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Published in the journal Popular Music, Jody Berland’s “Radio space and industrial time: music formats, local narratives and technological mediation” explains how the radio format – understood as “a complex set of rules for programming” (p. 181) – had segmented and standardized sonic culture in contrast with radio’s relation to local space. Published in 1990 and focusing on the Canadian broadcast radio landscape, Berland’s article also gives us a fuller sense of the same critical context in which Radio Naked was produced.
In a post for the sound studies blog Sounding Out!, Alejandra Bronfman briefly surveys major points from her subsequent book Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean. As with the other entries in its containing “Radio de Acción” series on SO!, Bronfman’s post highlights moments when radio was the means and target of urgent political action – in this case, including torture and assassination. These histories imbricate colonial and anti-colonial pressures with contests over cultural and tactical broadcasting, raising the stakes of what it can mean to program or deprogram on one’s own terms.
In her contribution to Software Studies: A Lexicon, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun explains how the notion of programmability split off from other meanings of “program” (including its broadcast usage) to co-evolve with the electronic computer. Chun is a new media scholar with backgrounds in both literature and systems design engineering, and her brief chapter dives deep into the semiotic differences between analog and digital computing. For our purposes, the entry provides a good overview of how the computing sense of programming overlaps and diverges with other contexts. It also, at the end, points toward a possible death of programming in one sense as programmability and control adapt to new scientific developments.
Matthew Fuller has been a leading voice in software studies – an interdisplinary movement to explore computer code as a cultural and aesthetic terrain – but the first chapter of his 2005 book Media Ecologies: Materialist Energies in Art and Technoculture focuses on radio. In a theory-heavy and experimentally styled treatment of London pirate stations, Fuller shows radio as a medium that enlists many different technologies and demonstrates radio’s ongoing relevance for artistic interrogators of newer digital media. In a particularly useful passage (p.) for our discussion on (de)programming, Fuller explains cultural theorist Stuart Hall’s critique of a sender-receiver communication model and argues that we need to go further in undoing the hylomorphism (separation of form and content) that holds back our understanding of improvistory media systems like pirate radio.
In “The Intertribal Drum of Radio: The Indians for Indians Hour and Native American Media, 1941-1951,” historian Josh Garrett-Davis examines the local and broader cultural impact of radio programmer Don Whistler. The article attends to Whistler’s surrounding career and follows an auditory approach to understanding his innovations. Garrett-Davis writes that in “[c]reating Indians for Indians, Whistler turned from the mainstream toward the intertribal studio, where he used modern technology to build a cultural as well as political sovereignty behind walls that muffled what we might call the colonial din” (p. 268) of most media outlets’ representations of Indigenous people.
For “Simulcast 1.0: Saskatoon,” four sound and radio artists – Martine H. Crispo, GX Jupitter-Larsen, Magali Babin, and Harold Schellinx – each contributed a week of multi-hour broadcasts that aired overnight across April 2008. In a description for the work, curator Emmanuel Madan reflects on how this durational mode of broadcasting can intervene in radio’s rigidly programmed temporal grids: “Put simply, radio broadcasting today is an almost exclusively rhythmic affair…. ‘Simulcast 1.0b : Saskatoon’ proposes to renew radio’s link with eternity.”
In Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, sound and visual studies scholar Dylan Robinson critiques a settler-colonial tendency to collect and decontextualize Indigenous music under the banner of reconciliation. The book’s third chapter addresses this problem in the contexts of a broadcast radio event and concert programming. Throughout Hungry Listening, Robinson builds on the event score form to imagine and encourage encounters that can reveal and redress the harms of misguided efforts to harmonize Indigenous sounds with settler structures. These event scores, including the one that concludes chapter 3 (“Event Score for Those Who Hold Our Songs”), might be called a means of deprogramming sonic arts institutions in order to dispel colonial modes of listening.
Literary historian Scott Selisker’s book Human Programming: Brainwashing, Automatons, and American Unfreedom is a “cultural history of the idea of the programmable mind in U.S. culture.” Its third chapter traces how computer programming, increasingly visible as a cultural force during and after the Cold War, reanimated existing anxieties about the “human automaton.” Selisker uses cultural representations to connect cybernetics, posthumanism, and racist tropes of “techno-Orientalism.” The chapter adds useful context for the period in North American media when more listeners and artists were growing concerned with what we might call radio’s increasing automatedness.
The first chapter in historian Shawn VanCour’s Making Radio: Early Radio Production and the Rise of Modern Sound Culture asks a narrow but consequential question: how did “scheduling strategies” in the 1920s contribute to the success of commercial radio and a larger “commodification of sound?” VanCour’s research focuses on the internal producers and objects in a middle level of the radio medium that had been overlooked both by top-down (lionizing executives and inventors) and by more bottom-up (restoring listeners’ and performers’ agency) approaches. These workers and materials include radio programmers and the paper technology of the program log, which VanCour argues was a key element in stabilizing early radio into a medium.