Electrosmog: A widely used term that designates any artificial radiation produced by electric and electromagnetic radiations. Electrosmog, which is present everywhere, is invisible and inaudible. Since electrification and with the ongoing implementation of wireless technologies in urban areas, the scientific community has not reached any conclusion regarding the effects of the increasing presence of electromagnetic radiations.

The geopolitics of radio frequencies
Though they are immaterial, radio frequencies (RF) must be considered as a space and as a highly regulated geopolitical territory. As the occupying of electromagnetic spaces grows in pace with technological developments, governments are regularly redrawing the borders of RF attributions. In this regard, the Canadian government issued the Spectrum Policy Framework in 2007. Point 1 states that it should be regulated: “in a manner that interferes with market forces to the minimum extent necessary.”

In addition to access to RF territory, governments legislate the standards of transmission power and modes. Recent or soon-to-be technologies developed by telecom consortiums are proposing RF standards based on the increasingly intrusive and powerful technologies. According to researchers at the CNRS, in addition to technical criteria, legislators must be aware of the social and cultural impacts associated with the massive use of these new standards. But who will focus on these social and cultural impacts if the legislators’ main goal is to interfere as little as possible with market forces?

How can one take part in a public debate when the issue involves an abstract, invisible phenomenon that requires extremely complex tools that operate on a nano scale?

Making electrosmog tangible

All the projects of the Electrosmog series use the same e_smog_scan software. This software daws charts of the presence of radio waves present in a specific environment. Using several antennae, a very large frequency bandwidth and a computer, this system records hundreds of thousands of radio signals, from ULF (Ultra Low Frequency) to microwaves. The software carries out several tasks: it tunes into a frequency every 10 thousandth of a second, records an audio clip, analyzes the sound spectrum and calculates the power of the signal. These parameters are compiled in a database. Each day the software records thousands of files and generates hundreds of thousands of files and generates more than 8 Go of data.

The first tests of the radio recording system were carried out between Helsinki and Tallin. The analyses of the results enabled me to make comparisons: more cell telephones in Helsinki, less in Tallin, and more shortwaves in Tallin than in Helsinki. It is for this reason that I wanted to multiply the recording fields. Equipped with antennae, a radio, my camera and hard disks, I travelled around the world in February 2012 and visited the cities of Berlin, Istanbul, Mumbai, Hong-Kong and San-Francisco. Since then Montreal, Venice and Toronto have also been added to the list.

Upon my return to the studio, I analyzed and recomposed the data to produce charts, videos and audio pieces. While the charts show the density of the radio frequencies, the videos make the thousands of radio stations that are present between 1MHz and 144MHz frequencies audible. It is in this region of the spectrum that shortwave, AM and FM radio, analog TV, police and ambulance radio signals are located. For the images, the density of the visited cities was modified according to the fluctuation of the radio signal. These modifications were made with the help of software that analyzed each frequency, city by city.

Other experiments were also carried out: fluctuations of the waves during sunrise; recording of the metadata of cell phones, or the recording of artificial satellites.