The Death of Radio? An Essay in Radio Philosophy for the Digital Age - Alan Beck - online book - published by Sound Journal 2002

 

 

SECTION 7

Relatively radio - radioworld

 

 

7.1


Radiobility (Jo Tacchi) and Radioworld

 

In this Section, I attempt to define the un-radio-like, and therefore of central and marginal cases of radio, examples and counter-examples. I have two candidates. My case study is of the automated Music Choice (some fifty digital channels on the Sky Digibox, and a few also on the Internet) as a direct comparison with Core Radio (also digital). I also draw main elements of my theory work together in the portmanteau term 'radioworld'.

 

I return now to Jo Tacchi's useful coinage 'radiobility':

By radiobility I mean the technical ability to be radio, or to be radio-like or 'radiogenic'.
(Tacchi, 2000, 292)

 

I had previously launched 'Radioworld' for the enormous set of all the particular instances of radio, past, present and to come (Beck, 1999, 1.5; see 7.3). It is similar to 'radiobility' and I will explain this below. The difference between the two terms is that I have given a more extensive definition and I link it to visual arts theory. The aim in both coinages is to recognise the family of meanings in radio, acknowledging that radio is not a precise concept or a singular activity, but richly diverse (as Price-Davies in 1.15 and Rob Watson in 1.19).


And now, digital broadcasting suddenly presents us with new examples of audio. Some have radiobility and some have not. The conundrum is whether they fit or stretch or contradict existing understandings. And if they do contradict, or if they are at the end of the spectrum and are 'un-radio-like' (Tacchi, 2000, 290) - and is this the 'death of radio'? - we must search for a string of new acceptable terms in addition to the portmanteau radiobility and radioworld. (I note that un-radio-like is a most successful coinage by Jo Tacchi, and for example, Francis Sparshott, in her definition of what is not and is dance, has coined 'undancing' (Sparshott, 1988, 78).)

 

7.2


Un-radio-like


Has the concept of radio collapsed? Can some of, or anything we hear on digital communication pipelines (Introduction 1) be termed 'radio' or 'audio' now? Let me revisit the central conundrum of this monograph. I believe, along with some few others' public statements, that there is no longer a single definition of radio, not least because hardly anyone listens to one single radio apparatus any more or listens in one single way.
Maybe we are heading towards the disruption of a consensus, or at least its temporary suspension, or at least the end of one established way of talking about radio. (For 'hard' radio studies as supposedly unified, see Introduction 3).

 

 

7.3


Music Choice and Core

 

Christopher Priestman regards the fully automated music channel as the most significant advance in music on the Internet, and the most significant and successful split from terrestrial radio. He says the radio industry has almost perfected these automated stations as:


… the most efficient means of playing music to an international public, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The economics of this are compelling. … a single station can serve any definable musical taste, based on instantaneous, invisible and 100% accurate audience research (e.g. which tracks or combinations of tracks make more listeners tune out, which rotations result in better sales) using server logs. Technical staff costs are minimal and 'on air' staff costs can be confined to a single playlist programmer. Voiceovers and on air ads are optional. The main ongoing costs are in marketing the station.
(Priestman, 2001, Chapter 10)

 

The same could be said for all music formats, distributed on all digital transmission systems. (Priestman would have developed that point but his book is focused on radio and the Internet.)


Music Choice is, in effect, its own multiplex of some fifty genre music channels. It is the market leader in Europe, from my research, in its spread of music genres, and also crucially, in developing itself as a nearly totally subscription service. Priestman points out that financial and copyright pressures indicate the future for on-demand music channels on the Internet as subscription channels, if the music they carry is mainstream (ib). Music Choice is available for an extra subscription of £5 (last checked June 2001) to Sky customers via the Digibox. It also has a web site with only seven channels available, so its Internet presence promotes its subscription business. It is also hugely innovative and entertaining (and I am a daily user).


I will trace through my argument that Music Choice is un-radio-like. Here are some factual details made available on its web site and necessary groundwork before my theoretical argument. Bundled into a rather severely designed FAQ, it tells us:
Music Choice is the centre for great music. Experts broadcasting 47 different genre-based channels, 24/7, programming from a 500, 000+ track database, from (as labelled) Pop, Rock, Dance and Country to Classical, Jazz, Easy and World. The widest range and depth of any broadcast music media anywhere in Europe and the Middle East. Delivered via digital TV, the Internet, and soon through broadband networks and mobile technology. Digital audio technology enables the viewing of track, artist and album information while listening uninterrupted by ads or DJs. … Thanks to advanced technology however we do offer on-screen Song ID to homes in the UK via our eTV service with SkyDigital and in Belgium via Canal Digitaal.
(FAQ at www.musicchoice.co.uk)


It is also explained that the music is digitally stored at what is termed the 'Playout Centre':


At the heart of the Playout Centre is a vast storage library which can hold over 400,000 music tracks. These tracks originate from CDs, tapes, vinyl and other media and are digitally processed and converted to MPEG files. Silicon Graphics computer systems combined with state of the art software specially written for Music Choice create 48 themed channels using these tracks and playlists created by our team of music experts. We use the Sky digital satellite system to distribute our channels to digital music subscribers across Europe. Music Choice's Internet streaming service also originates from the Playout Centre.
(ib)

 

7.4
Music Choice and Core cont.


Music Choice is located at Sky Digital 481. Entering this, some fifty channels are offered on the screen on a table. (One uses the Sky handset, pressing the back-and-forward green buttons, then pressing the centre green button to select.) Each of the Music Choice tracks is continuously segued into the following. The listener is offered wall-to-wall audio, and without an announcer or DJ. No human voice is heard speaking. The track details appear on the TV screen. (As seven Music Choice channels are available on the Internet, this is an alternative if a reader of this monograph has no access to Sky Digital.) The list of channels broadcasting Music Choice is impressive (information on the web site) and in terms of its business structure, it resembles a giant multiplex. (DAB stations win licences in bundles of seven or so stations, under one management operator in the UK (Priestman, 2001, 12).)


I offer the digital-only 'popular music' station Core as a contrast and I type Core as radio-like. (I follow Roy Shuker's shorthand use of popular music for mass-market rock, rap, techno, etc., Shuker, 2001, ix.) Core is located alongside other digital radio stations at Sky 862. The TV screen makes regularly changing invitations, for example during 18 May 2001:


Want to pick a song or put out a shout? Text Jo at 07970 646 566, call 0845 000 2673 (local rate), e-mail jor@corfreshhits.com, or use CoreControl at www.corefreshhits.com

And


It's your chance to talk sex and relationships with Graham Torrington - this week's topic is Sex & God. Call Graham on call 0845 000 2673 or e-mail hardcore@corfreshhits.com and get on Core


Core has an inviting web site, with 'Core Control' enabling listeners to make requests, and 'Pump it or dump it?' - 'You choose what goes on and what's thrown out - vote on our playlist wannabes this week.' Priestman points out in his valuable case studies of Internet only stations (chapter 6), that such web sites have the means to forge a community of listeners from scratch, with a guest book, features, chat rooms etc., - 'visual, magazine-like activities to be doing while you listen' (Priestman, 2001, XX). Programmes can originate from several cities, around a country or further, typically broadcasting to the international youth dance scene (ib).


I have to include some reference - though with space only for a passing reference - to Roy Shuker's masterly Understanding Popular Music (Shuker 2001) and to the equally influential Performing Rites. Evaluating Popular Music of Simon Frith (Frith 1996). Cultural interpretations are both embedded in the musical texts themselves and are the creation of those who interact with the music (Shuker, 2001, x). Music is a source of pleasure and empowerment, and music texts are cultural commodities 'produced largely by an international music industry ultimately concerned with maximising profits' (ib). An obvious factor in a wider cultural studies analysis of Music Choice is the growth of global multimedia conglomerates and the increasing globalisation of culture. Relevant here is the 'push and pull' I referred to in the Introduction (Introduction 21):


Central … is the debate over determinations, with audience consumer sovereignty in tension with the attempts of the music industries to shape music as a commodity form, to determine tastes and maximise profits.
(Shuker, 2001, xii)

It is a curiosity that the range of classical music broadcast by Music Choice, and so by Rupert Murdoch whose News Corp. owns 40 per cent of British Sky Broadcasting, is so much greater in quantity (some eight channels) and quality (in my opinion) than the B.B.C.'s Radio 3. For example, only one opera a week, at most, is broadcast by Radio 3 and hardly any excerpts, while Music Choice has a channel dedicated entirely to opera. There is a historical irony also. Murdoch-owned papers ran a campaign in the early 1990s against the elitism of Radio 3 under the headline 'Who is Zemlinsky?' (then chosen as the featured 'Composer of the Week'). Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942), the composer, was an early influence on his brother-in-law Schoenberg, but is not well known. Murdoch now broadcasts - through Music Choice - much more Zemlinsky than Radio 3 ever has. The composer's songs are almost daily on offer. A list of his song cycles are available on the Internet.

 

7.5
Music Choice is 'radio-like', if any listener chooses so to interpret it.

 

Interestingly, Roy Shuker questioned whether music video was television or radio, 'best thought of as a form of television, or as a distinctive spin off from popular music, an extension of the radio dial … more music than television' (Shuker, 2001, 186). As outlined in the uses of radio in 3.3, Music Choice falls within some radio descriptors. It is similar to conventional radio channels which broadcast wall-to-wall music (hybridity). It can be consumed in vast quantities, can be used to alter or maintain mood (Tacchi), and is part of the domestic soundscape, though within a certain, very fixed limit. The listener can dip in and out of it. It could be regarded as radio by some if they see it as broadcasting within the meaningful context of radio.


Music Choice is quite a mix of the 'disciplining' and the 'phantasmagoric' apparatuses (4.5 ss.). One can chat or party to the music channels, read, or concentrate solely. As Masterman says of uses of the media:


… they are frequently integrated not simply with other activities but with one another, via different levels of engagement - flicking through a magazine or the paper, while watching television.
(Masterman, 1989, 3)


But you cannot watch television at the same time because when you have selected Sky 481 on your Digibox - the entry into the Music Choice's fifty channels - the television has to stay solely on this. You can switch neither to a Sky television channel nor to a terrestrial channel.


Another obvious limitation is that Music Choice cannot be transported from room to room as you can with a portable radio or a portable CD player. Music Choice cannot be received in more than one room in the way that you can carry a TV into kitchen, say. This immobility is particularly 'disciplining' (4.5). The Sky Digibox cannot be shifted at all. It requires a permanent line-in to the phone socket, and is restricted to one TV set alone. (If listening to Music Choice via a multi-media lap-top on the Internet, you are presumably able to move around, but this is rather unusual.) So within these limits, admittedly, Music Choice is 'radio' for some.


But for another listener, myself included, Music Choice is un-radio-like. (Again, before the following, I want to emphasise the enormous range of musical entertainment Music Choice offers, and that I am an avid listener to it.) No idents are broadcast, and no news, weather, commercials. There is no human contact, none of that famous friendliness of radio. Music Choice's only 'home' is its gaunt web site. There is no interactivity on offer (phone-ins, listeners' requests, competitions, listeners' top choices). Contrast this with Core's reaching out to its listeners - 'Core Control', etc. But an obvious difference here is that while Core depends on both subscription and advertising, Music Choice's income stream in the UK is solely from subscription, so far as I can make out from the information on the web site. As Priestman summarises of radio:


… the job of the radio station is to talk to its listeners, communicate with them and nurture their long term interest and/or affection … [an] essential element of broadcast communication [is] one human person talking directly to another or sharing with them some form of entertainment.
(Priestman, 2001, XX)


The main and perhaps the only way Music Choice mimics conventional radio is in its quantity of output; and there are no other familiar examples of such audio channels with which to compare it.


The information about each track is shown visually on the screen, so this is a bi-media experience. Even though the everyday, continuous use of Music Choice is mainly as audio, there are continuous visual cues. One's eye is regularly drawn to the screen, simply to check out the details of a track. For high culture output - the five classical music channels (Opera, Symphonies, Baroque, Classical Adventures, Classical Favourites) - such information is indispensable. Listening to opera and symphonies with the 'innocent ear' is usually less effective.


Priestman adds:


… the evolution of a web based music channel sector is already beginning to radically re-shape the whole of the radio industry - online and offline. This is an area of radio that is going to demand a good deal of research in the near future to map the changes. If music channels and online jukeboxes work for enough listeners, why employ a disc jockey?
(Priestman, 2001, XX)


Priestman also classifies the automated 'music channel' as being 'on the margins of web radio, overlapping more fully with music sales than radio has done before', though, greatly important and benefiting from enormous investment and promotion (Priestman, 2001, chap 10), and he also asks:


… where does the growth of the music channel leave the rest of us - in web radio or indeed any other form of radio - who regard the medium, including music radio, as a form of human communication? The - as yet - unknown factor in this equation is how the majority of radio audiences will respond over time. How many will prefer music channels over presenter led music radio?
(ib)

 

7.6


These un-radio-like (Jo Tacchi's term) elements fail to fit where we think radio ought to be. And yet we cannot dismiss such examples as Music Choice. We cannot categorise such uses neatly as non-radio and just out there - 'audio'. Music Choice too closely resembles conventional music radio stations on the occasions they broadcast tracks wall-to-wall, though they include idents, commercials, 'friendliness', etc. (See below in 7.11-17, for my further conclusions on un-radio-like examples.)


And radio reception theory could ponder on audio consumers more. Today is the era of the 'super-listener' (Sergi 1999; Beck 2000b, 3.2), across cinema, home systems, MP3 players, Walkmans, the Internet, etc. Kassabian points out, for example, the great recent flowering in film music (Kassabian, 2001, 3).

 

7.7
A leap into simplicity


Radiobility and radioworld are there to help, as starter portmanteau terms, anyway. (I have already referred to evidence of terminology starvation (1.20, 2.4).)
Of course there have been challenges in the past to accepted concepts of radio, and not least in the peculiarly retroist turn that radio theorising took when stereo arrived. (This was referred to above in 5.11 (Beck, 1999, 2.4-6 on Wade 1981a and 1981b, and Raban 1981).) There have also been aesthetic experiments which have challenged existing definitions of, for example, radio drama. Maybe, as Owen recommends to theorists in his work on the Internet's challenge to television, 'another leap forward into simplicity is needed' (Owen, 1999, 36). So there is all the more reason to welcome Jo Tacchi's radiobility, and I hope, my radioworld.

 

7.8
Radioworld (via Danto's Artworld)


I introduced radioworld as a link with visual arts theory (one of the friends I referred to in 2.1). Arthur Danto coined the term 'Artworld' as a solution to a range of problems (Danto 1987). Two of these I bring forward as relevant here and to justify my tie-in with visual arts theory. I note also the use of 'filmworld' in film theory (Freeland and Wartenberg, 1995, 4).

 

While (a) the concept of 'what is art' collapsed in the 1960s, (b) Danto found ways through this of talking about art. He introduced three conditions (7.7), and this is part of a larger discussion about the 'essence' of art, representation and the image (Bryson, Holly and Moxey 1991; Cheetham, Holly and Moxey 1998; Sparshott, 1988, 77-8 on dance and the 'parasitic' in the avant-garde).

 

With the rise of conceptual art and when once Andy Warhol exhibited Brillo box packages in 1964, anything could be art. Danto famously summed this up, and recently in his After The End of Art:


… you can't say something's art or not art anymore. That's all finished.
(Danto, 1998, 2)


Warhol made it no longer possible to distinguish something that is art from something that is not. But that did not put an end to certain ways of talking about art, even though cultural commentators struggle with what artists produce and exhibit, and art has no 'essence', post-Warhol. Art continues to shift boundaries and to remain significant to humans. Something of the same could be said of radio.

 

7.9
Artworld - three conditions


So I make this helpful link with the Artworld term and how it deals with the identity conditions of avant-garde art. Obviously, I cannot push this analogy too far with radio and the 'post-radio'/digital-era-audio challenge (Introduction 1). Danto's Artworld is handy because it demands three conditions, covering:


(1) all instances of what are accepted historically to be artefacts (or artworks), located in the history of art or in an artist's 'oeuvre' (Picasso's 'Blue Period', Andy Warhol's output)
(2) artefacts that meet an art-category condition (Impressionists or the Brit-Art movement or the Brill Boxes as Pop Art)
(3) constituent theory or an artefact being 'enfranchised' (Danto) by theory. (See below for this difficult and crucial point.)


These three aspects can be exported to radio and I will apply them below. So overall, Artworld serves 'to understand how a single artefact can be non-art in one situation and art in another' (Belton 1999).

 

7.10


I find conditions (1) and (2) immediately of use. Artworld covers art that either meets an historical condition (an artefact is appropriately located in the history of art), and/or that meets a category condition (it belongs to an art-category or creates a new art-category) (Danto, 1987, 141-3). Artists have been so valorised for their contributions by scholars (Herbert, 215, 1998).


Radio, audio and the radio-like (Tacchi) present us with something similar. Remember those examples which range into the un-radio-like (Introduction 1; 7.2; 7.3). Some of these are: Internet live streaming audio, pre-recorded audio files for Internet download, the 'hear-view' examples, Internet-only stations, and Music Choice (7.3). Add also the Scruton question: Is listening to a CD music track and that on broadcast the same? (5.8).

 

7.11


Radioworld condition (1) the historical


So I define radioworld, firstly, under its own condition (1) as the set of all the particular instances of radio that are, have been and are to come. This is Danto's historical condition.


Radioworld covers all instances of radio and the radio-like that are accepted as radio. (As I have argued in 5.10 'Radio is what radio sounds to the normal listener', and 5.11 'If radio is used as radio, it is radio'.)


Radioworld is an open concept. It is a recognition of the past, present and future of radio broadcasting and Internet streaming, etc. It includes also the commodification of radio works, their articulation and varieties of listening-in, and reception. So when we hear something, be it broadcast radio as we now recognise it, or Internet streaming or something 'radio-like' ('hear-view' or some future technology unknown to us now and as yet unheard), can be accepted as covered by the portmanteau radioworld term providing it meets the equivalent of Danto's conditions.


Take Internet live-streaming audio. It becomes recognisable as a radio piece when it is labelled as live-streaming from a radio station, including an Internet-only 'radio' station. That is the historical fit it appears to have. Part of that recognition or 'fit' on the part of the listener comes from the 'hear-view' aspect of the Internet, with the home page of the radio station, self-identifying and labelling itself as a radio station. A computer user has to navigate through the station web page to click through to receive the output. The same holds for pre-recorded audio files from these radio web sites. (See further for this in 7.17.)

 

7.12
Radioworld condition (2) the category


Danto's no (2) is the art-category condition (Impressionists or the Brit-Art movement). So, the audio-radio piece belongs to a category. That has to be, mostly, a radio-like format (genre), such as music or news, or the package, or the interview, and so on. Convention, perception, and, especially, technique allow us to recognize the radio-like.
There is most often what could be described as a symmetry between the subject of the broadcast representation and the radio medium itself. Here are some examples. In the interview, we listen, as partly does the interviewer. We are the secondary audience of the broadcast pop concert, the Radio 3 concert, and the sports event, mediated by the commentator. Often, we are 'listening to the listening'.


Still keeping with the history condition and the category condition, and leaving the third ('enfranchised by theory') for the moment, what of the examples of the un-radio-like given above in 7.2-3? And what of the Scruton question: Is listening to a CD music track and that on broadcast the same? (5.8)? How can these un-radio-like pieces be dealt with?

 

7.13
The MP3 file problem (Napster)

The Scruton (Gordon) question answered somewhat


Janey Gordon, in the radio-studies debate, asked: 'What about an MP3 file left on a website for a year?' (1.17). A familiar example would be a Robbie Williams hit on the Napster or similar sites (Appendix), though I will come to more examples below (7.16). But here I am concerned with music MP3 files. This is a fascinating question and I think the answer to it is mostly no. This particular MP3 file is not radio or radio-like. And the grounds for that - other than a common-sense, intuitive response - come from more than one of my lines of approach (Introduction 16).


Firstly, I argue from the radioworld historical condition just outlined. The Napster site does not have an historical fit as a radio station, but has a fit as a particular sort of audio live collection or networking archive. (I need not go into technological details about the networking of users' computers. Also, I admit that Gordon's wording 'left on a website for a year' is imprecise in the instances here for my purposes.) This Robbie Williams hit fits into another set of conditions to do with Napster and similar sites. Issues include computer freeware, youth culture and the defiance of copyright, and the purchase and use of an MP3 player.

 

7.14


This latter leads into my other approach, through apparatus theory. The Robbie Williams MP3 file is downloaded as Napster audio and consumed as such, both on a multi-media computer and on an MP3 player. The apparatus criteria I defined are those of user (with apparatus), space, 'listening zone' and 'consummatory field' (4.3). A lengthier discussion of this Robbie Williams MP3 download would benefit from Bull, and his work on personal stereos (Bull 2000), and ideological issues derived from 'hard' radio studies.
I also use here my approach from clarification (5.2). Radio, and live-streaming Internet radio, contrast with downloading from the Napster site as different broadcasting vehicles (again 5.2). The technological nature of each of these media is a determinant, and here, for the MP3 file, the necessary use of an MP3 player.


So the Gordon question about the MP3 file on the Internet for a year is an up-to-date variant on the Scruton question. I have confined the Gordon question here to sharing MP3 music files; and I have taken four ways to argue that there is a distinction, and that the answer is no. I have used the radioworld historical and category conditions, along with apparatus theory and clarification.

 

7.15


So I think I have gone some - but not all of the way - to answering the Scruton question. To repeat, I have used the radioworld condition (1), the historical fit, condition (2), the category, apparatus theory and clarification.


Janey Gordon's question takes us on to other downloadable audio files on the Internet, beyond Napster, and usually speech. These are familiar from various radio station web sites, especially now the B.B.C. - the interview, a package, a short feature. They fulfil radioworld condition (1), the historical, as they belong to a radio stations web site. They also fulfil the category condition (2), as one of radio's formats or genres. The same holds for output from an Internet-only station.


Gordon's question was cunningly posed 'left on a website for a year'. These 'Gordon' MP3 examples do not fit with the liveness of day-to-day radio, but allow Internet listeners access to archives. So the fuller answer is that, depending on individual cases and of course the individual user (the 'active audience' thesis), they are both radio and audio at the same time, both radio-like and un-radio-like.

 

7.16
Live radio and pre-recorded


That brings me on to the liveness of radio - a necessary and sufficient condition of radio? It was the subject of some dispute on the radio-studies list. What of format stations that go into automation, and play pre-recorded music and pre-recorded presenters' links through the night? Richard Berry asked this. He noted that the human element was still there in scheduling and in the links (5 April 2001). Paul Carter added to this:


… the issue of whether they are 'true radio' or if they change in identity when they switch to automation (a switch which goes unnoticed by most listeners) is one worthy of much (and I hope heated!) discussion.
(5 April 2001)


Eryl Price-Davies summed up:


I firmly believe that radio is characterised by its inherent ephemerality. It is the quintessential ephemeral medium. It 'exists' only in the moment of hearing, and is then gone - and good riddance! That doesn't mean that I don't support the efforts of those who want to secure proper access to archives, and seek to preserve radio programmes. But, I think we need to be clear that the vast bulk of radio output is not designed to be listened to repeatedly.
(5 April 2001)


In discussing commercial music stations which use automation, there are industrial issues, not investigated here. But as Paul Carter points out, the move into automated broadcasting is not noticed by many listeners. This is not the place for a discussion of 'live' radio versus automation. However, as a strand in the discussion about radio-like and un-radio-like, automated output seems a neat fit. It suits both my historical (belongs to a radio station) and category (music format) conditions. It is very much the product of the digital age, and mimics, to a lesser degree, live radio, but adapted to a particular and popular through-the-night formula.

 

7.17


So overall, using conditions one and two of radioworld, I have looked at some of the worrying cases of radio/audio. I have found ways of saying that Internet-only radio stations are radio-like when the listener experiences them as having a 'fit' with radio stations. Perhaps that will change. Internet-only stations will grow further and link future communities of the sort Philip Agre discusses in his 'Designing Genres for New Media: Social, Economic, and Political Contexts' (Agre 1998). That will involve, he says generally of the Internet, designers who can design uniquely for the medium and can 'map out the broad systems of community relationships within which genres of communication live'. It depends on these designers having the needed resources and skills.


These Internet stations will each need - again using Agre's comments on new media - to gather the capital (financial and intellectual) to 'create a coherent brand image across a coherent segment of the population'. Agre also speaks more generally there of communications in all media, but it tellingly applies to Internet-only radio.
Priestman, in the most interesting and in-depth study so far has some valuable conclusions. I give some of these in my argument at this point. Of the distinctiveness of Internet radio, and continuing Agre's point, Priestman says:


… web radio does open a widely available public 'laboratory' in which creative exploration can take place, especially involving new techniques made possible by advances in digital production methods. In time such a laboratory should enrich radio listening as a whole. Today's radio experiment may become tomorrow's commonplace mainstream technique.
(Priestman, 2001, XX)


Here are more of Priestman's conclusions. Internet only stations so far tend to be complementary to, and not necessarily in competition with, analogue radio. Commercial Internet radio is not about to sweep away terrestrial radio. Away from affluent areas of the world, web stations can encourage communities to listen to radio stations regularly and to learn to use the Internet (ib).

 

By contrast, both MP3 music file downloading from sites such as Napster and audio channels such as Music Choice are un-radio-like, or so I argue. Other audio files for Internet download (the Janey Gordon question, 7.13), especially speech, can be radio-like or can be borderline or can be un-radio-like. They are too varied for a catch-all generalisation and the radioworld conditions (historical fit and category, 7.7) apply. Christopher Priestman asserts that these downloaded pieces:


… are still experienced as radio programmes with their own integrity once they are playing through your speaker(s): they cannot be mistaken for anything else. We can also look on this as a form of time-shifting … similar to the use of the home video. However, in the web radio world of scaleable, niche audiences, such downloads do open a new set of possibilities for those interested in experimenting with the forms of the crafted radio programme.
(Priestman, 2001, XX)

 

 

 

7.18
'hear-view'


That leaves me with bi-media 'hear-view' (3.5). This is listening to a radio studio and viewing it at the same time, either on satellite/cable, or on Internet web cams. There is an added issue about the poorish quality on Internet web cams, the series of static, updated images with intermittent movement, depending on the frequency of the feed (like the vintage 'What The Butler Saw' machines?).


In my own experience, 'hear-view' seems - and this is a paradox - to affirm even more effectively the status of the radio studio as radio studio. The evidence of it operating is there before us. If the camera or web cam simply lets us in on the studio, then the more so this impression. I mentioned the example of the Flemish RTL2, where the satellite camera is side-ways on to the self-op presenter and desk.


This may not be the experience of others who make up the audiences. Certainly when Chris Evans broadcast for a couple of months in 1998 (Virgin Radio and Sky TV, 3.5), there was a great deal of televisual showmanship. A significantly larger budget allowed live editing and Evans entertained his viewers-listeners with a good deal of clowning related to the cameras. But that was a special case. The same holds for Howard Stern's broadcasts relayed on Sky TV, again with extensive camera set-ups and nightly sexual titillation.

 

7.19
Domian


What of Domian on the German station WDR at night? He conducts a phone-in, wearing headphones, and directly to camera. He operates the desk as well and we only hear the voices of the callers-in, down their phone lines. Domian has a confidential, warm, late-night voice, and indeed, some of the callers talk intimately about their sexual experiences and some about their lives as sex workers. Domian works well as a radio presenter. He is relatively expressionless visually (though coming over as careful and concerned). Because he moves little, the presentation greatly reinforces this as radio. It becomes boring to stare at the screen all the time, in my experience, in effect staring back at Domian who is staring intently at the camera. One glances intermittently. Domian can be compelling listening, offering late-night sensational confessions.


I accept these are fuzzy definitions at times and that an audio piece can belong to more than one classification. I can only repeat Michael Bull's warnings, in his Sounding Out the City. Personal Stereos and the Management of Everyday Life. I previously mentioned these in 3.5. Bull demanded more empirical work on the use of apparatuses, as '[i]nvariably, analysis is impressionistic and anecdotal', prone to stereotypical descriptions of uses and users (Bull, 2000, 12). I plead guilty to these omissions, and also plead that it is better to grapple with these problems for the overall purposes of this monograph than not to grapple at all. I have e-mailed the radio-studies list to discover what radio academics had access to digital radio and technology beyond the multi-media computer. I received six responses, and only one had purchased a Wavefinder (perched on the computer top), for example. The others had access to DAB radios and some were about to purchase them for students' research.

 

7.20
Artworld and radioworld - third condition - 'enfranchised' by theory

 

Aspect (3) of Danto's term, Artworld, is the 'enfranchised' by theory. It is Danto's most famous and demanding element, and here is my simple, potted account and application of this to radioworld. It is a short excursus into visual arts theory, merited, I hope, as I build the definition of my radioworld term and make it put down theoretical roots. It will help to express how something is and is not radio or radio-like, and the role of radio-philosophy in this.


Danto's important insight is that nothing is art unless an art theory applies to it. To understand the artefact/ artwork is to understand it in terms of one or other art theory. It helps, of course, that writing on art has a long philosophical history, especially from Hegel, whose view was that art has the power of thought (Danto, 1998, 212; Cheetham, 1998, 25ss.).


Warhol, with his 'deadpan artifice' (Herbert, 1998, 215), exhibited the Brillo packages. He employed the theory that manufactured objects can become works of art when used to make an artist's statement (Bryson, 1998, 10). This presumes that conditions one and two of Artworld - the historical and the category - are also satisfied. Danto's point is that the Brillo packages, the artefact, are enfranchised by this theory. Having the manufactured objects theory applied to it, and being used for the artist's statement, makes it art (Danto, 1998, 211-2).

 

 

7.21


The 'enfranchised by theory' condition also gives Danto reasons for saying that such and such a work is not really art. E.g., the new sorts of conceptual art from the 1960s cannot be defined in terms of perception.


Herwitz, in Making Theory/Constructing Art, took this further. It is only in the context of a philosophical theory that the work of art can now have meaning, integrity and purpose. The avant-garde assumes that the artwork is a theoretically-defined object (Herwitz, 1993, 2-3). (Herwitz's most valuable work was to urge that we be sceptical about this supposedly transparent connection between the art object and theory. Artists and critics also should be required to defend the theories they apply. We are warned!)
Artworld also stands for the institutional framework in which art is commodified and discussed (Danto 1987), 'for the knowledge of theory and art history necessary' and recognising that ' theory is not a parasite of art but is constitutive of it' (Belton, 1999). Because of this third theory element, Artworld as a term has proved particularly welcome and popular. The range of artefacts, in conceptual art for example, seems ever growing.

 

7.22


Theory in art now needs no apology, though no one representative set of approaches or methodologies is in the ascendant (Cheetham, 1998, 4). The Warhol Brillo boxes marked that challenge or moment of undecidability in 1964 (aporia, 2.5). Radio now faces that too.


To sum up. Danto dealt with that moment of acceptance. A Brillo Box by Warhol is a work of art, whereas an ordinary Brillo box is not (Danto, 1998, 212). The differences are not of the kind that meet the eye and the 'phenomenology of perception cannot be appealed to to effect the differences which are philosophical'. The problem of the philosophy of art is to explain just how this is possible (ib.)


Danto's 'enfranchised' by theory is a synthetic approach. It also draws together the first and second conditions (historical and categorical). So what of radio and the digital challenge?


I chose Music Choice as a significant and contested area. I argued Music Choice is un-radio-like (7.3); and I suggest that it is, as a contrast to B.B.C. music radio and Core Radio - and for the purposes of my argument here - a little akin to Warhol's Brillo Boxes. We hear music tracks broadcast ('Favourites', 'Symphonies', 'Latin', etc.). Whereas switch over to other channels on the Sky Digibox, and we hear radio music stations such as Core, which meet all the my conditions as radio. Let me take the classifying of Music Choice a step further.

 

 

7.23


I argue that once one accepts the possibility that Music Choice is mostly or (in my experience) totally not-radio, while the B.B.C. music stations and Core are obviously radio, agreed to be radio, we endure a moment of undecidability (aporia). There are properties ontologically available to both the un-radio-like and the radio-like, since we sense both, we hear both and both are sensuous. But Music Choice has properties unavailable to its radio counterparts (continuous tracks, no human interventions, track titles on the television screen, etc.), and it lacks some others (idents, competitions, personal dedications, the marketing of itself institutionally as radio, etc.).


What is this new emerging category of audio (and edging into 'hear-view') of which Music Choice is a member? It has no name as yet. It is a challenge to radioworld's two conditions (historical and category, 7.9-10). When Danto chose his famous moment of departure in the philosophy of art, he selected two juxtaposed counterparts, which have different philosophical identities. The pair were Warhol's Brillo Box as against the ordinary Brillo box (Danto, 1998, 211-2).


I have chosen Music Choice as against B.B.C. music radio and the digital-only Core as the two significant juxtaposed counterparts. There are elements which are distinctive enough separating them to challenge prevailing methodologies within radio studies, or so I suggest.

 

7.24


We have various alternative approaches. We can accept the differences as categorical differences (wall-to-wall music versus the DJ, etc.) and historical (Music Choice exists publicly only as a web site versus the institutions of the B.B.C. and commercial music stations, as Core). But that is not enough. After all, some or most of what Jo Tacchi says about how we use radio applies to Music Choice too. We listen to music radio (and audio) sensuously among various ways (Tacchi's maintaining or altering mood, Tacchi, 2000, 291). Also, we can appeal to the phenomenology of perception. But again, I only progress a certain way using apparatus theory (my criteria of user and apparatus, space, 'listening zone' and 'consummatory field' (4.3)).


The differences between the radio-like (B.B.C. and Core) and the un-radio-like (Music Choice) are also philosophical, and so the arena of radio-philosophy. That is the crucial point I wish to import from Danto's work. That is where the radioworld concept comes in, on the foundation of Danto's Artworld.


The problem of the philosophy of radio is (a) to explain how such juxtaposed counterparts, as Music Choice and music radio, are possible, and (b) how to theorise about them in a synthetic way, that is, drawing the other approaches together. The larger aim is (c), to construct what Allen and Smith in their Film and Philosophy summarise as 'a systematic and globally constructed theory'. However they also admit that this is an 'absurdly ambitious conception' (Allen and Smith, 1997, 43). More of that below.

 

7.25


I return again to Danto. He considered two sets of criteria for identifying objects as artworks. These resided in the empirical appearances of the object. So the Brillo Boxes conform to the historical condition (Warhol's 'oeuvre') and the art-category condition (Sixties Pop Art). Empirical appearances also involve reception theory and especially for Danto's work, the phenomenology of perception (Danto, 1991, 203-5). But above all, the two conditions depend on the convention-governed activity of description linked also to a psychology of perception. For Danto, as for new work in film reception theory, this involves an exploration of the cognitive and perceptual processes of viewers/spectators (Carroll in Bordwell and Carroll, 1996, 48)

 

7.26
Radioworld - further


I return now to Jo Tacchi's useful coinage 'radiobility' and she sketches a spectrum for its application (as quoted above):


By radiobility I mean the technical ability to be radio, or to be radio-like or 'radiogenic'.
(Tacchi, 2000, 292)


This gives a neat spectrum. So my radioworld includes a radio work which is 'classically' radiogenic (radio-wireless format, displaying some formalist features and aesthetically pleasing) and also what is derived from 'wired' technology, to be both seen and heard, 'inter-technological', bi-media, and in the case of the future digital sets with screens, interactive. Makers of commercials talk of the universe of toothpaste (all the instances of toothpaste commercials and its commodification, its denotations and connotations, its conceptualizing), or of the universe of the Ford car. Radioworld is the universe of all instances of radio and is an open concept. I will take this up further in 8.20.

 

7.27

In this Section, I have dealt with the final of my five approaches to 'What is radio?'. I introduced radioworld, benefiting from Danto's Artworld and his three conditions. In the earlier part, I defined the un-radio-like through a case study of Music Choice and as a comparison with Core Radio.

 

To Section 8

To INDEX

To TOP

 

 Introduction - Digital - coming soon to a radio near you

 Section 1 - Radio - How Do We Know We Hear It If We Can't Define It?

 Section 2 - Theoretical Challenges

 Section 3 - Sound and listening
 Section 4 - Apparatus theory

 Section 5 - Approaches through clarification and reception theory

 Section 6 - Specificities of radio

 

 Section 8 - Doing business as usual? The problems of radio 'essence'

 Coda

 References

 Glossary

 Appendix

 Alan Beck's SITES

 Alan Beck's PUBLICATIONS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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