Roundtable Visualizing Radio Networks and Communities

AHA Session 115
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom G (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Andrea L. Stanton, University of Denver

Session Abstract

How might concepts of visuality and the visual be applied to radio broadcasting? How might these visualizations improve our understanding of the communities and networks that radio broadcasting has fostered and supported? 

This panel roundtable brings together five scholars at different stages in their careers, who teach/study at a range of institutions around the United States and Canada, and work on 20th century radio broadcasting in different geographic and socio-political contexts. The panel addresses the question of how radio communities and networks – national, local, linguistic, technological, cultural, market-based – might be visualized. In doing so, it connects closely with the 2012 Annual Meeting Theme: “Communities and Networks”, which asks scholars to consider both the formation of groups and the linkages that sustain them.

As befits the roundtable format and the broadcasting theme, this session puts its primary focus on discussion. Panelists will speak briefly on their research, which covers a broad spectrum of geographic areas, from North/South America to Europe to the Middle East and Asia. Drawing on cultural, economic, political, social and technological approaches, they bring the challenge of visualization to bear on an aural medium, asking how concepts of visuality and the visual help us understand the kinds of communities and networks that formed around 20th century radio broadcasting.

Bill Kirkpatrick (Denison) examines how local radio stations in the United States invoked community not only in their on-air broadcasts but also via visualizations that ranged from linking themselves to local personalities to encouraging listeners to attend the sports games they heard on air. He argues that lived local space and local personalities became visual paratexts for the audio program, framed for local residents by the lens of their local radio station. Anne MacLennan (York) examines Canadian radio in the 1930s, noting that the delayed establishment of an envisioned Canadian broadcasting network allowed small independent stations to flourish. Serving local and regional audiences, these low-powered stations became part of a complex quilt of American network radios, the CRBC and CBC, and local Canadian stations. Sonia Robles (Michigan State University) explores the formation of a Spanish-speaking radio audience in the United States from 1930 to 1950. Initially cultivated by Mexican stations, Spanish-speaking Americans and Mexican immigrants began turning to U.S.-based Spanish-language stations in the 1930s, embracing a unique, hybrid form of cultural consumption. Jenny Spohrer (Bryn Mawr) examines the ways in which radio broadcasting was graphically represented in radio magazines in interwar Europe. She argues that these representations indicate a profound unease about the transnational and geographically diffuse nature of radio broadcasting, and a desire to domesticate it by framing listeners as members of national communities and international broadcasting as linked to national broadcasters. Andrea L Stanton (University of Denver) examines the ways in which consumption and listening practices connected with the visible physicality of 1930s-40s radio sets in Mandate Palestine, arguing that their prominence in period ads reflect notions of a consumer modernity closely connected with radio sets and radio listening.

See more of: AHA Sessions