wire service monitoring
Back in the spring of 1987, the internet as we now know it didn't really exist yet. If you wanted information from outside of the North American media mainstream, you had to subscribe to foreign newspapers or listen to broadcasts on shortwave radio. Yet I was eager to find ways to break the log jam of the old World Information Order, so I assembled the technology best available to me at the time to create an installation called Ear to the World at Toronto's A-Space Gallery.
The Canadian cable television provider Rogers had just come out with its X-Press service, which, when connected to a PC, provided home access to international press wire services such as Xinhua, AFP, Associated Press and Tass, previously available only to large newspapers. At the same time, alternative news groups were proliferating via the thriving Usenet and a myriad of more obscure BBSes such as EcoNet, to which I was an avid subsciber.
short-wave radio monitoring
In addition to computer terminals and printers providing access to these services, I made available a couple of digital shortwave radio receivers with headphones and cassette decks, so listeners could record foreign broadcasts, as well as an Apple II computer combined with yet another radio receiver through which radioteletype
traffic could be monitored. Radioteletype (RTTY) was a particularly interesting ( if obscure) medium at that time because it was frequently used by the US State Department to send texts of Ronald Reagan's
speeches in Special English
for re-use by foreign news agencies. Cuban and Soviet press releases could also be monitored using this technique, as well as low level embassy traffic.
Ear to the World garnered substantial public interest and I was for a time seriously considering founding a permanent facility, though the evolution of the internet went on to make that unneccessary. The Toronto critic, Dot Tuer wrote an interesting article on the piece, which I have attached in PDF format for downloading.