January 5th, 2010 | knock john
Broadcast and network culture. (And Atemporality, which, like the term "post-industrial," you’re likely to hear a lot about this year.)
In my part of the world, in the 1960s, you’d come home from work — as my mother did, as Niki’s mother did — and the first thing you’d do is put the radio on. You’ve already selected the broadcast channel you want. You’ve found out the frequency from friends, from a magazine, or just twisted around the dial ’til you hunted it out and left it there. Radio Caroline, or Radio Essex, broadcasting off the Maunsell Sea Fort called Knock John. These are pirate radio stations, outside the control or mandate of the BBC. And you’ve left the dial locked to that frequency because it’s the only way you can hear the music you like. It’s music the BBC doesn’t play, and the BBC’s pretty much the only game in town, if your town is ashen, brick-faced Sixties Britain. Broadcast technology has gotten to the point where nutters like Paddy Roy Bates can lash together a kit on a concrete plug sticking out of the Thames Estuary and blanket the area in modern music. It’s on the verge of a consumer-society democratisation.
My RSS feed reader is tuned to several broadcasters. I’ve found out the web addresses from friends, from magazines, from twisting around a search engine until I found what I was looking for. These broadcasters send music directly to my main daily listening device, which is a X61 Thinkpad (as opposed to an ITT transistor radio). And, even though I live in 2010 Britain and have a few more options than three or four BBC stations, it’s still often the only way I can hear the music I like.
(My daughter comes home and puts on YouTube, clicking around playlists. YouTube is in fact the radio for her and her friends, right now to the shitty sound quality.)
We’re in the depths of the consumer-society democratisation of the relevant technologies. It is really not hard to be a broadcaster now.
There’s obviously going to be a rush of tablet technologies this year. These are largely going to be about the broadcast of magazines. This is going to be kind of a new thing: over-the-air simultaneous delivery of post-print journalistic/design digital objects to handheld devices. Without immediate democratisation. This is a thing that large publishing corporations would presumably be intent on controlling access to. This will, equally obviously, not happen.
This is something I’m going to be kicking around for a while.