One online application continues to bring the world together by doing something simple, sharing radio broadcasts from across the world.
At the intersection of communication and accessible technology, you find Radio Garden, a platform where anyone can tune in, and listen to what is going on in the world in real-time with hyperlocal radio content.
But it’s not just the Top of the Pops appeal at play here. Since its inception, Radio Garden has been aimed at promoting the distinct connectivity of radio as a broadcast medium.
It is contextualized by the fact that it is area-specific, sharing information that is likely to be cater made for a localized audience – except users are not limited by geographic boundaries.
According to designer Jonathan Puckey, Radio Garden started as an online exhibition that was commissioned by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision as part of a research project Transactional Radio Encounters (TRE).
TRE viewed the project as something that celebrated the fact that since the birth of radio, radio signals have been able to cross borders. Radio Garden allows radio listeners to connect with distant cultures and connect with ‘home’ even if they’re in another country.
From the outset TRE investigated how radio infrastructure helps to structure public spheres, what is the link between a sense of belonging when people interact with auditory expression, and how broadcasting archives have been used internationally through radio encounters.
The Netherlands Institute of Sound and Vision, the curators of media culture and audio-visual archiving, believes the mobile application is a teaching tool first.
When launched in 2016, Radio Garden aimed to allow listeners the opportunity to not only explore the process of broadcasting but share radio identity from across the globe. By using local community radio, Radio Garden is an enrichment tool – one built from simple, and often free-to-use code.
Radio Garden presents a Google Earth-like globe of the world. As you spin around it, myriad green dots appear. Each dot represents one place — a city or a town — where there is at least one radio station.
There are no city names or borders on the map; exploring the world on the site is an act of discovery not unlike turning the dial on an actual radio (the site makes sure to include the sound of static as you filter through stations). Move your cursor bit to the east and you’re listening to a station in Serbia, a few inches south and you find yourself in Turkey. Every location provides its own distinct, sometimes surprising sound.
The geolocations Radio Garden uses are from free GeoIP. Free GeoIP can be run on any infrastructure, and it contains the webserver of freegeoip.net which uses Go programming language that enables any webserver to support IP geolocation with a crisp API. The coding is accessible free of charge.
Combining nearly 1-billion listeners Radio Garden is now run as a small company and is no longer a mere online exhibition. Radio stations from anywhere can sign up to form part of this global family with over 15,000 radio stations from nearly every nation in the world.
But it’s not revenue that drives Radio Garden, it’s information – and information you can only be privy to when you tune into a specific locale.
For example, in 2017, Radio Garden visitors saw an increase of 60% when Hurricane Irma intensified over the Caribbean. Usually Radio Garden reaches 250,000 unique visitors in a day but during September 2017, Radio Garden shot up to 400,000 unique listeners.
New listeners were tuning into a Cuban radio station for updates on Hurricane Irma, because it was hyper-localized content that couldn’t be found in world media.
Focusing on hyperlocal journalism practices, John Bingham-Hall’s dissertation, The Blog and the Territory: placing hyperlocal media and its publics in a London neighborhood reinforces exactly what Radio Garden set out to do. He believes society can be virtual, played out in the movement of information through communication that is not bound by location. But for a community to be part of society membership requires exchanges of communication set in geographical locations.
Radio Garden, at its most basic level, is a communication tool, in which anyone can take part, sharing communication or consuming it.
Bas Agterberg, 2017. Radio Garden raast me Orkaan Irma mee. [online] Available at: https://www.beeldengeluid.nl/verhalen/radio-garden-raast-met-orkaan-irma-mee [Accessed 22 April 2021].
Radio Garden, 2020. Radio Garden Introduction. [online] Available at: https://www.radio.garden /settings/introduction [Accessed 23 April 2021]
Transnational Radio, 2016. Radio,Garden is Live and Viral worldwide. [online] Available at: https://www.transnationalradio.org/radio-garden/ [Accessed 26 April 2021]
Bingham-Hall, John. (2017). The Blog and the Territory: placing hyperlocal media and its publics in a London neighbourhood. [online] University College London. Available at: https://www.discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1541222/7/JBH_Hyperlocalmedia_finalsubmission_small.pdf [Accessed 26 April 2021]
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