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<nettime> zkp4: Waves in the Web
Josephine Bosma on Wed, 7 May 1997 16:54:27 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> zkp4: Waves in the Web




        Net.radio:  ~~~~~ Waves in the Web ~~~~~~



Radio on the internet did not start with the immersion of RealAudio.
It was there long before. To make a good judgement of what radio is
in the age of digital media, the traditional concept of radio has to
be overthrown completely.

Where in the beginning of this century the communicative
possibilities of radio were diminished in favor of
control over the airwaves for reasons of censorship and
security, today the system of cables, airwaves and satelites
that shape the internet needs first of all no strong security
measures for the sake of basic services like ambulance and
airplane traffic control, and secondly, censorship seems a lot
less easy task to perform. Radio no longer needs to be a single
stream of sound that is transmitted from a central point to its
listeners. Trying to make this type of radio in the net in fact
seems contradictive to the qualities the net adds to communication
technologies. Considering the way a lot of people use media at
present, zapping through channels and constructing a private
program using different media combined often, seeking alternatives
for centralized broadcasting seems apropriate. It will not replace
broadcasting as it is, but create possibilities and more freedom
within the making of radio and also within the making of other
massmedia. Even the type of net.radio that serves as an extension
of the "mother station's" transmitters reach is no longer the single
soundstream classic radio produces. This too needs a different
approach then cable and ether radio as its impact is not the same as
of 'normal' transmissions.

To understand the possibilities or maybe even the future of radio on
the internet one has to look at experiments with communication tools
done in the arts, specifically music and performance art. The work
done by Gerfried Stocker and Roberto Paci Dalo serve as good examples
of this.
Gerfried Stocker, now director of Ars Electronica, is a composer and
soundsartist and has created many works in which realtime sound was
made at different locations, which were connected firstly through
telephonelines and later also the internet. Roberto Paci Dalo is a
theater man by origin, but he has lost his heart to radio long ago.
He is one of the main people behind radio Lada, together with
ORF-Kunstradio the first internet art radiostation in Europe. He has
worked on many projects connecting performance places with several
radio stations at the same time, through telephone and internet
connections. One specifically beautiful project, Publiphono, also
involved the speaker system along the italian coast, that exposed
unexpecting wanderers along the beach to (for them I imagine)
mysterious sounds from an international radio performance.
What is most important to learn from their experiments, besides the
enormous variety of medialinks possible, is the fact that what is
heard in one place is not necesarely the same as what is heard in
another. Each end of the 'line' can add its own preferences to the
project. What is heard from each computer or in every setting involved,
be it a radiostation that broadcasts the event live, creating its own
version of the signal or a theater/performance space where the project
is processed further and a new signal might be send back, depends on
the technical and creative choices made at that side of project.
As Gerfried Stocker puts it: "When you work with digital sound, when
you start to sample and you have all those soundpieces that can
recombine in several circumstances then you very fast get this idea of
a pluralistic space of possibilities. So I think it is no longer
adequate to think that you have to create a definite masterpiece.
As soon as we entered digital technology, we lost this position that
we are in control of the result."
Radio here is used as both a "distributed accoustic instrument" in
an open improvisation and its more traditional set up combined. The
broadcast is a polymorphous entity inside a network, and the experience
of the audience or participators depends on where they are, what
equipment they use and what situation they are in. So there is not
one single product.

With the coming of RealAudio a lot of radiostations have embraced the
possibility to broadcast worldwide. Although this in itself is a
revolution for local broadcasters, the coming of RealAudio has put
the development of a multifacetted new style of radio, that uses the
qualities of the internet appropriately, in the shadow of the
overwhelming presence of extended mass media old style on the net.
RealAudio software is a typical design from linear thinking from old
media into new. The player offers the listener little opportunity to
play with the signal it recieves. The server is RealAudio's strongest
feature, as its capability to split one 'stream' into many, is
unparalelled still.
There are experiments in many a studio however, to design a type of
software that is more divers in its features, and that will allow
users to toy with a signal more. Audio and computer engineers are
challenged by the many unsolved questions that linger in the gap
between RealAudio and the experiences produced at performances in
the arts. Martin Schitter, a technician and artist that has worked
with both Roberto Paci Dalo and Gerfried Stocker, has started a
mailinglist that focusses on audio and internet for this very reason.
He will be exploring the technical details mostly, but the list
contains artists and radiopeople as well. About RealAudio's main
ability, to split a signal into many streams, he states (in email):
"I think this feature is not so exiting. Its just the way we see it,
because its another criterion for the price of this software //
the paradoxon of countable connections in a broadcast utility."
New types of software are needed, and one single standard should be
avoided.
I myself would allready be very happy with something like a RealAudio
player, that gives the user control over a sort of mixing panel, that
allows mixing, cutting and switching of realtime soundstreams and
archived audio-samples in a reasonably fast way for instance.
Soundquality is not the most important aspect for me.

Besides from all this, a very sensitive question arrises with radio
on the net, which is: What to do with those screens? I have talked to
many media-artists, radio- and televisionpeople about this, trying to
get a grip on what future radio would 'look' like. The most specific
quality of radio or audio in general is of course its 'omnipresence',
compared to tv or video, which is locked in a box in the corner. Now
with radio on the net, it has a shiny prison as well.
Felipe Rodriguez, director of the dutch internetprovider xs4all, sees
a great future for net.radio, but he thinks of listeners in places with
good net.connections mostly, like offices.
Allready there are many people listening to net.radio in this way,
through a leased line or isdn connection. Connected to the speakersystem
in the rooms, radio is its old self again, no trouble with screens here.
Robert Adrian, mediaartist from Vienna, thinks the screen will add new
qualities to radio, like every new extension does. What these qualities
are still needs to be seen, as the medium is so new. Gerfried Stocker
made the suggestion to just leave the screen black, or not use it at all.
Roberto Paci Dalo said: "If you deal with the internet, if you deal with
a computer with sound, you can't escape from a reflection about the
image as well. Thats why it is a radio that contains the tv format. And
it shows that radio can be bigger then tv, or/and more flexible. If you
work with CUseeme in a radioproject that is online, thats interesting.
People tend to think: The biggest thing is image and then you get the
sound in the image and the text. In this case firstly there is the sound
and inside the sound you get all the other things. That is one of the
aspects of the filosofy of radio Lada". Straight from the heart of a
radio art lover, his words reflect the experience of the difference in
sensual perception of sound and image. Just the simple reversion of a
thought can cause an altered output. Thinking from the principles of
spacial, elusive sound with its specific qualities the addition of image
produces something else then what happens with sound on television
usually. The dominance of the eye in media and the way this influenced
our sensual perception of the world, which might stem from the fact that
sound recording devices were invented many centuries after the making of
the cave paintings in Lascaux and the invention of print in Gutenberg,
would almost make us neglect the subtleties inside our 'network' of
senses. Television has the audible output of a half deaf engineer,
whereas cinema for instance is exceptional in its good soundquality,
due to the possibilities for creating sound environments in movie
palaces, no doubt.

The screen of the computer can be used for more then just the usual
tv/radioguide pages.
Two very different examples of this screen usage are from a computer
music festival in Germany and a new media radioshow on the Berlin air,
called Radio Convex tv. "The Darksite" as the website of the musicfestival
is called , offers a black screen with a burning candle in the middle.
A few words point out some basic information. Once entering the site,
the black screen shows several glowing stars, each opening a different
soundfile on clicking. The info writes how the dark screen was chosen
to give all the attention to the sound, without visual distraction.
The people from Convex TV have a radioshow on the student universityradio
that has been given some of good old 'Voice of America's' airtime. The
program is highly experimental, and uses the internet during its
broadcasts once a month for producing live texts and images. There is no
sound here yet, on the internet that is. Listeners of the program through
the ether, can take a seat in front of their computer and join in the
live text event on their screens. People outside of the transmitter radius
can do this also, having a very different radio experience indeed.

What will happen when moving images are added though? Will radio become
television on the internet? The definitions of both need re-examining.
Both Roberto Paci Dalo as Gerfried Stocker spoke of the different
working conditions in television and radio. The structure and hierarchy
at a tv station are more rigid and less inclined to experimentation,
compared to the more relaxed and free atmosfere at a radiostation.
This has many reasons, and these differences are certainly not always
present. There are exeptions, but they are few. The traditional
difference between the sound and the visual artist, where the first
often works in groups and the second alone in his studio could have
left traces in the working styles of both audio and video artists.
Roberto Paci Dalo mentioned this, when he spoke of his love for radio.
He also spoke of the huge difference in budget that radio and
television have to work with. The high costs of the equipment needed
to produce a reasonable quality television show probably cause both a
more strict working regime and, together with the impact of television
as opium for the people, leads people working in the television
broadcast industry too often to overestimate their own importance.
This goes at the expense of experimentation and cooperation.
Now television and radio both are moving onto the internet, both will
change because of it. Radio will have a stronger presence and television
will loose some of its importance, in the sense of the old mediaprofiles.
The difference between the two will often be hardly distinguishable
though.
Robert Adrian: "Radio is becoming part of what I've called a megamedium.
A medium of recording and transmission which combines all these media. We
are talking about a communications technology in which the communications
element in the recordings changes the notions of space and the recording
also changes the notion of time. We are moving into an era in which we
have completely different notions of time and space developed around
basically the telephone and recording machinery, but fundamentally the
telephone."

Indeed soundarchives give radio a historical depth it never had before.
Apart from this soundfiles on the internet can be used and selected
by anyone to serve whatever purpose sound in the net and outside can be
used for. Links on homepages being its most common use. If your provider
does not have a RealAudio server, you can find other places to put
up your sound for free, and link to it. You could also use the sound
for further experimentation, like how Radio Lada put up soundbites to be
used during the live net.cast last februari from V2 in Rotterdam,
which was produced by a very interesting group of radio and internet
workers from former-Yugoslavia, Austria, The Netherlands and Germany.
One thing that came forward here was the previously impossible idea to
network several smaller, maybe even illegal local stations, all over
the globe.

A radiostation that calls itself a radio but denies being one,
is Radio Internationale Stadt. This project of Internationale Stadt
in Berlin offers the possibility to ftp soundfiles from anywhere onto
their RealAudio server. It does not want to call itself a radiostation
however because: "It's not a matter of radio, its a matter of internet
community. We don't run a radiostation. What the users in the internet
bring us, we can broadcast. We provide the infrastructure to bring audio
information to the net. It is not up to us to make audio content, it is
up to the users, people that are interested into doing this. We are able
to support them", says Thomas Kaulman, sysop and initiator of the project.
The website is a fast growing soundarchive, that hosts E-lab from Riga,
Latvia for example, whose audio experimenting on the net were received
with great 'enthusiasm' by Latvian authorities.

The new possibilities offered by the internet for radio are various and
they are enormous, and this cannot be said often enough. Radio finally
could regain some of its freedom, that is if the next generation internet
protocols (IPv6) stricter network-bandwidth-regulation and cost
calculation will leave enough space to move. Starting a radio station on
the internet is not as hard as starting one on the ether yet, though
attempts are being made to invent ways of control, often by simply
keeping all internet access in the hands of one national internet
provider, usually the state telecom company.
Sending a single stream out into the whole world can change the entire
political situation of a country and with that of everybody. Again, the
situation of Radio B92 serves as an example of how effective simply
sending one stream of live audio can be. Authorities in other countries,
such as Latvia, now try to regulate the growth of net.radiostations by
ordering new net.radiostations to aply for a legal broadcast status when
more then 20 streams of audio will be used. Such a status will never be
given. This is censorship, and why is there no outrage over it?

To get to a conclusion of this short exploration of net.radio, I have to
mention the lack of good information about the internet in mass media.
The hype seems to be mostly over, here in the Netherlands at least, but
it is being replaced by the image of the internet as the place where all
the bad things happen. If it is not Sodom and Gomorrah, it is at least a
place where only weirdo's, intelectuals, techies and businesses trying
to find the newest way to advertise can have any satisfaction.
It is not just lack of will from the mass media to give more accurate
information, a problem seems to also be that, eventhough there is a lot
of attention for the body and presence by some internet artists and
critics, there is hardly any helping hand from the 'new' media workers
towards the 'old' media.
For the internet and net.radio to develop well, it is necesary that the
knowledge about the internet is spreaded more even. The way it is now,
restrictions and censorship will be applied without much protest.
My plee could be coming from a too optimist mind though, as I received
the following quote from Reni Hofmueller, audio artist working for Radio
Helsinki in Graz. The legend says the quote is from one of the technicians
that helped build the first telephone network: "It will no longer be
necesary to have war - because now we can use the system of transmission
to ask how something was meant."

Radio, like other media, should be combined, deconstructed and
reconstructed. Radio and other media should not just have extensions
into the net, but the net should also have extensions to the outside.
In the case of radio this means that audiostreams should be used
much more creatively, connecting them to ether and cable stations, legal or
illegal, playing the sound in public places, allowing the audio to be
played with, using connections to television and whatever you can think of.
As long as there are no connections of the net to the outside, it will stay
unknown, possibly enemy territory, that will be regulated along straight
lines of existing radio broadcasts.
Although radio, as we have known it always, will never cease to exist,
people working within radio environments, contentwise and technically,
should be aware of the possibilities a more flexible way of working, in
which every situation needs a different approach, can offer to their
broadcasts. The experimentation of media artists should be examined and
translated to net.casts of a much greater variety.


Josephine Bosma

WebSiteStory
Radio Patapoe

Amsterdam May 97


Gerfried Stocker:
http://gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at/~gerfried/bio/stocker2.html

the Radio Lada festival LADA 97  L'Arte dell'Ascolto" will
be presented through November 3 - 9 1997 and it will host
lots of broadcastings & webcastings live.
http://www.giardini.sm/lada97/

Radio B92:
http://www.xs4all.nl/~opennet

Martin Schitter:
mash {AT} gewi.kfunigraz.ac.at
University of Graz - Computerlab at the Department for Humanities
Forum Stadtpark Graz - Department for new media and electronic art

the Darksite:
http://141.84.217.141/

Radio Convex TV:
http://www.b.shuttle.de/art-bag/convex_tv/

V2 net.radioworkshop februari 97
http://www.v2.nl/wiretap_radio

Radio Internationale Stadt:
http://www.icf.de/RIS




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