Cognitive Mapping and Radio Drama by Alan Beck - Consciousness, Literature and the Arts, Volume 1 Number 2, July 2000

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7.1 Way-finding in radio drama: aural paradise and 'Umwelt' (environment)

In the radio drama 'mise en scène', the navigation or orienteering is firstly done for the listener by the director, in an aural paradise, as I have termed it (Beck, 1997b), amid highly specific and pleasurable conditions. In my opinion, this aural paradise is a first principle in analysing the listening-in. And secondly, the competent and engaged listener is in an ideal radio 'Umwelt' (environment), to borrow a key concept from ecological psychology. This 'Umwelt' is the subjective phenomenal world as an animal or human itself sees it, in contrast to the actual environment. The 'Umwelt' is the sentient being's niche. This concept recognises the intimate connection between the special environment that human beings inhabit and the fundamental - and distinguishing - qualities of human psychological processes. Note 3

The human 'Umwelt' is the interweaving of the biological development of the human body and the appropriation of the cultural/ideal/material heritage which exists, especially in artifacts, and in this discussion, in radio. This 'Umwelt' coordinates people with each other and the physical world


In the radio-mediated 'Umwelt' (environment and here listening niche), all is totally the subjective world of the single modality of listening, which overlays and matches point-for-point - and this is the pleasure of radio drama fictionalising - the 'actual' environment. The listener has a radio subjective cocoon, and the capacity to interpret each and every stimulus broadcast, for the reason that - and here is the point - radio 'Umwelt' (cocoon) is 'Welt' (Lifeworld) for the fictional while. That is, while listening-in, the subjective individual's environment (the lived 'Umwelt') equals to, or is coextensive with, the 'out there', the 'Welt' (world), the external reality independent of an individual observer. This is one of the crucial ways in which radio differs from the sight/sound media, especially one of the ways it differs from the plenitude of the visual track. This is where radio referentiality is categorically different. Of course, there is frequently interference or 'bleed-through' from secondary activities of the listener. These activities - ironing, driving the car, washing-up, etc. - are often mentioned in discussions of radio reception and attentiveness, as for example Crisell, 1994, 137 and Beck, 1998, 5.

There is no peripheral 'vision' for the radio listener but complete aural 'focus'. All aural stimuli, of referents distant or close, could be classified as 'proximal stimuli' (from perceptual psychology) because they are 'in front of' the ears. There are little or no 'distal stimuli' (from Gestalt psychology), which in real-life interaction are in the environment. Note 4

7.3 Invariants

Crucial to these environments are invariants (Gibson, 1950 on perception of 2-D paintings and precursor of his affordances, and already mentioned above) - organizing landmarks and configurations which remain stable (invariant), here, as the listener processes the data concerning radio play characters moving through the 3-D 'mise en scène'. (That is, '3-D' within radio's compression of time-space-motion.) All questions and problems of knowledge are posed and answered within the aural world which has to be a knowable place. (A confused listener is a lost listener.) The director and the radio apparatus 'hear' and 'see' what the human ear cannot in the Lifeworld.

To SECTION 8 - Problems with radio reception theory

 SECTION 1 - Introduction - Way-finding  SECTION 2 - Previous discussions
 SECTION 3 - Cognitive mapping  SECTION 4 - Referentiality
 SECTION 5 - Phenomenology, Reception theory   SECTION 6 - Perspective
 SECTION 8 - Problems with radio reception theory
 SECTION 9 - Listener positioning  SECTION 10 - Objects in outline Gestalts
 SECTION 11 - Cognitive mapping in the radio studio  SECTION 12 - Final remarks
 Glossary  Notes
 Works sited - bibliography  Welcome Page for 'Cognitive Mapping'




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