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About theory and practice

June 20th, 2013 by Graham Attwell

We have been running a series of workshops for the RadioActive project on developing internet radio stations. Part of this is about content and part around the technical side of streaming internet radio.

In theory the technical side should be easy – we take a series of feeds – from microphones, MP3 players, from a computer and mix them through a 8 track mixing deck before returning the signal to the computer, streaming it to a streaming server in London and hence to the internet. Indeed, so easy we thought it, that we designed the technical training as a breakout session from the main workshops.

We were wrong. The struggle with the technocracy has proved to be the main problem with the RadioActive project. And we came to realize the problem. We had showed people how to set the computer and deck up. But we had not explained the underpinning theories and ideas behind the audio set up. Fine if it all worked our of the box. But if it didn’t then without an understanding of what different components are doing, it is mighty hard to diagnose where the problem is.

Secondly we paid insufficient attention to the issue of leveling. Fairly obviously different inputs will have different levels (just like people – I am make an incredibly loud input). And one of the skills of the technician is leveling those inputs, both using presets during a sound check and adjusting the faders (and if necessary, the gain) during the broadcast. Also, post processing on pre-recorded items can help in getting a common level.
I could sort of operate the deck and system myself. But I had just picked it up as I went along and had no real knowledge of what the different buttons did.

And one of the issues was that people kept asking for us to tell them the ‘right’ why to do it, when , in truth there are many different ways to set the system up. But, once more, to understand the different possible set ups, which is useful when you discover you have left a key connecting cable behind, means having a more theoretical understanding of what we are doing than just following a diagram.
So we have revamped our technical training for internet radio. We have turned it into a two-day module and are experimenting with outcomes based accreditation. Dirk delivered the first workshop for the London partners two weeks ago. And I followed the same programme in Bucharest with our partners from Romania.

One of the critical aspects is we go far further into the theory, explaining what each part of the equipment does before even trying to connect it all up.
And it seems to work. Our Romanian partners broadcast a wonderfully smooth programme last Friday lunchtime. We still have some things to learn – we had forgotten to teach them how to use remote recorders. But the programme is getting set on the right course. Next step I think – is to try to produce some open educational resources and multimedia to supplement the face to face training

2 Responses to “About theory and practice”

  1. Werner says:

    To me this RadioActive-Project sounds really great. Now I’m really keen on listening to the results. Isn’t it possible to provide some links to get the productions? (O.k., looking for the content might be “old school” after Mc Luhan proclaimed that “the media is the message”…, but I stand by it).

  2. Graham Attwell says:

    Hi yes of course I should have added that Werner. Radioactive has a European portal for the different national partners involved in the project. These give access to the podcasts of the radio shows. The portal is at

    You can listen to a German language broadcasts on the German language part of the portal e.g. at

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