In a world of sound bites where every media outlet is vying for just “15minutes” of your time on a YouTube video, and after a year of zoom calls, podcasts, virtual conferences, meetings, and presentations, I was far from enthusiastic when a friend shared with me a link to check out. He is not one to share everything he comes across and so it was not hard to check out this technology which, has been available for the last 5years, was completely new to me called Radio Garden. I clicked on the link and instantly I was looking at a world globe and listening to “Sunday Best” by artist, Surfaces but my cursor was over Leicester, UK. Out of curiosity I headed straight to where I supposed was Cameroon, Central Africa. The circle hovered over a green dot which turned yellow and on the left side bar a list of radio stations popped up. I was listening to Bikutsi on “Balla Radio” in Yaounde, Cameroon. I noted there was a short list of nearby radio stations and another list of popular radio stations in Cameroon. After a mini dance party with the kids, we travelled to Kalaburagi, India and listened to “Retro, Bollywood” radio station. From India to Columbia, Alaska to Australia, the tunes continued. Every now and again we stumbled on a local news station, commercial or talk show which gives the listener an arguably more authentic experience than one would experience as a tourist to one of these locations. All this got me wondering how this technology came about.
Radio Garden was born of the idea that one’s access to local radio stations should not be limited by their geographic location. It is a product of a digital research project between 2013-2016 by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the Transnational Radio Knowledge Platform and five other European universities. The service is internet dependent and the site interface is a 3D globe with the user navigating through geolocation around the globe. Tuning in to a local radio station means instead of turning a radio dial, the user moves their cursor to that location on the globe and instantly hears a live broadcast. Every radio station is represented by a green sphere superimposed on the map and is identified on the left side bar once you are tuned in. Stations are available at locations near and far from Chile to Scotland, Madagascar to Sri Lanka. If you download the free app on your phone, the interface remains the same with the left side bar now being a “swipe up” or down option.
An interview with one the developers Jonathan Puckey of the Amsterdam based design company, Studio Puckey, stated an important part of the design was to leave out geographical markers which would identify cities, countries, and boundaries, leaving a bare and naked Earth for radio station navigation. What I found particularly nice about this concept was the option to time travel as well and listen to music or radio recordings of reports in different parts of the world from several decades’ past. After surfing the globe a few times, I recognized it was a great crash course in world geography.
So why not tune in and give yourself a break from the usual sound bites? Get some exercise or stress relief with a dance party, listen to local news reporting or a recording of a monumental event in history. With an internet connection, whether you travel in space or time on Radio Garden, an authentic experience to your next travel destination is only a click away!