The spring sun greeted us last month as we gathered in the School of Arts at Birkbeck College for the second Critical Waves event. Having considered how the voice, radio and audio can be used as creative materials at the ICA in March, our cohort of postgraduate and early career researchers met again: this time to think about some of the more practical issues around using radio as a research tool.
Radio futurologist, James Cridland kicked off proceedings by offering us a snapshot of radio usage today, revealing the medium’s resilience over the past century in the face of an ever-evolving media-scape. If James asked us to imagine radio’s future, Tim Markham – Reader in Journalism and Media Studies at Birkbeck College – spoke to radio’s past, exploring how thinkers like Heidegger recognised radio as a medium that is intimate and imaginative; and as a means of creating distinct imaginative spaces, that can transcend physical place.
But how could researchers harness the special characteristics of radio and use radio as a tool to enhance research their practice? Current PhD candidate Emily Candela offered some answers by way of introducing Atomic Radio; her series of podcasts on visual representations of x-ray crystallography. With humour and candour, Emily led the group through some of the pleasures and pitfalls that she had faced in trying to translate her research into radio. Musician Michael Garrad followed up with an entertaining workshop that focussed on how to make audio recordings using basic equipment and free online software.
After the chance to chat over the lunch break, design historian Juliette Kristensen shared her reflections on the importance of radio as an aural and conversational form in an academic environment dominated by written work. Finally, Tess Woodcraft provided an inspiring end to what had proved to be a fascinating day, by describing the work of Pod Academy: an independent, not-for-profit platform for free podcasts on academic research.
While all the day’s presentations were interesting, informative and inspiring, the moment that stood out for me was Juliette Kristensen’s description of deciding to embark on her own series for Resonance104.4FM – Paperweight Radio. Juliette described her decision to make the work she wanted to make, without the need of an institutional mandate. I hope that some of the researchers gathered in the School of Arts that day left similarly inspired.