The start-up phase of my course on "The future of media" - this year featuring "The future of radio" - will start to wind down in a week or so. We've had no less than 15 guest lectures over the last five weeks and will have a yet another handful over the next 10 days.
By lucky coincidence, a number or Swedish radio organizations (Sveriges Radio, Utbildningsradion, MTG radio, SBS Radio and Radioakademin) organized the annual "Radio Day" [Radiodagen] and "Radio Gala" [Radiogalan] this past week. A whole day devoted to all things radio and an evening of gala and prizes.
The Radio Day in Stockholm (Thursday) is coordinated with similar radio days in Norway (Friday) and Denmark (Saturday), and this makes it possible for them to invite a number of international (in this case almost exclusively British and American) guests. So after the program the was announced (a month ago), I did some Google research and found contact information for most of the International guest. I then sent off a bunch of e-mails and invited them to give guest lectures in our course at the Royal Institute of Technology. To my surprise, all of them accepted. Four international guests thus came to KTH this past week and one will come 10 days from now:
- Nino Cirone, "10 things you should know about audiences"
- Claire Wardle, "Moving beyond broadcasting: Digital technologies and collaborative radio"
- Nancy Updike, "Radio is better than other media and I can prove it"
- Simon Redican & Mark Barber, "Media and the mood of the nation"
- Valerie Geller, "Becoming a more powerful communicator"
Nino, Claire and Nancy came the same day and we thus had a packed afternoon with six straight hours of lectures (13-19). Phew!
The coordination between the Radio Day and our course is so good it is a pity we only have a radio theme this year (last year's theme was "The future of music" and next year there will be yet another theme).
I think it is interesting to reflect a little on the three Wednesday lectures. Nino and Claire had information-packed talks and their ambitions PowerPoint presentations were full of lists with bullets, pictures and transitions. They were fact-filled and I was afraid we would not have any energy left to listen to our last speaker. But instead of another batch of fact-filled slides, Nancy only used her voice and sound clips - excerpts from radio programs she had done. She talked at a slower pace, with pauses and directly to the audience, asking for feedback and sometimes pointing at someone and asking him/her a direct question. She used the audio clips to support her telling of a story about herself (her personal history, her love of radio and her career in radio) and about the radio show she works with (This American Life). It was an unusual lecture, and the personal dimension of her talk broke with the usual fact-filled "value-neutral" format of university lectures.
Nancy's main point was that radio isn't old-fashioned, but rather a timeless medium for telling stories about people. In her opinion, radio is an unbeatable way to get close and intimate both to the person being interviewed and to the listener. Also, it's so inexpensive - all you need to do radio is one person with a recording device. You can thus try out (and discard) different concepts and things with little costs (as apart from movies/TV).
What I found most interesting was that Nancy was a storyteller, and she came to us to tell us a story, her story. Her story was a story about another storyteller - radio. And radio of course houses Nancy's own radio show, This American Life, where she spends her days spinning and telling stories to (literally) millions of people. Voila, the circle is closed! I loved her captivating low-key talk about the characteristics and qualities or radio and the fact that she didn't just talk about them, but also used them in her own talk about radio.