What separates the online and offline in our world, and where is that border in ourselves? Are we growing towards an always-online existence, or can we still choose where, when and why to be sometimes-offline?

The White Spots app visualises the digital networks that surround us and takes users on a journey from the ‘hot spots’ to the ‘white spots’. It invites users to take a picture and contribute their offline experience to the newly designed world connectivity map.

White Spots is a collaborative transmedia project by artist Jacqueline Hassink, information designer Richard Vijgen and documentary filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak. The exhibition brings together the large-format (analogue) prints by Jacqueline Hassink, extracts from the documentary film by Bregtje van der Haak and the app and data visualisations by Richard Vijgen. The narrative on multiple platforms aims to engage viewers and challenge them to think and talk about the consequences of universal connectivity.

Authors

Jacqueline Hassink (1966) is a Dutch, New York-based conceptual artist specialising in photography. She is best known for her projects relating to globalisation issues, such as The Table of Power (1995, 2011), Car Girls (2008) and View, Kyoto (2014). Hassink was involved in the project from the start. Initially, her attention was focused on photographing landscapes where there is no mobile phone connection or Wi-Fi.

The collaboration with Bregtje van der Haak and Richard Vijgen directed her towards alternative environments: areas deliberately without internet access, varying from digital detox hotel rooms in Baden-Baden to corporate Wi-Fi-free rooms in Samsung's headquarters in Seoul. Hassink’s Unwired Landscapes were taken using a medium-format analogue camera. The resulting images demonstrate the physical, disconnected side of White Spots. Additionally, underlining our continuous interconnectedness, Hassink used her iPhone in a series called iPortrait to portray subway passengers in Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, London and New York, all engrossed in their little screens.

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Bregtje van der Haak (1966) is a journalist and documentary filmmaker. She works for VPRO television as well as experimenting with web-based productions such as Multiple Journalism (2015). She has been involved with two broadcasts on global digital networks.

From this documentary background arose the idea for an autonomous White Spots feature, Van der Haak looked for stories of people’s experiences in white spots and their motivations and strategies for going to or living in these places. They include those who have fled the connected world because they are allergic to electromagnetic waves and visitors to luxury spas where rooms are equipped with cages that can be activated to exclude radiation. For these people, white spots are havens where they can catch their breath. But equal attention is paid to the digital have-nots; those who live in areas (digital wastelands) where there is no investment into networks by companies or governments, because it would not be profitable either from an economic or a sociological standpoint.

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Richard Vijgen (1982) is an information designer in the field of dynamic and screen-based media. His work is rooted in the digital domain but always connected with physical or social space. He previously worked with Bregtje van der Haak on The Atlas of Pentecostalism, a dynamic online database on the fastest growing religion in the world.

For White Spots, he developed a map that illustrates the global geographical reach of all public telecom operators. The White Spots world map combines the coverage of more than 2,000 telecom operators with data centre locations, their position, and cable connections over land and sea. It thereby paints a realistic picture of worldwide connectivity. The map is based on the most complete and up-to-date data available in the telecom industry.

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Platforms

<em>The White Spots world map</em> combines the coverage of more than 2,000 telecom operators with data centre locations, their position, and cable connections over land and sea. It thereby paints a realistic picture of worldwide connectivity. White areas in the map are not yet connected.
The White Spots world map combines the coverage of more than 2,000 telecom operators with data centre locations, their position, and cable connections over land and sea. It thereby paints a realistic picture of worldwide connectivity. White areas in the map are not yet connected.
© Mosaik Solutions, LLC / Richard Vijgen
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Langisjór 2
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Langisjór 2
© Jacqueline Hassink
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Room 622 3
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Room 622 3
© Jacqueline Hassink
From the iPortrait series: Seoul 54
From the iPortrait series: Seoul 54
© Jacqueline Hassink
From the iPortrait series: Moscow 27
From the iPortrait series: Moscow 27
© Jacqueline Hassink
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Shiratani Unsuikyo 7
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Shiratani Unsuikyo 7
© Jacqueline Hassink
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Snaefellsnes 4
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Snaefellsnes 4
© Jacqueline Hassink
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Seattle.
Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Seattle.
© Jacqueline Hassink
These visualisations display a potential set-up for the exhibition, which includes a Faraday cage, television monitors, and suspended screens.
These visualisations display a potential set-up for the exhibition, which includes a Faraday cage, television monitors, and suspended screens.
© Tiago Rosado / Paradox
The inside of the Faraday cage: exhibition of Jacqueline Hassink’s Unwired Landscapes.
The inside of the Faraday cage: exhibition of Jacqueline Hassink’s Unwired Landscapes.
© Tiago Rosado / Paradox
Bird's eye view of a possible setup for the exhibition.
Bird's eye view of a possible setup for the exhibition.
© Tiago Rosado / Paradox
A more detailed view of the projection screens suspended from the ceiling.
A more detailed view of the projection screens suspended from the ceiling.

Exhibition

White Spots is a multimedia project combining the work of documentary filmmaker Bregtje van der Haak, visual artist Jacqueline Hassink and information designer Richard Vijgen.

In its setup, the exhibition consciously distinguishes between two separate ‘worlds’: the offline world inside the cage, and the online, always-connected world outside the cage. Paradox is currently developing the exhibition, the launch of which is planned around autumn 2017.

The exhibition is built up using a number of components, amongst which a Faraday cage that houses the exhibition of Hassink’s Unwired Landscapes, a number of virtual reality setups, video fragments on television monitors, projection screens suspended from the ceiling, cell phone data visualisations, and an electromagnetic wave gadget shop.

Various bodies of work generated by the three authors will be included in the exhibition. Richard Vijgen is responsible for designing the White Spots app and data visualisations. Bregtje van der Haak is the director of two television episodes and one feature length documentary. Jacqueline Hassink has worked on two bodies of photographic work. Her Unwired Landscapes are photographs of locations that are not yet connected to mobile phone reception or WiFi, as well as areas deliberately cut off from internet access, such as digital detox hotel rooms. The Unwired Landscapes represent the physical, disconnected side of White Spots. Additionally, underlining our continuous interconnectedness, Hassink used her iPhone in a series called iPortrait to portray subway passengers in Seoul, Tokyo, Moscow, Beijing, Shanghai, Paris, London and New York, all engrossed in their little screens.

The White Spots exhibition trailer provides a great impression of what it could look like.

The White Spots exhibition is currently available. Please check with aw@paradox.nl for booking possibilities and pricing.
  • Components: Faraday cage with printed photographs exhibited inside, VR desks, television monitors, projected data visualisation, photographs projected on screens suspended from the ceiling, electromagnetic wave gadget & clothing shop.

    To see what we are working on in more detail, please check the exhibition trailer here, or send an email to vp@paradox.nl.

  • Bas Vroege (Curator)
    Jacqueline Hassink (Photographer)
    Bregtje van der Haak (Documentary filmmaker)
    Richard Vijgen (App designer)

From the Unwired Landscapes series: Langisjór 3
From the Unwired Landscapes series: Langisjór 3
© Jacqueline Hassink

Book

Like the exhibition and feature length documentary, the autumn of 2017 promises the release of another White Spots production: the book. It will focus on Jacqueline Hassink’s Unwired Landscapes photography series. Irma Boom has committed herself to the project as its book designer, and publisher Hatje Cantz Verlag has committed to publishing it. Other partners include the Mondriaan Fonds, Benrubi Gallery / New York, Wouter van Leeuwen Galerie / Amsterdam, Kaune, Contemporary / Köln, Bildhalle / Zürich. It offers another possibility to regenerate attention for the app and the exhibition, the latter of which will unite all of the White Spots elements in one dynamic presentation.

  • Jacqueline Hassink (Photographer)
    Irma Boom (Book designer)
    Hatje Cantz (Publisher)

White Spots VR
White Spots VR
The White Spots app is geared up with a data scanner that shows users the cell phone reception towers around them in real time.
The White Spots app is geared up with a data scanner that shows users the cell phone reception towers around them in real time.
© Richard Vijgen

App

Are you ever overwhelmed with a desire to escape from the unstoppable information stream? The White Spots app is a tool that makes people aware of the electromagnetic cloud we live in, and offers narratives about the increasing density of the digital world.

The app makes visible information networks in our direct surroundings, using a special scanner that uses GPS data to guide the user to the edges of the internet, from any location on earth. When the traveller arrives at a White Spot (a white spot on the map, with no access to internet or mobile reach), the app shuts down.

Besides facilitating the physical journey to disconnected places through a route planner, the White Spots app offers a collection of narrative fragments from the offline world. In VR, photographs, audio and film scenes, the makers relocate attention from Hot Spots to White Spots, while they report from the edges of the internet. They want to increase attention for those places that are not (yet) connected to the digital map by visualising, sensitising and discussing them. Where is the separation between the online and the offline world in this planet, and where does the separation lie in ourselves? Users can add their own observations to the app.

The app has the following functions:
• a world map of the online world (based on telecom data)
• a network scanner that visualises cellphone towers and their radiation in the user’s direct environment
• a route planner that guides the user physically to the nearest White Spot
• a collection of stories (virtual reality, film scenes, interviews, photographs, sounds) from the offline world
• option to participate: add your own stories (photographs, video, text, audio) to the interactive map

The White Spots app, designed by Richard Vijgen, is now available for iPhone, iPad and Android.

Still from Offline is the New Luxury, during a visit to Martine, who suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity
Still from Offline is the New Luxury, during a visit to Martine, who suffers from electromagnetic hypersensitivity
© VPRO Backlight
Still from Access to Africa
Still from Access to Africa
© VPRO Backlight
Still from one of the videos produced for the White Spots app,  during a visit to a French woman living in a cave to escape radiation
Still from one of the videos produced for the White Spots app, during a visit to a French woman living in a cave to escape radiation
© VPRO Backlight
Still from Access to Africa, during a visit to Burkina Faso, where mobile phone access is not always evident
Still from Access to Africa, during a visit to Burkina Faso, where mobile phone access is not always evident
© VPRO Backlight
Still from Offline is the New Luxury
Still from Offline is the New Luxury
© VPRO Backlight
Still from Offline is the New Luxury, for which Van der Haak spoke to renowned MIT professor Sherry Turkle
Still from Offline is the New Luxury, for which Van der Haak spoke to renowned MIT professor Sherry Turkle
© VPRO Backlight

Film

Bregtje van der Haak has directed two television documentaries for VPRO Backlight (Tegenlicht): Access to Africa and Offline is the New Luxury. They were broadcasted respectively in June 2014 and May 2016. In addition to these documentaries, in cooperation with Barbara Truyen at the documentary department at VPRO, Bregtje will direct a feature length documentary film on radiation illness. Its working title is Digital Refugees. The film will be produced by BALDR Film, and it will feature the visualisations made by Richard Vijgen for the White Spots app. Its release is scheduled for the autumn of 2017.

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In the media

  • Go, with the app at your disposal, while you still can. Or leave all your devices at home - it is theoretically possible.

    Robert Gooijer, VARA gids. May 3rd, 2016.

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General Credits

White Spots is produced by BALDR Film, VPRO & Paradox.

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