The “Decoding Wireless” project retraces the history of wireless technologies (summed up with the term wireless), highlights their importance in everyday life and shows their material dimension. Wireless is often taken for granted and we only notice how important it is when it’s not working – when, for instance, we cannot connect to Wi-Fi or our mobiles are “out of range”. This project aims to bring to light the hidden sides of wireless, which being so engrained in our daily habits go unnoticed. To do so, researchers from Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) and from Scuola universitaria professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI) have devised an immersive experience, structured around a series of installations, urban walks, silent events, a publication, this website and a number of other activities freely accessible in public areas of Lugano and Locarno between late June and mid-August 2019.


History matters!
Today’s wireless is the result of many past choices and strategies. Tomorrow’s wireless communications is the outcome of choices we are making now. The project aims to reveal the importance of history in understandin the present and thinking about the future. Without Marconi we couldn’t understand Wi-Fi today, in short.

Do not take your everyday gestures for granted.
Many of our daily actions are automatic and taken for granted, including the use of wireless technologies. Let’s pause for a minute and consider: how did we get here? Why has wireless become essential? Since when? Why do we frantically move our thumbs across the screen of a phone for a few hours a day? Aim of the project is to deconstruct and reflect on these aspects that seem trivial.

Touching the invisible.
Wireless technologies seem to be ethereal and elusive whereas they are made of aerials, cables and wires. The project centres on the material dimension of wireless communication and shows how this invisible technology may in fact be seen and even touched.


Is “wireless” a recent or past invention? Why, in what way and how often are wireless devices used every day and which ones are they? Is “wireless” made up of light and immaterial technologies or of physical infrastructures that remain however “hidden”? Answering these three questions is among the goals of the “Decoding Wireless” project. The project aims to narrate the historical dimension of wireless technologies from the end of the 19th century up to the present day, reminding people how even the media we use nowadays have their own histories, biographies, and turning points that directed their development. Our biographies too (and not just those of physical objects) are ever more linked to wireless, and without realizing it, we spend many hours a day interacting with wireless technologies. The second goal of the project is therefore focusing on our everyday life, highlighting the role that wireless technology has been playing day by day. The third goal of the project is making visible a technology that appears to be invisible. The term wireless is often synonymous with ethereal (think of the metaphor of cloud technology) and of immaterial (right from the word “wire-less” which indicates an absence). But it isn’t so: wireless communications do go through aerials, cables, wires and tubes. Highlighting their often hidden material structure is one of the aims of “Decoding Wireless”.


PTT Archive, Köniz. The PTT archive safeguards the history of Swiss post, telegraphy and telephony (PTT). It’s a historical corporate archive belonging to Swiss Post and Swisscom which, following privatisation, replaced PTT in 1997.
Info: ITA / ENG

Longlake Festival, Lugano. Now in its 8thedition, the international Longlake Festival, is one of the largest open-air urban festivals in Switzerland. A full month of events, ranging from music, literature, animation, theatre, dance, cinema, kids’ shows to urban art installations which will take over the streets, squares and public parks giving way to engaging meetings between artists and the public.
Info: ITA / ENG

The Guglielmo Marconi Foundation and Museum, Pontecchio Marconi. Situated at Villa Griffone, where Guglielmo Marconi first experimented with wireless telegraphy, the Foundation hosts both the Marconi Museum and a radio communication research centre.
Info: ITA ;
ENG www.fgm.en; www.fgm.en/museum

Locarno Film Festival, Locarno. Founded in 1946, it is the most significant cinematographic event in Switzerland and among the most important internationally. Several movies are presented in four different sections: Concorso internazionale, Concorso Cineasti del presente and the sections Pardi di domani (national and international). The Festival’s heart is the daily evening screening in the magnificent Piazza Grande, which transforms itself into the “most beautiful movie-theater under the stars”.
Info: ITA / ENG

Museum of Communication, Bern. The only Swiss museum wholly devoted to communication and its history. Through exhibitions and displays it studies the effects communication and itstechnologies have had on culture and society. The Museum was recently awarded the prestigious “Council of Europe Museum Prize 2019”.
Info: ITA / ENG

Radio Museum, Monte Ceneri. The museum offers an educational itinerary through the history of radio, from Guglielmo Marconi up to the present day. In a dedicated area on Monte Ceneri, radio and television receivers, mobile phones, parts of transmitters, measurement equipment and other devices are on display. There is also a library about technology and the history of radio communication.
Info: ITA

RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Lugano. RSI is an enterprise unit of SSR and has produced and distributed public-service radio and television programs in the Italian-speaking part of Switzerland since 1933.


Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) is one of the 12 certified public universities officially recognised by the Swiss academic system, coordinated by swissuniversities. It is organised in five faculties and is active in several research areas, and more specifically: architecture, communication, data science, law, economics, health studies, information technology, medicine and biomedicine, computational science and humanities. The Faculty of Communication Sciences hosts the Institute of Media and Journalism (IMeG) which is engaged in the analysis of the media in contemporary society. IMeG engages in research activities in the following areas: organizational analysis and business strategies adopted by media companies; the historical evolution of media production processes and the function of media within different socio-political, economic and cultural contexts; the consumption dynamics of media products by different social groups (with a focus on young audiences); and the evolution of media-related professions, with particular regard to journalism. ​

The USI-IMeG researchers taking part in this project are: Gabriele Balbi e Maria Rikitianskaia.

Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera italiana (SUPSI) is one of the nine professional universities recognised by the Swiss Confederation. Founded under federal law, SUPSI offers more than 30 Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree courses, characterised by cutting edge education which unites classical theoretical-scientific instruction with a professional orientation. Great care is given to research, carried out in key sectors on competitively acquired projects with large European and national agencies or mandated by organisations and institutions.The Department for Environment Constructions and Design, hosts the Laboratory of Visual Culture, a centre that focuses on design theory and techniques, tools and technologies for enhancing and communicating creative works and cultural heritage. The Laboratory represents a national hub for the teaching, research and dissemination activities in the fields of interaction design and visual communication.

The SUPSI researchers and designers are: Jean-Pierre Candeloro, Giancarlo Gianocca, Valentina Meldi e Luca Morici.

The research and design team which developed the “Decoding Wireless” project is affiliated with USI and SUPSI.

Decoding team
Gabriele Balbi, Associate professor in media studies, he lectures on the history and sociology of the media at USI. Among his institutional roles, he is program director of the Bachelor in Communication Sciences, director of the China Media Observatory, vice director of the Institute of Media and Journalism and Chair of ECREA Communication History Section. Among his recent publications are A History of Digital Media. An Intermedia and Global Perspective (Routledge 2018, con Paolo Magaudda) and Fallimenti digitali. Un’archeologia dei ‘nuovi’ media (Unicopli 2018, con Paolo Magaudda).
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Jean-Pierre Candeloro was awarded a doctoral research degree in Media Studies and has extensive experience in the development and implementation of applied research and communication projects in the area of creative and cultural industries. Since 2010 he has led SUPSI’s Laboratory of Visual Culture and the development programme id w / interactive documentary workshop, organized in collaboration with the Visions du Réel International Film Festival.
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Giancarlo Gianocca, in 2004 was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication from SUPSI. After graduating, he worked for the Sputnik and Lucasdesign practices contributing to important corporate design projects. Since 2008 he’s worked with Syndicom and created the ‘Communico – Giornata del design e della comunicazione visiva’ event. That same year he started his collaboration with the Laboratory of Visual Culture designing SUPSI’s new corporate identity. Since 2013 he’s been lecturing on graphics, infographics and illustration with SUPSI Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication.
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Valentina Meldi, was awarded a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication by SUPSI in 2015 and subsequently started working on the same degree program as an assistant lecturer. She works alongside lecturers in digital area courses: web, user interface, interaction design and the interdisciplinary project “Crossmedia: Orientation and Identity Design”. In 2016 she started working, also as an assistant, with the Laboratory of Visual Culture performing various tasks, from traditional graphic design to photoshooting, web design and video shooting.
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Luca Morici, graduated in sociology and has collaborated with public authorities and no-profit organizations on various research and social intervention projects. Between 1998 and 2006 his academic activities included lecturing and research on the sociology of the media and mass media consumption at USI (Università della Svizzera italiana). Since 2006 he’s been working as a lecturer and researcher with the Laboratory of Visual Culture where, as well as lecturing on visual sociology and infographics as part of the Bachelor’s degree in Visual Communication, he takes part in research projects in the field of visual communication.
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Maria Rikitianskaia, is a postdoctoral researcher, in 2018 she was awarded a PhD degree in Communication Sciences from USI Lugano, and she also hold MA in Applied Cultural Studies and a BS in Cultural Studies from the National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Moscow, Russia. Her research focuses on the history of wireless communication, from radiotelegraphy during World War I to the wireless and mobile networks of the present day.
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We were unable to identify all the rights holders, authors of the images, and historical sources used for this project. The authors are, however, available in the event of any copyright-related issues and requests.