"Radio Activity" - Theoretical perspectives on the Interplay of Radio, Participatory Practices and Technology
Theoretical perspectives on the Interplay of
Radio, Participatory Practices and Technology
Nele Heise, M. A.
The Radio Conference: A Transnational Forum 2013
July 11, 2013 | Bedfordshire (UK)
The “active audience” and “audience activity”
(Cognitive) processes of selection and interpretation of media content (e.g.
uses & gratifications, cultural studies tradition) meaning making and
appropriation as co-construction; satisfaction of certain need
Participatory Turn: rise of a participatory culture (Jenkins), connected with
emergence of “personal media” (Lüders 2008), practices of “produsage” /
“prosumption” (Bruns 2010) and implementation of interactive features and
new feedback channels (e.g. social media)
Shifting attention to means of production and the role of technological
Heise | Radio Activity 2
Active audiences and the media
“Anyone who looks to things more closely, cannot possibly
overlook the obvious matter, namely technology”.
(Walter Benjamin, 1932; cited in Werber 2003)
Heise | Radio Activity 3
Participation and (Media) Technology
It’s the technology stupid!
(Arrangements of) media technologies (Carpentier 2011b): large-scale, vertically
structured mainstream media arrangements vs. small-scale, horizontally structured
alternative or community media arrangements (organizational); cultural (“production
culture” related with certain technologies)
AIP model (Carpentier 2011a): being in operational reach of technologies as a
precondition to produce, distribute and receive content (Access), to create socio-
communicative relationships to (co-)produce, select and interpret content (Interaction),
as well as to take part in co-deciding processes of media production (Participation)
Agency: Participation requires certain technical skills and competences; motivation and
interests; attitudes towards technology (e.g. Chung 2007; Correa 2010)
Affordances (Zillien 2008) and „moulding forces of media“ (Hepp 2012): material
structure has a certain structuring effect since it open or restricts vertain options of
Participation and (Media) Technology
Heise | Radio Activity 4
Heise | Radio Activity 5
“the radio has only one side where it should have two. It is an apparatus
of distribution (…) –– here is a suggestion for changing the function of the
radio: transform it from an apparatus of distribution into an apparatus of
communication. (…) This means making the listener not only listen but
also speak; not to isolate him but to place him in relation to others.”
(Brecht 1932; cited in Werber 2003
“Recent discussions about media and technologies as tools that can
challenge passivity and consumption and allow for participatory culture
are not new and were going on with local educational radio in the 1930s”
(Gregory 2013, p. 1)
Radio as „participatory medium“
• Cognitive aspects: high mental involvement (Forsslund 2012), community-
building aspects, „media memories“ (Kaun/Stiernstedt 2012)
• various forms of listener involvement (e.g. call-in’s, talk back; Orians 1991) as
well as participation models and notions of alternativity: e.g. educational
radio, community radio and free radio stations (Vogel 1991, Kleinsteuber
• Historical dimension: processes of making the active radio audience through
certain principals: mode of address, model listener, audience research, and
the audience as producers/product (Forsman 2013); various contributions of
specialized users: amateurs, fans, hackers (Santos 2012), e.g. definition of
“amateurism” in the “early radio” era (Driscoll 2013)
Radio, Activity and Participatory Practices
Heise | Radio Activity 6
Today: Diversification of “radio” and broadcasting due to
• Emergence of supplementary services in the modes of “audio” reception (mobile
usage, usage on demand) and emergence of new media repertoires
(Hasebrink/Domeyer 2012); greater control over reception (Albarran et al. 2013)
• emergence of new broadcasting formats (e.g. Social Radio), additional distribution
and feedback channels (e.g. mobile apps, social network sites)
• emergence of “personal media” (Lüders 2008), e.g. podcasts as radio-like media; new
universal distribution platforms (e.g. Soundcloud, Mixcloud)
Radio and “radio like” formats
Heise | Radio Activity 7
“Once it was your radio station, broadcasting on your frequency.
Now that brilliant invention, podcasting, gives radio to us. And
we have found more uses for it than you did.”
Heise | Radio Activity 8
The case of podcasting
The case of podcasting
Disruptive technology developed in an open source environment; intersection of
forms of amateur/hobby, Pro-Am and professional media communication and a
type of audio processing/presentation
Different forms refer to uses in the sense of „personal media“ (niche formats,
special interest) and/or mass media (providing content as podcast)
Self-definitions: notions of „doing radio“ (Markham 2011), „Radio Universal“
(Pritlove 2013) “radio-like” communication
Open format which enables different participatory practices and interactional roles
(live-streaming and interaction with the chat room) relevance of community
building, orientation and collaboration (self-referenciality); cooperation with users
(amateurs, hackers, fans)
Heise | Radio Activity 9
Promoting Standards and Infrastructure
Podlove Initiative: Podlove Podcast Publisher / Web Player
collaboration with audio services and software providers, developers,
designers, fans, hackers, consumers and podcasters to enhance
production/consumption (via open source programming, crowdfunding)
Heise | Radio Activity 10Picture: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7376/8719225214_54196d8113.jpg
Player as used by
Engaged listeners and hobby culture
group of „engaged listeners“, collaborative transcription of podcasts, meta-data
(additional information, links, chapter marks); developers of a specialized
technological infrastructure intersection of hobby and hacker users
Heise | Radio Activity 11
Aggregation Curation Collaboration
Hörsuppe: „forecast“ and program guide,
aggregator, curation, personalized live
feed, archive, news, information portal
Heise | Radio Activity 12
Podcastideen: crowdsourced Tumblr
with ideas for new formats, exchange
(opinions, ideas), search for supporters
Crowd-sourced map of
German podcasts and
modified Wii controller
(both by R. Stockmann)
Identification and disruption
Heise | Radio Activity 13
Contexts: natural order, structural agents of social nature, cultural/situational contexts
Norms / values
Norms / values
Previous research suggests
• a consideration of technological aspects (e.g. affordances) and
their influence on “participatory practices”
• an examination of different arrangements of media technologies
and their relation to media participation (e.g. openness)
• a differentiated conceptualization of “radio” and other audio
media from the producer and user perspective (mass media vs.
“personal media”, broadcasting vs. narrowcasting, mass markets
vs. niche communication) as well as their intersection from a
Heise | Radio Activity 15
Different types of “radio” or “audio communication” facilitate
different participatory practices which require access to
different (arrangements of) technologies and technical agency
will be empirically examined within my PhD project with
regard to three case studies: “traditional” radio station, podcasts
and amateur radio
… but this will be my next presentation
Heise | Radio Activity 16
Nele Heise, M. A.
Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research, Hamburg
Thanks* for your attention!
* My Radio 2013 participation is kindly funded by the
Graduate School for Media & Communication Hamburg
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