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Adding internet radio to the mix

July 30th, 2009 by Graham Attwell

The Jisc SSBR Institutional Innovation project conference on Institutional Impact, held last month, featured a series of accompanying internet radio broadcasts produced by Dirk Stieglitz and myself.  The radio was also streamed into the Elluminate platform and into the Second Life social event in the evening. The keynote presentation by John Cook was broadcast live,  ande radio programmes featured music, interviews and phone in sessions with guests.

Following the event I was asked to produce a short piece for the Jisc SSBR Create project newsletter, which is sent to all the programme projects. I hammered something short and sweet into an email and forgot about it. Anyway a week or two later, Goerge Roberts got back to me asking for “something a little more reflective and analytical about the intention, effect and outcome of the radio, not just what happened.”

That I have done and emailed off to George and to Emma Anderson who edits the newsletter. But I thought the ‘reflection’ might be of interest to a wider audience. So here you go….

“The radio show was seen as an experiment and had a number of objectives. One aim was to experiment with mixing different media in an online conference. Different media provide different affordances, and a mix of media can provide a richer online learning environment. However, anecdotal evidence would suggest that participants can be confused by multiple platforms especially when each requires a separate login. The radio programme was streamed through Elluminate allowing easy access, despite offering lower quality than the online internet stream. Although other conferences and events – notably those organised by Webheads – have used internet radio as part of the ‘mix’, as far as we are aware this was the first time internet radio had been streamed through an online platform in this way.

A second issue with online conferences is continuity. Experience of previous events suggests that the concentration involved in participating in such events is tiring and that frequent breaks are desirable between sessions. However, with the lack of proximately of co-participants in a shared physical environment, the continuity of the event is lost. The radio programme provided continuity by ensuring there was always something happening, whilst at the same time allowing for less intensive concentration and participation than the regular conference sessions. At the same time the radio was able to offer both a continuity link in terms of the themes of the conference and an opportunity to extend, explore and reflect on those themes through pre-recorded and live interviews with those involved in similar or related projects and initiatives.

Whilst parts of the radio broadcasts were streamed into the Elluminate portal, the broadcast also allowed those not registered for the conference (for which registration was limited to Jisc programme participants) to listen to the keynote presentation by John Cook. Although the radio was announced in advance, we suspect that most listeners learnt about the broadcast from Twitter.

Although our statistics are limited, it is interesting to note that a considerable number of listeners appear to be from outside the UK and particularly from continental Europe. This could be of potential importance in dissemination or ‘benefits realisation’ for Jisc projects.

All the radio broadcasts have been made available after the conference as MP3 podcasts. The podcasts of previous live radio programmes have been relatively popular, usually attracting at least 500 downloads over a six month period. The podcast of last year’s Jisc emerge project live broadcast form Alt C in Leeds has had over 2500 downloads!

Getting the feel and atmosphere right for the broadcasts is an ongoing issue. We had a slightly different approach to the different programmes broadcast through the day. The morning programme, prior to the conference was mainly music, with some preview of the days activities. The morning and afternoon coffee break programmes featured Jisc projects and initiatives, whilst the lunch time programme featured interviews with Jisc programme managers. Finally the evening programme was seen as a magazine style ‘wrap-up’ to the day, featuring live interviews with organisers of other UK and European projects as well as providing an opportunity for reflection by the conference organisers. Our broadcasting of music in the radio programmes has proved highly popular, However, it is difficult to choose a mix of music which suits everyone’s tastes. All the music is from the Creative Commons Jamendo web site, meaning that we remain legal whilst at the same time promoting open content. However, this does mean we are unable to play music which is familiar to people and this may be challenging, especially early in the morning! Next time we will try to provide a wider mix of music.

In conclusion, we feel the radio was successful, enhancing the conference, providing a showcase for multi channel and multi platform connections and allowing for reflection and continuity in the overall event.

The shows were presented by Graham Attwell and Dirk Stieglitz selected the music, produced the programme and undertook the post processing.”

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