The Listener as Producer - Radio and its public in the age of social networks

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paper presented at the Radio Transnational Forum, Berdsforshire University, 9-12 July 2013.

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The Listener as Producer - Radio and its public in the age of social networks

  1. 1. Radio and its Public in the Age of Social Media Radio Transnational Forum @Radio2013UoB University of Berdsfordshire, 9-12 July 2013 Tiziano Bonini, IULM University of Milan giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  2. 2. “A history of long-distance relationship” - a four stages’ history - 1) an invisible medium for an invisible public (1920-1945) 2) an invisible medium for an audible public (1945-1994) 3) an (in)visible medium for an audible/readable public (1994-2004) 4) a visible medium for a networked public (2004-??) Framing the history of radio as a history of distance between radio and its public giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  3. 3. REMIXING WALTER BENJAMIN: RADIO AS A SOCIAL MEDIUM In its Reflections on Radio (1930) Benjamin expresses the most fruitful ideas for our contemporary radio age: “The crucial failing of [radio] has been to perpetuate the fundamental separation between practitioners and the public, a separation that is at odds with its technological basis. […] The public has to be turned into the witnesses of interviews and conversations in which now this person and now that one has the opportunity to make himself heard”. The radio that Benjamin is advocating is a medium that reduces the distance between transmitter and receiver, allowing both the author/presenter and the listener to play the role of producers, who contribute to creating the radio narrative.The importance that Benjamin attributes to active reception is in stark contrast with the hypnotic effect of Nazi aesthetics (Baudouin 2009:23) and with the allure of a radio show seen as a product to be consumed. Benjamin juxtaposes the aestheticisation of politics and art embodied by Nazism with the politicisation of art, something which requires, in his view, a more active and participant role for the listener: politicization of the listener. Benjamin further developed this theme in The Author as Producer (1934), in which he pointed out the need for a new intellectual/producer figure (writer, photographer, radio drama author, film director) and the end of the distance between writer and reader due to the advent of new mechanical and electrical reproduction technologies. giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  4. 4. 1) an invisible medium for an invisible public (1920- 1945) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  5. 5. 1) an invisible medium for an invisible public (1920-1945) Radio + paper letters author/speaker/producer listener/audience not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model unique author not visible not audible not linked to the community of listeners private figure passive (it cannot take part in the conversation) insensitive (it cannot manifest its emotions towards the speaker) its listening habits are measurable giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  6. 6. 2) an invisible medium for an audible public (1945-1994) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  7. 7. 2) an invisible medium for an audible public (1945-1994) Radio + telephone not visible audible private figure can take part in the conversation not able to freely manifest its emotions or opinions (phone calls are filtered) its listening habits are measurable not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model + one-to-one (phone conversation) unique author author/speaker/producer listener/audience giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  8. 8. 3) an (in)visible medium for an audible/readable public (1994-2004) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  9. 9. 3) an (in)visible medium for an audible/readable public (1994-2004) Radio + telephone + sms +email author/speaker/producer listener/audience not visible audible private figure can take part in the conversation can manifest its emotions or opinions (sms and email) its listening habits are measurable mobile and more data noisy audiences not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model + one-to-one (phone conversation/email) unique author giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  10. 10. 4) a visible medium for a networked public (2004-??) listeners’ posts listener’s voice giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  11. 11. 4) a visible medium for a networked public (2004-??) social studio: software for displaying phone/sms/Twitter/Facebook/ messages giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  12. 12. networked publics...: publics that “are restructured by networked technologies” (Boyd 2011:41). These kinds of publics all share 4 fundamental affordances that make them different from all the previous mediated publics: Persistencemeans that in SNS the public’s expressions are automatically recorded and archived. This means that feedbacks (opinions, feelings and comments) of every listener are public and since they can remain on line for a long time they can also have a role in shaping the reputation of the radio station. Replicabilitymeans that the content produced in networked publics is easily replicable. Scalabilityin networked publics refers to the possibility of tremendous - albeit not guaranteed - visibility. This means that, for example, unique listeners commenting and talking about a radio show on its social network profile can reach a wide audience. Searchability means that content produced by networked publics can be easily accessed. giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  13. 13. Radio + telephone + sms +email + blog + SNS author/speaker/producer listener/audience visible audible linked/networked to the community of listeners public figure can take part in the conversation can manifest its emotions or opinions (sms, email,) its opinions, comments and feelings about the programme go public produces contents/coop production its feelings and opinions are measurable (through netnography) visible one-to-many (radio/blog post/FB note or post) + one-to-one (phone/email/chat) + many-to-many (FB Home/ # Twitter) + many-to-one (FB comments and posts from the listeners) coop production 4) a visible medium for a networked public (2004-??) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  14. 14. Radio + telephone + sms +email + blog + SNS Radio + telephone + sms +email Radio + telephone Radio + paper letters author/speaker/producer listener/audience not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model unique author not visible not audible not linked to the community of listeners private figure passive (it cannot take part in the conversation) insensitive (it cannot manifest its emotions towards the speaker) its listening habits are measurable not visible audible private figure can take part in the conversation not able to freely manifest its emotions or opinions (phone calls are filtered) its listening habits are measurable not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model + one-to-one (phone conversation) unique author not visible audible private figure can take part in the conversation can manifest its emotions or opinions (sms and email) its listening habits are measurable visible audible linked/networked to the community of listeners public figure can take part in the conversation can manifest its emotions or opinions (sms, email,) its opinions, comments and feelings about the programme go public mobile and more data noisy audiences produces contents/coop production its feelings and opinions are measurable (through netnography) visible one-to-many (radio/blog post/FB note or post) + one-to-one (phone/email/chat) + many-to-many (FB Home/ # Twitter) + many-to-one (FB comments and posts from the listeners) coop production not visible one-to-many (invisible) comm. model + one-to-one (phone conversation/email) unique author giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  15. 15. Radio + telephone + sms +email + web radio/tv + blog + Social NS Radio + telephone + sms +email Radio + telephone Radio (+ paper letters) author/producer author/producer author/producer author/producer listener listener/producer listener/producer listener/producer TIME DISTANCE giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  16. 16. a) Change in the publicness of publics (more visible, more audible) The presence of the public within radio programmes goes from the telephone – which implies only the presence of a voice, invisible and disembodied, to social media – in which the public has a face, a name, a personal space for discussion (the Wall), a bio-cultural profile (the Info section), a collective intelligence (the Home Page), a General Sentiment (Arvidsson 2012). It is the end of the public as a mass that is blind (it cannot see the source of the sound), invisible (it cannot be seen by the transmitter), passive (it cannot take part in the conversation) and insensitive (it cannot manifest its emotions towards the speaker).The implant of SNS on the body of the radio medium renders the immaterial capital made up by the listeners public and tangible.While until recently the public was invisible to radio and was confined to its private sphere except in the case of phone calls during a programme, today listeners linked to the online profile of a radio programme are no longer invisible or private (as underlined by Gazi, Starkey, Jedrzejewski, 2011), and the same goes for their opinions and emotions.And if emotions and opinions are no longer invisible or private, they are measurable. For the first time in Radio history, listeners are not only numbers: their feelings, opinions and reputation are trackable and measurable through netnographic methods (Kozinets 2010). giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  17. 17. b) Change in the speaker-to-listener relation The new communication model that derives from the short-circuit between radio and social media is a hybrid model, partly still broadcast, partly already networked. Radio is still a one-to-many means of communication. However, telephone already made it partly a one-to-one medium (phone interview) and many-to-one (open mic, phone talk radio); to this we have to add SNS, which are at once a one-to-one (chat), one-to-many (tweets, FB notes or posts), many-to-many (FB Home,Twitter hashtags), many-to-one (FB comments) kind of media.The mix between radio and SNS considerably modifies both the hierarchical/vertical relation between the speaker/presenter and the public, and the horizontal relation between each listener. Both types of relation are approaching a less hierarchical dynamic typical of peer-to-peer culture.When a programme’s presenter and one of his or her listeners become friends on FB they establish a bi-directional relation: both can navigate on each other’s profile, both can watch each other’s online performance and at the same time be an actor in it.They can both enact two types of performance, public and private: they can comment posts on each other’s walls or reply to each other's tweets, send each other private messages or communicate by chat in real time. For the first time in the history of radio the speaker and the listener can easily communicate privately, far from the ears of other listeners,“off-air”.This gives rise to a “backstage” behaviour between presenter and listener that was previously unimaginable. giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  18. 18. c) Change in the listener-to-listener relation At the same time, the relation between listeners is similarly changing. Fans of a radio programme can establish links online, exchange public comments on the programme’s wall, express more or less appreciation for specific contents, exchange contents on their personal walls, write each other private messages or chat with each other.The radio’s public has never been so publicised.While before SNS the concept of radio public was a purely abstract entity, which could be understood sociologically and analysed statistically, today this public is no longer only an imagined one (Anderson 1993). People who listen frequently to a radio programme and are its fans on FB have the opportunity, for the first time, to see and recognise each other, to communicate, to create new links while bypassing the centre, in other words the radio programme itself.“The gatekeeping function of mass media is challenged as individuals use digital media to spread messages much farther and more widely than was ever historically possible” (Gurak 2001).While a radio public is an invisible group of people who are not linked together, the SNS audience of a radio programme is instead a visible group of people/nodes in a network, connected by links of variable intensity which in some cases can produce strong links that transcend the broadcaster. giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  19. 19. d) Change in the value of publics (SNS public: social capital = mass media public: economic capital) This visible group of people/nodes/links is the most important new feature produced by the hybridisation between radio and SNS.A radio programme’s network of friends/fans on SNS represents its specific social capital (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992).While the wider (and invisible) radio public, as charted by audience rating companies, still constitutes the programme’s economic capital, the more restricted public of social media should in my view be considered the real social capital of a programme, a tangible and visible capital, the meaning of which is well explained by Bourdieu and Wacquant, when they define social capital as “the sum of the resources, actual or virtual, that accrue to an individual or a group by virtue of possessing a durable network of more or less institutionalized relationships of mutual acquaintance and recognition” (Bourdieu and Wacquant 1992:14). For radio makers, a wide network of friends/fans is of great importance for their future. Even if the fans' network does not generate a tangible economic value like the radio audience already does, it nevertheless generates a great reputational capital.The message of the SNS public of a radio programme is the network itself, because this network is able to produce value.The value embedded in the networked public is not already convertible into economic capital, but the crisis of traditional mass advertising will lead to a future increase and refining of tools for the capitalization of the wealth of networked publics linked to radio programmes and stations. Besides, building networked and productive publics for radio could be of strategic importance for public service media. Public service media are loosing audiences and legitimacy since they are abdicating from serving listeners as citizens (Syvertsen 1999). Since making and participating mean “connecting” and creating social relations, as Gauntlett has brilliantly showed (2011), building and nurturing wealthy and productive networked publics for public service media could be an opportunity to legitimize their service as a real public one, a service that provides listeners with tools to let them participate and create new social relations among each other. giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  20. 20. fm audience FM Audience = economic capital of the radio programme SNS Audience = social capital of the radio programme SNS audience giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  21. 21. Radio Public in the age of social media is a network of small media giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  22. 22. If a public is a network then it needs different methods of investigation Broadcasting age Networking age attention economy reputation economy Methods of attention valuation: - Hooperatings - meters (Arbitron) - diaries (Rajar) - CATI (phone calls) (Mediametrie) Methods of reputation valuation: - Sentiment analysis (Kozinets 2010) - Social Network Analysis (Barabasi) - Digital etnography (Marres, 2011) - Digital reputation rating systems (Klout, Kred, etc.) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  23. 23. e) Change in the role of radio author (from producer to curator) Radio is increasingly becoming an aggregator, a filter for the abundance of information, useful especially for the non- prosumer listeners, who do not publish videos and have no time to explore friends’ profiles, which are a true goldmine to discover new trends.The radio author’s job thus resembles more and more that of a translator, of someone who connects two worlds – niches and mass culture – by delving into niches and re-emerging with a little treasure trove that can then be used productively.The producer’s function in the age of Facebook is thus to drag contents emerging from small islands, small communities and to translate and adapt them for the public of large continents, transforming them into mass culture. Radio authors and producers are becoming more and more similar to the figure of the curator, a cultural shift in the role of all kinds of author's labour already noted by Brian Eno in 1991, as Reynolds (2011) reminds us:“Curatorship is arguably the big new job of our times: it is the task of re-evaluating, filtering, digesting, and connecting together. In an age saturated with new artifacts and information, it is perhaps the curator, the connection maker, who is the new storyteller, the meta-author.” giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  24. 24. A critical view positive aspects of a reputational economy based on networked publics: - productive publics - quality (reputation) of a public more important than quantity - publics can influence public spheres and discourses - publics can produce counter narratives - politicization of media publics - peer-to-peer economy - more cooperation/participation between media producers and media publics negative aspects of a reputational economy based on networked publics: - reputation wars - reputation corruption - privacy issues - non-transparent policy of rating reputation - digital reputation data enclosure - digital panopticon - more exploitation of user generated contents “the material construction of a new public sphere in which reputational capital can become politicized in different ways, rather than the mere critiques of the function of reputation as a device of subsumption and exploitation is what constitutes the really interesting horizon for contemporary critical medium theory.” (Arvidsson & Bonini, forthcoming) giovedì 4 luglio 2013
  25. 25. ::: Academia ::: http://iulm.academia.edu/TizianoBonini ::: Audio/Radio ::: www.radiofactory.org http://audioboo.fm/tizianobonini tiziano.bonini@iulm.it you find me here giovedì 4 luglio 2013

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