It wasn’t long ago that Wi-Fi access was considered a luxury. But in the developed world, Wi-Fi hotspots are all around us--dead zones are the oddities. This is mostly useful, but as anyone who spends most of their life in the digital realm knows, the technology comes with certain pressure to be always on.
The Wi-Fi Cold Spot, a project created by Ben Brady, a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, provides a haven of disconnectedness in a sea of connectivity. "We’re quick to assume connectivity is better," says Brady, now a teaching fellow for Harvard’s Library Test Kitchen seminar. "We think of places with Wi-Fi disconnection as dead spots. But disconnection deserves the same kind of craft and care that we’re giving the digital."
The Cold Spot, created for the Library Test Kitchen, is an oddly shaped small room painted with EMF-blocking black paint that prevents all signals and radiation from entering--meaning cell phones and Wi-Fi cease to work once you step inside. The space is brightened by ambient lighting generated by plastic rods located on the underside of the room.
"The idea is that from far away this thing would read as a giant hunk of wood, and as you get closer, you see bits of plastics coming out and you’d be intrigued to go inside," says Brady. "It disorients you or maybe reorients you a bit." And hopefully, it relieves some of those external digital pressures.
The Wi-Fi Cold Spot currently sits in one of Harvard’s libraries. It’s not a particularly popular space--digital addiction is a hard thing to break, and the Internet is a valuable resource for studying--but it should be reassuring that it’s there.