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I think it would be an understatement to say that I learned a lot from Radiovision this year. The quality of the panelists was beyond extraordinary, and the attendees blew me away as well. Each person at the conference brought something unique to the table, and ultimately created a beautiful vision for the future of radio with the ideas and enthusiasm I saw. There were journalists, podcasters, public radio producers, and DJs at college stations. Some people were in the industry, and some were along for the ride, but the collective pool of information was overwhelming. I think not giving a panel-by-panel account of the event would be criminal, so that’s what I’m going to do. Hold on to your shorts.

Radiovision Schedule
10:00am – Keynote: Mark Frauenfelder
I think it was a very wise choice to have Mark Frauenfelder start off the conference. Mark is the founder of Boing Boing and Make magazine, and has a very DIY attitude about pretty much everything.

He described how technology has changed over time, and especially the mindsets and tools that people have when creating things. For the past few 100 years it either takes a lot of time or money to create something yourself, but now we can get things cheaply, quickly, and most importantly, inexpensively. Anyone can build a computer, or a birdhouse, or a go-cart, or whatever themselves, as long as they have the drive. Another thing that could have stopped past DIYers would be the sheer fact that they didn’t know how to build something. That is no longer a problem, thanks to the internet. There are thousands upon thousands of subcultures dedicated to creating anything you can possibly imagine. Mark gave the example of cigar-box guitars. That hasn’t changed much in the past 100-years, but just in the past 2 years there have been online communities that have revolutionized the way that individuals can make homemade cigar-box guitars.

What does this have to do with radio? A lot. DIY is about self-expression, which is about telling a story about yourself. If there is anything I learned about radio in the past few years, it’s that radio is all about storytelling. If we take a DIY approach to radio, we will make better stories. Also, the obsessiveness to make something, and craft it to perfection, is something that radio professionals all have. The most important thing that I got from this though was that Mark said that DIY is about a necessity that you create. I find radio a necessity, and I think everyone at Radiovision agrees with me. If we can make radio content a necessity, we will be creating something truly beautiful.

After his presentation, DJ Trouble from WFMU came on stage for questions from herself, and from the audience. There were many things discussed, but a few things really stood out to me. One was that true DIYers are no longer afraid of failure, and getting over that is essential to creating really cool things. Maybe you’re afraid of experimenting over the radio, but if you get over that hump, you will be on your way to creating radio art, in whatever medium you choose. Another point is that DIY today is based upon relying on other people in an online community. If the radio community did the same thing, we could learn so much from each other. We could solve problems we couldn’t before.

11:00am – Joe Richman
Joe Richman created Radio Diaries which has aired on NPR multiple times, and he made a very powerful presentation for us that included the first radio diary he did of a woman named Melissa who was a teenage parent. He literally gave her a recorder, and let her keep it for the duration of her pregnancy and afterward as well. The sheer rawness of the recorders were very moving, and brought me to the realization that more often than not, we are looking for deep connections with other humans. Creating a connection with listeners is something that all radio people are looking for, whether it’s with music or stories, and being reminded of that is important.

11:15am – Break
Although this was a short break, and I had a very good conversation with the woman behind me, and a few people in the lobby. It never ceases to amaze me how friendly radio people are.

11:30am – Radio Free Radio
The was a great panel that consisted of Pejk Malinovski (East Village Poetry Walk), Francesca Panetta (Hackney Hear), and Ellen Horne (Radiolab), moderated by Jim Colgan, all talking about the ways to expand radio into different mediums. Pejk’s perspective was very different from the other two in that he is much more about specific content than stories, but his East Village Poetry Walk idea was eerily similar to Hackney Hear. East Village Poetry Walk is a program that allows you to walk around East Village to specific spots, and when you arrive at the location, you can listen to audio that corresponds to it, such as information about poets who lived and wrote there, and their poetry.

Hackney Hear does something similar, but with specific GPS locations that you can have as an app on your iPhone. There is a fluid stream of stories and sounds, which has a completely immersive quality. Unfortunately this is only available in the UK right now, but hopefully soon it will come to the US. Hackney Hear does something that I think all radio people try to strive for, which is to put your sonic creation at the forefront of someone’s thoughts, and dip them into the world that you craft with your sound. It’s pure art, but with an essential human element to it. The most profound thing that Francesca said, in my opinion, was about how Hackney Hear lets her think outside the broadcasting box. National broadcasters don’t want to take risks, because it might affect their pocketbooks. That doesn’t inspire creativity, and the best content is the stuff that you take a risk on. Being innovative means taking risks.

Ellen Horne had a much different perspective being a Radiolab producer, and specifically producing the live Radiolab shows, such as “In The Dark” and “Symmetry.” These shows required a strong visual quality to them, something that podcasts and radio shows simply don’t have. It added a performance element to the show, and more importantly created a strong connection to the audience that they didn’t have before, or at least not in such a visceral way. This physical sense of radio is something that I’ve thought about a lot before in the context of WCBN, because something we strive for is to provide our listeners with a sense of a physical place, and the understanding that we are real people. It’s very admirable that Radiolab puts so much effort into this same idea, and I hope I can steal that.

12:30pm – Tim Pool
Although this was only a 15-minute presentation, Tim Pool has a lot of interesting perspectives to give us. Tim was a rogue journalist that made a lot of news during Occupy Wall Street last year, and continues to use his rogue journalism techniques. He wanted to get across to us that all of us can have an impact, and that we can take power back. With phones and Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, we can make a difference simply uploading things and tagging them properly.

12:45pm – Boxed Lunches with a Brief Presentation from Kenyatta Cheese
Lunch was a lot of fun, mostly because I got to chat with so many cool people. I unknowingly chatted with one of the presenters for the piracy panel, Alexa Clay, and we had an amazing conversation about The Sex and Tell Show, and about her book that she’s researching for, The Misfit Economy. I also got to talk to a girl from Ithaca College who is going to get her college station’s first freeform radio show next semester! There is hope in the world for freeform! VIVA LA FREEFORM!

Kenyatta Cheese, if you remember from last year, is one of the creators of KnowYourMeme, and was at Radiovision last year. Instead of talking about the language of memes, Kenyatta shared with us a new project he’s taking on where he legally hands over his person-hood to a corporation for 100 days. They will think for him, make his decisions, and he will have no individual rights. Kenyatta will be unplugged for 100 days, and will have to survive without a credit card, or personal identification. He will have to pay his rent in cash, and cannot attend anything himself. The corporation will send representatives to be Kenyatta, and try to be a better Kenyatta.

I don’t know about you, but my mind was blown over this concept, let alone the fact that Kenyatta is actually going to put it into practice. This sounds like a Charlie Kaufman movie to me. But anyway, I think all of this has an actual purpose as far as radio goes though: thinking like your audience, and being a better corporation. Something I’m sure Kenyatta will take away from this is how corporations think about individuals, and how they think individuals can act. Usually corporations end up being really annoying and spamming us with lots of things and taking our money in weird ways. If they acted like a person, as this weird thing in the 14th amendment Kenyatta mentions says they are, we would probably live in a different world.

Well, that ends Part 1 of Day 3, but I’ll be back with another post soon, so keep your pants on…seriously guys, keep your pants on. HEY, stop that. What will the children think?