Binary Dispatches days 98 was this year's manifestation of the annual Radio Days forum, exploring the innovation and experimentation of radio art.  This year's conference was hosted in Berlin in June of this year. It was a symposium focused on a new generation of streaming media practitioners, utilising software such as Real Audio to broadcast audio content live on the internet.  This phenomena is being dubbed,

The conference was hosted by two organizations, the aspiring Mikro (, a collection of academics, net.prophets, info addicts (and the occasional practitioner), and Convex TV (, a group of young Berliners that have established a web presence to archive their fortnightly radio shows on Berlin University radio.  Though not a triumph of modern organizational practice, it was indeed chaotic and, at times, positively disorganized, the conference was inspirational.  In fact days was one of the most efficacious and interesting symposiums I have attended. days 98 was attended mainly by participants of the Xchange community (, an email list formed to facilitate communication between artists and enthusiasts of sound art, radio and the internet.  Xchange is a relatively recent phenomena, arising out of the possibilities offered by streaming media within the past 12 - 18 months.  Though the idea of broadcast on the internet is older than this by some margin, the utilization of streaming media differentiates from other net practice. This distinction formed, whether knowingly or subconsciously, the subtext for the conference.

 There were about 15 presentations over the 3 days, with lectures covering a broad range of topics, from examples of individual practices, digital broadcasting, midi audio technologies, collaborations, historical perspectives on broadcasting, and streaming media software.  I found all these presentations interesting but some were only obliquely relevant to the practice of However some talks were wholly captivating.

One of my favourite addresses was by Convex TV's Martin Conrads who spoke creatively on the intersection of and pop-culture. He delved into many radio icons within literature, including Isaac Asimov's "Harmoniums", a story about birds which feed on radio waves, and an anecdote about a scientist interested in finding the radio frequency emitted by individual planets.

Co-founder of the nettime mail list, Pit Schultz gave a lecture about the disadvantages of over-theorizing During his illuminating address, he identified the <<nettime> culture as an example of a context unnecessarily stifled by academia, and warned Xchange to evade excessive intellectual hierarchy.

PHD student, Golo Foellmer gave an interesting lecture entitled 'Sound in the net'. At first his speech seemed to be only a minimal overview of, profiling well known internet audio software and web audio interfaces like Beatnik and MPEG.  His presentation was interesting, not because of its detail or depth, but because it provided a challenge to the practitioners, to venture outside the limits of Real Audio and converge streaming media with other forms of

I attended days as a representative of Adelaide (Australia) based station r a d i o q u a l i a ( to present one of our projects, self.e x t r a c t i n (.ser). .ser  is a project exploring and critiquing public access broadcasting within an internet environment.   .ser's attempts to empower new users of internet based broadcast media, by allowing any web user to add audio files to an internet radio station playlist, through an automated web interface.

Central to the philosophy of .ser is the belief that broadcasting is an impoverished art.  The resources to broadcast are rare and those with the privilege to broadcast are unwilling to take the risks necessary to explore the potential of the media. The distribution of those resources is the only way that the medium will realize its capacity. Only when broadcast media is in the hands of people who are prepared to make mistakes and explore the communicative and experimental aspects of the media, will broadcasting achieve its potential. .ser is a simple experiment in the distribution of the mechanisms of broadcasting.

The presentation of .ser was positively received, providing the impetus for the discussion of many provocative issues about the relationship between radio and the internet.  Some of the pivotal themes explored in discussion centered around the contrasts between traditional radio and, and the political and practical restrictions of both media.  Much is made about the utilitarian potential of the internet and its ability to deconstruct traditional systems of information regulation, and has been no stranger to this rhetoric. is "desktop radio". Soft environments replicating the techniques of arcane processes.  But the simplicity of Real Audio is something that amateur ham radio enthusiasts never had. Net-casters are able to replicate the obsessive copper coil windings and practiced drop soldering techniques of their analogue counterparts, by clumsily crashing away at a keyboard. No need for diodes, resistoids, capicitrons. It is the technology of the hobbyist. Able to leap Dick Smiths in a single bound, the zeal of the handset radio heritage re-purposed for more utilitarian purposes. It would seem the meek have, at last, inherited the earth.....

Of course, this is familiar techno utopianism.  Though production of is simpler than traditional radio, ironically consumption, is much more complicated. The ability to listen is entirely contingent on audiences' access to a computer and an internet connection.  Freedom of speech / information is no less regulated by technology and money on the internet than it is in any other broadcast or publishing context. No matter how beneficial or admirable the information is, without resources and technology it can not be transmitted.  These resources are still moderated by money and other societal systems of regulation.  Hence the impact a net.broadcaster has on the media environment is limited.

The conference also provided the opportunity for many debates ( including a public forum at the end of the last day. I am most indebted to Josephine Bosma for the long discussions we had about the difference between radio and  These questions have continued to occupy my thoughts. Increasingly I believe radio can do everything can. It can be interactive, as with examples like  talkback, it can be transmitted live from remote locations, it can 'mix streams', it can operate on a small scale, it can circulate challenging or 'minority focused' content, and can even be combined with television to deliver visual elements to broadcasts.

It seems to me one real difference between the two is not content, but the method by which each distributes information. While is wired, radio is wireless, and this difference opens up interesting opportunities for examination within creative contexts. r a d i o q u a l i a is presently examining these ideas through The Frequency Clock (to be presented at INFOWAR, this year's Ars Electronica symposium), an experiment examining the methods of disseminating audio content through and micro-FM.

A quote by Martin Conrads for me best sums up an embryonic, yet critical facet of an emerging identity,  "radio does not have to have content".  This comment alludes to the fact that radio in its purest sense is radio waves, not the content that is carried along these frequencies.  He is proposing that radio can be purely about the traversal of data.  Communication as decoration.  And why should we require ornaments to be productive?  We can, if we choose, utilize decoration, in a wholly inconsequential way.  

And after all, choice is what we came here for.