Friday, April 08, 2005

Democratic radio

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.


Unknown said...

A very interesting experiment. I heard you and a few others and thought that the format was too "radio" to really be any different from ordinary radio. I think that podcasting will probably have the same effect on listening and producing sound on the web as blogging has had on writing on the web. Interesting times indeed:-)

erlingsi said...

I was one of the participants in the first test of and it is rather interesting because of the potentials. First, the is a test station for web-radio. The programme Friday was a technical test with more participants than the sending the day before. The aim was and still is to test the combination of a simple democratic technology, students of radio and an issue of some relevance. Secondly, the jingles and the music used were there to make room for reprogramming of the groups of participants in the Skype sphere. The participants in the different programmes should be different, placed in different locations all over Europe and the questions talked about were subordinated to the test of what can go wrong. Thirdly, I think the laughter of the some of the participants afterwards because something went wrong was rather silly. It is very normal in tests of this kind and in tests not of this kind. That is the reason for testing…

Torill said...

Erling, the laughter was not at the technical errors, but at ourselves! We were not making fun of the experiment, but of the situation in which we found ourselves, the attempt to say something coherent and worth listening to, and our failure. And we laughed for release of tension, and because it was plain fun :)