The Radio Garden: private pleasures and public benefits

Lewis, Peter M. and Mitchell, Caroliine (2021) The Radio Garden: private pleasures and public benefits. Interactions: studies in communication and culture, 12 (1). pp. 39-50. ISSN 1757-269X


The launch in December 2016 of the Radio Garden, an output of the EU-funded Transnational Radio Encounters project, attracted a social media storm and hundreds of millions of page views. Since then, the number of visits has not significantly decreased. Recently (February 2021) a mention of this extraordinary app in the BBC’s World Service led to more Twitter activity, a discussion on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, and a Guardian editorial (“world citizenship in an app”, Guardian 24 February). It is the ability to access live radio streams from stations across the world that is Radio Garden’s attraction, something which, in the years since its launch, the two authors have repeatedly witnessed: people, young and old, are excited by this ‘transnational radio encounter’. With a touch of the screen Radio Garden offers an escape from the bubble of ‘likes’ to new musical and linguistic encounters, geographical difference and distance, perhaps even an escape from the bubble of nationality. For older people, the surfing recalls the dial-searching of the first radio age - an adventure, but a safe one. In this article two Co-Investigators in the original Transnational Radio Encounters project discuss what these encounters mean for listeners and its continuing popularity during the 2020-2021 pandemic. They demonstrate how the platform has enabled people to participate in radio in new ways and discuss examples of the social and educational benefits and the personal pleasures it affords its users in the UK and beyond.

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