Today's experiment at Demostasjonen (yes, a play with the words democratic, demonstration and station) using Skype to set up a webcast, was both a failure and a success. A failure because the very ambitious program with 10 people debating from different parts of the world fell apart when three of them could not respond or were just knocked offline - a success because the remaining 7 actually could participate in the webcast.
The debate was rather silly. My colleague Nora came in, just to laugh with somebody, the moment the webcast was over. We were to talk about gender, men and women, and none of us had been briefed on what they wanted us to say about men and women, so both Nora and I chose similar strategies for the event. We picked a role for today: "This is the person I am for this debate, and this is what I talk about." We luckily did not pick the same type of person.
The hosts were desperately trying to keep the webcast within the conventions of radio, with jingles, pause music and carefully planned time. This is a format that gives a certain framework and security, and it makes sense if there is a time restraint on air time on a certain frequency. But as the only "frequency" is a URL, theoretically there is no such restraint, and they could just have gone on and on as long s they liked. Of course, none of the participants had time to stay online for hours, but for an open webcast we can imagine a discussion going on for as long as the moderators and the debaters care to keep it open.
Potentially, this could be the Brechtian Radio to the People, where everybody can webcast to everbody, easily and free.
Lars Nyre, the PostDoc in Bergen who is running the democratic radio eksperiments, is more of a theoretician than a technician, but with the help of students and technicians here at the college, this was not too complicated to go through with either. As for participating, that was plain good fun. And I got a good laugh together with Nora. That was worth it, too.