The mapping principle is a rule which connects the Target Domain (the idea or concept that is described) to the Source Domain (the object applied to describe the Target Domain). The Target Domain and the Source Domain are separated into different categories, so linguistics looks for attributes that are shared by both to understand the mapping principle. In anthropology, categorization is an important system in which the natives distinguish themselves from others, such as in Huang Ying-Kuei’s study concerning the Bunun’s food categorization system. The Conceptual Metaphor Theory aids in analyzing categorization and understanding how conceptual metaphors help natives configure information about the boundary between themselves and others. The house theory is similar to the Conceptual Metaphor Theory, since people construct their identities based on food sharing and living in the same house. In my subsequent studies, the Conceptual Metaphor Theory was a fundamental method in discovering the connection between houses and other objects in societies.

My M.A. thesis focused on the construction of identities via house-related material cultures. I integrated my previous studies with the Conceptual Metaphor Theory and created an archaeology project investigating a Paiwanese village and their abandoned settlement. I applied cultural layers to describe the migration of the tribes and the grids to locate their objects (i.e., house, tomb, and settlement), which were connected by the Conceptual Metaphor Theory. Although the building sources had changed and the duration of the settlement was short because of multiple forced migrations, houses became the Source Domain for the identity metaphor. The reason houses became an abstract concept is the accumulation of migration stories about houses and their eventual separation from their tombs, where ancestors ceased living with the living physically and hence conceptually.


Most people think the identifier codes of Wi-Fi access points and their distribution are random, but actually they involved with the complicated human behaviours, business modes and urban plans. To depict the phenomena, we should know the composition of Wi-Fi identifier codes(aka MAC address or BSSID). The identifier codes are 12 digits of hexadecimal codes and the first six code is manufacture codes, such as some BTHomeHub access points’ manufacturer code is 00147f and it means ‘Thomson Telecom Belgium’ and the manufacturer code of BT Fusion is 001495 which represents 2Wire, Inc. The last 6 digits are the serial number in the factories. Above all, you can find the codes give us the information about the atlas of Wi-Fi manufacturers in different branches of Wi-Fi market and the business modes constitute of part of Wi-Fi landscapes.