Breaking the News: An exploration of non-visual data

3 projects based on 50,000 broadcasts of NPR News

Over the last years, I’ve worked with very different kinds of data. But no matter how different in origin or shape, the desire of the data was always the same: it wanted to be seen. It would refuse to offer meaning and refuse to be shared until it was a thing on the page, a swoosh or a spike, perhaps a pulsing color. Data that wasn’t visual made no sense whenever it was called to duty, while data that was beautiful didn’t even have to make sense before it was already greeted with smiles & nods.

But a few months ago, I came across data that didn’t ask to be visual. It wanted to remain unseen, because it always had been that way. Perhaps you can imagine my mix of self-doubt and skepticism (mostly self-doubt), thinking about months of work that no one would ever “look at” (even if they wanted to). But this skepticism gave way to a deep fascination as I spent time with this material and gathered more & more of it. The name of this strange, unwieldy matter? Radio news. More than 6 years of it.

For every hour since June 2009, I’ve gathered NPR’s 5-minute news updates — a collection of more than 58,000 broadcasts and 4,900 hours of audio.

Much of the news’ power, much of our ritualized experience with the news, derives from its consistency: the same time, the same voice, the same point of view, the same inability to change it. I was interested in breaking this consistency, hoping to offer a series of projects that reinterpret the news in very different ways.

Today, this hope meets reality as I invite you to explore 3 projects that are based on this non-visual data of radio news. The following posts offer a short description & the link to each project:

Headphones recommended. You may even close your eyes.

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