After many months, it is with a degree of trepidation that I direct you towards the podcast audio of the ETech paper on Reinventing Radio that Mr Biddulph, Mr Hammond, Mr Webb and I performed earlier this year. As usual, listening to yourself talk is a bit of a painful experience – and it’s never a good thing to be re-exposed to jokes you made up on the spot in front of a hundred of your peers. But there you go. You live and learn. You can download the slides as a PDF here: Reinventing Radio to accompany the whole experience. Here’s a bit of a summary of the paper from the IT Conversations guys:
Isn’t radio an old, dying medium? What’s it doing in a conference on emerging technologies? Matt Biddulph, Paul Hammond, Tom Coates, and Matt Webb show us how radio is a reemerging technology experiencing a resurgence in popularity and relevance. They explore how radio can be improved by introducing feedback mechanisms and by ultimately making it a more social medium. Using principles of social software, the BBC becomes more of a peer than a broadcaster.
In the first part of the presentation Matt Biddulph and Paul Hammond explain BBC Radio’s experiment with a format called the “Ten-Hour Takeover” in which control of the station’s playlist is given over to the listeners. How can DJs be empowered with direct access to an audience of millions? With an audience that huge, how can feedback on the order of hundreds of thousands of SMS messages be handled in a meaninful way by a DJ? There isn’t enough human bandwith available to deal with that level of engagement. Traditional models would be forced to either ‘smoosh’ out the input into an average or to select a few random individuals to represent the audience. But this isn’t good enough for Matt Biddulph and Paul Hammond, who show us how they integrate SMS technology with some statistical techniques to create an ‘information space’ standing between the public and the DJ.
So you’ve got a broadcast network and you’ve got a web presence, each with very different models of interaction. How can these two models coexist in a useful and meaningful way? In the second part of the presentation Tom Coates and Matt Webb show us how radio can be enhanced using techniques from social software like flickr and del.icio.us to create a hybrid of the broadcast and network models. They wonder why we treat network computers as dumb receivers for broadcast content when they could be much more social and allow for interaction with both broadcasters and other listeners. ‘Phonetags’ bring folksonomies to radio, allowing listeners to tag songs with a cellphone as they listen. They also explore how techniques as simple as group listening can add to the social experience of radio.