It is a really interesting time to be alive. The warp speed rush of technological advance makes itself felt daily at all levels, be it the Facebook-based efforts of the Obama campaign, the integration of radio into cell phones or the tiny iPods that carry weeks worth of music in a package smaller than a cassette tape. We have the privilege of watching history unfold, a period of advancements rivaled by nothing in human history. It is, quite simply, astounding.
Yesterday afternoon, I did a pre-recorded interview for a local New Orleans radio station about technology and the ramifications of social media. It was a lot of fun, and it also made me realize a few things. I make my living here on the ‘net. I have to stay as on top of “what’s new” as I possibly can be, from microblogging tools like Twitter to analyzing how people use FriendFeed to enhance work collaboration. To my wife’s chagrin, I am always glued to my laptop.
Yet despite virtually breathing the ones and zeros of digital life, getting on the air is always a thrill.
In the mid-1980s I was a college DJ at KLSU FM in Baton Rouge. My studies and career path took me in another direction, but I still have incredibly fond memories of it. I miss the joy of sending your voice out there to an unknown number of people, sharing my own musical tastes with them, and everything else that goes with the late night show. Weird phone-ins are especially missed. Those were always good for a bit of Gary Larson style entertainment.
I realized while speaking into the producer’s mic that there is a connection of feeling in radio that I have not found anywhere else. On the Internet you can reach an amazing array of people, you can interact in the comments of blogs (Go ahead, try it. Leave me a comment.) or in a wide variety of other ways. You just do not get the feeling of connection that comes with broadcast. There is something about it that is unquantifiable, the feeling that people are being drawn in which is distinctly different in so many ways. To return to the words of audio artist Tetsuo Kogawa, “radio is centripetal, not centrifugal, since it brings people together to the center.” I know I used that quote in my last post but it bears repeating.
I think he is dead right. Most Internet-based efforts are spinning content out in ever broadening arcs as they attempt to find/create their audience and community. This is not a bad thing. Radio on the other hand draws you in. Just like in the early days of broadcast when families would sit huddled near the radio listening raptly to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes or The Shadow, radio still draws you in.
Construction workers on a job site listening to music after the all important argument about which station to listen to is resolved. Taxi drivers and their passengers taking in the usually local content rushing through the airwaves. Indian businessmen halfway around the world listening to FM on their cell phones. These are the descendants of the big wooden box that told my grandfather when Babe Ruth scored a home run. Even though it lacks the pictorial aspect of TV or YouTube, there is nothing like radio for feeling like you are part of things.
As Bruce Lee said in Enter The Dragon, “What we need is emotional content.”
Photo courtesy of gutter, used under its Creative Commons license