Note to readers

This is a blog that I'm required to keep that's full of unedited, near stream-of-consciousness reactions to similarly required and related readings in a graduate course in N.C. State University's Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media program. The way these posts are written help me interrogate and understand what's going on in our readings. I'm identifying what's troublesome so that I can give it more thought, but the posts aren't written in a style that's productive for audiences outside of our class to read. That's by design. I start with contestation, then spend heavens only knows how long researching, recutting, and reevaluating so that I can try and see what potentially productive readings I can extract from these source for use in my own work's contributions back to the field. Comments encouraged, but please, you'll likely need a thick skin if your work is quoted here.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Streaming radio, interface, and choice

I like to listen to talk radio. I admit it. Mostly sports. There's a pretty big difference between the way I listen to radio in the car and the way I listen inside. In the car, I'm a dedicated flipper. If I've got commercials on ESPN, I go to Fox Sports Radio, and vice versa. They stagger just enough that I can, sort of like late night talk shows on TV, end up listening to very few commercials at all.

At home, I don't flip the radio. Two reasons for this, I think. For one, our local sports affiliates are on AM, and it takes a while to get the antenna straight each time I swap. It's also because our radios have tuning dials inside, and it's not a one-button thing. If I had a Boston Acoustics radio with presets instead of a Tivoli and a Wal-Mart special, maybe I'd play around more.

Yet much of the radio I listen to at home is off of the 'net. We have an old iMac now sitting in the living room when I'm at home with great speakers, and often I use it to listen. The interface for streaming sports talk radio is tied directly to a single network. To swap from one to another involves navigating to another web page and running through a click or three. This is a much greater barrier to entry.

I'd like to conceive of this as a change in ownership with respect to end interfaces. I own the radio, and though my Tivoli has the geekiest of NPR badges on it, there's nothing about the innards (hardware and, here nonexistent, software) that's biased to a particular provider beyond that relatively passive badge (it was a gift, I swear!). With streaming radio, the provider owns the software, at least to a point. They might employ Flash for RealPlayer or Quicktime, but the interface is not reusable.

The web streaming audio is like cable, but cable that only provides one feed. It's designed to reduce choice, which I'd argue is partially evidenced by all the gaudy ads you'll often find on the player window. They know you can't leave. (And that's a lot of money for Haynesworth. Hope this isn't Gilbert all over again.)

I think there's some connection to mobile privatization here, specifically that the means of reception are no longer privatized by the consumer. Digital media seems to enable its own appropriation in a way the old nodes of reception don't.

No comments: