The Listening of Space: Reimagining The Radio Drama Through Mobile Technology
Pekka Ihanainen and I have been advancing ideas gleaned from our other papers and are working towards finding models for the aesthetic literacies we have discussed there. Basically, we are talking about developing pedagogical models for stimulating mobile learning in open spaces and we keep stumbling to the radio drama (narrative fiction) vs. the podcast (as narrative non-fiction). So we submitted a proposal to the Theorizing the Web conference as follows:
Mobile technology has placed great pressure on both socialized convention and the methods we use to theorize these conventions. The way we interact with others, with our environment, and even with ourselves has evolved, or shifted, as a result of mobile technology. Mobile technology forces reconsiderations of what it means to be alone, to be present, and to be in proximity with others. As the theorizing of mobile space nears maturity, as we begin to see the digital landscape of social and emotional interaction as the norm, we as learners, teachers, and researchers believe there is a need for a participatory pedagogy that fosters an assertive approach to creating learning engagements from open space, to develop contexts for developing presence and proximity from what otherwise might manifest from loneliness and disconnection. Mobile technology has unmoored many of the social practices that girded open space: eye contact, the nod, the etiquette of physical spacing and proximity, connection, the communication and general social interaction. We believe there is a need to begin to redefine these social practices through an active approach, one that positions the technology as an active agent in social engagement.
Much of this falls under aesthetic literacy. Aesthetic literacy is the capacity for creating interactional context from open space through mobile technology. It emphasizes perceptual sensitivity (the ability to perceive the potential of our immediate surroundings for generating learning) and behavioral rhetorics (being vigilant and attentive to these same open surroundings). It is a conditioning of the mind and body to make use of open space through mobile technology. These steps lead to collage, or the process of actively composing or remixing meaning using media and dialogue. In this presentation, we detail one method for collaging that addresses this need for participatory pedagogy directly: the radio drama. The radio drama while fairly ubiquitous, technologically driven, and relatively accessible- leaves room for authentic learning better than our visually full packed and ready-made environments. It forces learners to create and reflect on meaning in open space.
The radio drama represents opportunity for mobile technology and the communication that has emerged as a result, one with a historical precedent. It allows us to reimagine dialogue, presence, proximity, and contextual connections, and emotion away from binaries of the passive position of mobile learner as either a recipient or sender of information towards an approach that is much more interactional as a result of mobile technology: dialogues extend in perpetuity between actors (learners), media and artifacts are incorporated and jettisoned, meaning is assembled and reassembled. Actors perpetually oscillate across continuums of presence, proximity, and (dis)connection. The radio drama presents a method for stimulating aesthetic literacy in often passive participants. It has parallels in more content-driven compositions (informational podcasts) and in ongoing, dialogue-based applications (Whatsapp, Viber, KakaoTalk, WeChat). Our interpretation of radio drama is more compositionally and spatially oriented (moving freely between spaces through audio, video, text, GPS, and image), a communion of the physical and digital in open space.
Sights, sounds, smartphones: impromptu learning on the streets of Amsterdam
The second project involves another collaboration with erstwhile colleagues James Lamb and Jeremy Knox as part of the Visualizing the Street conference in Amsterdam in June. In this one we are basically arguing for building capacity for impromptu learning in urban spaces. Our abstract for this is as follows:
Mobile technologies provide exciting opportunities for understanding how we interact with our urban environment. This paper will draw on data collected from the streets of Amsterdam to demonstrate how a wander through the city offers impromptu sites for learning when photographs and ambient audio are captured using a Smartphone.
Our work is grounded in mobilities theory and notions of ‘minor urbanism‘ (Shepard 2013), and our methodology draws on the key critical work in mobile learning by Sharples et al. (2009), particularly in how it allows learners to “artfully engage with their surroundings to create impromptu sites of learning.” At the same time our analysis of the data is guided by multimodality, with its interest in the way that photographs, sounds and other semiotic resources combine to communicate meaning (see in particular Kress and van Leeuwen, 2001). This is an emerging methodology for engaging and visualizing urban space, where Baudelairean flanerie is reconfigured as digital, multimodal autoethnography.
Our paper will see us visiting Amsterdam immediately prior to the conference in order to enact our methodology and produce findings for presentation. This field exercise will build upon an earlier successful activity in London (January 2015), from which we will outline instances of impromptu learning, as well as describe how an attention to aural ambient data problematised some of our immediate visual impressions of the city. We argue that by studying the gathered snapshots and soundclips in juxtaposition, we become aware that urban spaces produce discord and incoherence in a way that is not always evident when we consider a photograph in isolation. Our audience will be invited to consider how an attention to the combined effects of the captured photographs and sounds influences how they understand the street corners, canals and cafes of Amsterdam’s streets.
These projects might seem disparate on first glance, but they, and a new project exploring multimodal composition, are all drawing from the same well of urban cartographies and the possibility provided by mobile technology in writing/composing those spaces.