The Healing Power Of Audio
The Tin Can App provides a space for us to focus on our voices, creating a stronger sense of intimacy and a unique sensation.
I’m sure you’ve seen the headlines over the years about this or that form of technology being “dead” and replaced by something new. TV was seen as a threat to radio. The VCR was going to kill the movies. Cassette tapes were going to destroy the record industry. The internet will take over everything else, from newspapers to radio to TV to books, and on and on. Mobile phones and streaming services are next level, decimating everything in their wake. Why would anyone buy a book or a vinyl record or read a paper newspaper ever again?
But the truth is, just because new technologies appear on the scene, it doesn’t mean that existing forms of technology, communication and media disappear. Nor does it take away from the inherent strengths of specific tools, like radio or the telephone.
Imagine what it must have been like as a listener when radio stations first began broadcasting, often spanning hundreds or even thousands of miles in the early days of AM radio. It still seems magical to me, 100 years later, to think about voices and music traveling through the airwaves, making their way into my home or car and emanating from my speakers. I’m similarly amazed that I can head online in 2019 and listen to radio from all over the world through websites and apps and even fun tools like Radio Garden, that literally map audio from around the globe.
While radio may not perceived as “modern” since it’s audio only; its audio-onlyness makes it special. There’s something about that simplicity that creates a stronger sense of intimacy. Voices from radio come directly into our homes, speakers, and ears as if in conversation with us one-to-one.
The disembodied voice speaks to us in a different way than the people on the TV or on YouTube. When we remove the visual distractions, we listen and hear in a different way, perhaps even in a more focused way.
I thought about this while reading a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Phone Isn’t Dead, It’s Evolving,” that relayed an anecdote about teens using video chat with their phones pointed away from them. The audio part of the chat was the important part and it was almost as if the video tool (perhaps FaceTime) was just an easy path to have a group phone call with friends. Researchers speculated that the hours-long traditional phone calls that happened in prior generations are still taking place today and that technology is still being used to have audio-only conversations. It’s an interesting moment, especially since texting is presumed to have become teens’ main communication tool in recent years. The fact is that audio has never gone away. And the technology in our hands and in our homes is using audio more and more, as voice assistants and smart speakers grow in popularity.
How Tin Can fits in
The name Tin Can is an obvious reference to the super low-tech “telephones” that kids would craft from metal cans and strings. It speaks to that allure of talking to friends from afar using a home-spun creation. When I was little, my sister and I would sometimes talk to each other in different rooms by yelling through the heater vents. We were fascinated by the way that sound traveled and it was fun to talk to each other without being face-to-face. A “tin can” telephone is also the perfect metaphor for the inherently close connection that it fosters, where speaker and listener are tied together by a sliver of string.
While there are lots of different ways to “talk” to friends or strangers, there aren’t too many audio-based communities. When I first met up with Jean and Peter from Tin Can, they spoke of their desire to create a place with a different feeling from other forms of social media. They imagined a space where what you hear or speak is valued more than how you look or the image that you project visually. Embedded in this is the hope for a community that fosters realness and authenticity.
It’s exciting to see glimpses of that vision already on Tin Can. Personal stories are being told, as users already see the potential to use it like an audio diary. That says a lot about the power and welcoming nature of the Tin Can community. Tin Casters have been sharing bits of their life history as well as tales from their days, including an accounting of things that they are thankful for (shout out to Vivid’s “Gratitude Journal”). It’s inspiring to say the least and is a strong reminder to me about the quiet way that our voices can build connections.