“Wow. I don’t get radio. It’s like something from a era. A different world, even. But I think I still somehow miss it.” That’s how I feel after reading excerpts from Radio On by Sarah Vowell. Her book describes experiences with radio before the internet. She uses phrases like “we drove out of range”. Or “just in time”. Or mentions that to compile her own news reports, she had to “scrape together news”.
Our lives today are easier. Reddit, various feed readers, dedicated communities, or our social networks spit out volumes of focused news on issues we care about. Affordable cell phones give us access to this stream of information all day everyday, wherever we happen to be at the time.
At the same time, Radio seems more personal than most of the ways we get our news. Sure, there’s video that gives us some sense of connection, but because our new sources do not allow us to call in through the same intuitive and natural interface as radio did, but we usually only comment through text. It’s still not a conversation as with calling in to a radio show. Although commenting opens up more participation and faster responses, the fact that it’s text and not voices makes it a more sterile, impersonal experience. Based on my past experience with online voice chat, conversations with another person with your own voice are in some ways far more enjoyable and easily understood precisely because you can hear the other person.
I think we’ve lost that. I didn’t consider myself to have any interest in radio before. I’ve resisted using anything but a computer to play MP3s. But now? I think I’m interested in trying podcasts out as middle ground between radio and endlessly available text news. It seems slower, more relaxed, and more natural.