Travel the World with the Click of a Mouse

Radio Garden: The Digital Platform that Transgresses Borders

Listening to Samba music and reminiscing on my time spent in Joinville, Santa Catarina in 2011 as an exchange student.
“Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time. . . . The human family now exists under conditions of a global village. We live in a single constricted space” — Marshall McLuhan, 1964

Fast-forward 53 years, and we are still talking about McLuhan’s idea of a global village, in which we have instant connectivity with others around the world, due to technology. We experience the abolition of space and time, as we keep the world in our pocket, one-click away with the touch of our finger, and our cell-phone takes us anywhere we need to go, regardless of timezones.

Jonathon Puckey launched Radio Garden, an online-streaming Radio website on December 12th, 2016. Puckey, of the Netherlands, worked with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, as well as interactive design firms, Studio Puckey and Moniker, to create a global satellite radio. The site uses Bing Satellite imagery to display and stream radio stations across the globe. Puckey was onto something with this idea, as it is the newest form of radio that creates awareness of foreign others, addresses global power issues, and transgresses borders and nation states.

From its very beginning, Radio-broadcasting has been used for information purposes and the spread of ideas, such as development broadcasting, public service announcements, direct propaganda and commercial enterprise (Kraidy, 2005). Historically, it was used to promote social stability, develop economies, & strengthen national unity. Today, however, it is uniting the globe, rather than just nations. It does so by the following three steps:

Creates Awareness of global “others”

In 1983, Benedict Anderson explained in his article, Origins of National Consciousness, that print capitalism and then development in mass media unified a nation, by creating a feeling of an imagined community. People were reading about the same things, in the same language, at the same time, and became aware of the invisible others who were doing the same.

Radio Garden creates an imagined community, as it allows the global to enter the local, by listening to their live radio stations across the world, at the same time, when it is 8:15pm here in Youngstown Ohio, I can tune in to Chengdu, China at 8:15am, and listen to their local radio. The live option allows individuals to have a shared experience, hearing different languages, styles of music and advertisements, but also hearing similarities mixed within. People can listen to the hybrid content which mixes cultural symbols, and the foreign “other” doesn’t seem so foreign anymore.

The Stories option allows listeners to hear from individuals around the world talk about how transnational radio has changed their lives. It is a powerful aspect that allowed myself and many others to hear the stories of Shaughna Boara in Toronto, Canada, or Alec Badenoch, an American living in the UK, who both shared similar experiences of realizing the power of radio to link voices abroad. They also explained the existence of power differences, which Radio Garden makes transparent and tries to address by giving a voice to the voiceless.

Addresses Power Issues of the “Center” and “Periphery” Nations

Global scholar, Ulf Hannerz (1992) stated “when the center speaks, the periphery listens” (p. 219). The terms center and periphery developed after the Cold War and during the period of the Enlightenment, when the European capitalist world-system felt that modernity could only be achieved through civilization, which was at the core in Europe. The divide between the center (modern, civilized powers) and the periphery, was a result of capitalist order and the division of labor. The world capitalist economy could be seen in three divisions of power: “the center representing the culture of science; the periphery, the culture of humanities; and the semi-periphery, a substantial mixture of both” (Gunaratne, 2009, p. 368).

We live in 2017- so times are changing, but, we do still see the existence of power relations- they just aren’t as clear cut, check-the-box terms anymore. There are multiple flows, and the periphery can now speak back due to the rise in technology.

At first glance, one can see that Radio Garden has many more “green dots” designating stations in the U.S. and the United Kingdom. Jonathon Puckey stated in an interview with reporter from the Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance (2016), that part of the reasons for misrepresentation of some nations was due to sociocultural and economic reasons. Some countries do not have the broadband connection that others do, so it puts them at a disadvantage. There are also language barriers that Puckey admitted his team faced while curating the stations that were non-English. Puckey expressed his goal of growing their stations in parts of the world that they are currently missing. This may be part of the reason that Puckey intentionally left out border lines on the global map.

Transgression of Borders

Radio Garden uses clear language to describe a border-less vision of uniting radio broadcasters and listeners from all over the world. I’d like to highlight the following three phrases from the About section that pulls together their message of transgressing borders: from its very beginning, radio signals have crossed borders; re-connecting with people from ‘home’ from thousands of miles away; or using local community radio to make and enrich new homes.

When asked in an interview with NPR why the globe has no state lines or country borders, Puckey explained that similar to radio, it doesn’t know about borders. He explained that you could tune in to however far the signal strength can reach, regardless of definitive borders. Puckey emphasized his desire to create a platform, in which listeners could feel as if they are traveling in their minds, and they aren’t concerned about where they are headed. He wants listeners to get lost and enjoy the process (Ailsa, 2016).

As I sit here and write, I scroll across the globe and find, Joinville, Santa Catarina. I hear Brazilian Portuguese and I feel a sense of euphoria, as I feel like I’m an exchange student again, living in Brazil. I can smell the salt of the ocean, with the windows down, riding to the beach with my host family, and listening to my host sister’s favorite pop songs on the radio. I can also zoom in and look at my old city where I met some of the most impactful people in my life. I do not need a passport or an airplane to feel like I’m back in Brazil. Similar to my experience, many other listeners have their own story or reasons for tuning in to different parts of the world.

Next, I think I will see what is going on in Sicily, Italy, so I can re-visit the seaside town I called home on a trip abroad.

Where will you travel to in this exact minute? The choice is yours, explore the world, one green dot at a time. Get lost at Radio Garden

My inspiration for writing this piece comes from research I’m currently working on at Kent State University, as a Global Media Communications M.A. student. Please contact me if you’d like a full list of my sources, or if you’d just like to chat.