In this experimental media studio, we will make a series of analog broadcasts after building a mobile DIY radio station located somewhere in the architecture and design building. As we prepare our broadcasting activity, we will research targeted episodes in the history of radio and related media with a special focus of underground, freeform, alternative, guerrilla, and pirate forms.

Our own interest in radio at this particular moment is in a media form that is inherently local and ephemeral, in stark contrast to the globally available, always visible forms of electronic media that have come to more and more completely dominate social life today. In the context of this hegemonic contemporary landscape of “social media,” the transmission of content that can be neither counted, liked, nor archived — in short, that cannot be profited on, nor surveilled — is a refreshing and radical possibility. We will imagine and test senses of this possibility together throughout the semester.

One of the interesting contrasts between radio and internet is spatial: the internet creates non-local, globalized audiences while radio locally activates communities. And the question of the ownership of space is crucial in the context of radio: who owns the airwaves? who has the right to broadcast in this medium? The difference is also temporal — radio takes place at a specific time and for a specific duration. We will investigate and explore these unique space/time features of the radio medium in our own broadcasts.

Our research and practice of micropower or short form radio will help us to think more critically about the political form of media in general and especially its underground and emancipatory possibilities. We will look for models for own radio work in various accounts and theories of radical, guerrilla, and emancipatory media from 70s video art, pirate radio, and the 80/90s internet, as well as recent low fidelity risographic print practices.

Theorizations of emancipatory media, beginning with Berthold Brecht and going to Damon Locks, recurrently find ideal use case scenarios in the radio form. There seems to be an inherent promise of democracy and freedom in the idea of radio, from its origins to its current late seeming obsolescence. Another way we might formulate this sense of political/emancipatory media is by reference to technology — can a technology that is developed under the dominating social relations of capitalism (as we will learn looking at the history of radio) produce a social relation that is fundamentally different? Can a communication technology itself trigger a revolution or reformation in social relations (as people have argued for various communication technologies throughout the last centuries)? Or in relation to what other social conditions or struggles can this emancipation take place?

In the first half of the semester we will work together to develop basic concepts and content for our transmissions, as well as some theoretical orientations. We will also work together to develop a “station identity” — a name or set of call letters along with a basic visual identity. During the first phase of the course, we will visually publicize our station through prints that we post in the building. The idea is that we will build awareness and suspense around our upcoming transmissions, even if we aren’t quite sure what they will be. A formal component of this work will involve developing typography for a content that is essentially sonic, auditory. How might letterforms express the sonic identity of a radio wave meant to be heard not seen?

At the same time, in the first part of the course, we will work on developing the material infrastructure and technical know-how for our low-watt station: installing both the transmission hardware (transmitters, capacitors, antenna) and the reception equipment (receivers, speakers). We will build or find small radios and position them within listening stations throughout the building. We might design these listening spaces as fugitive but inviting social spaces and supplement them with printed or fabricated “listening aides” (zines, furniture).