Those of you old enough to remember AM Radio, will remember when just after nightfall you could get literally hundreds of channels from nearly halfway across the country at night. This was before radio became homogenized and MTV-ized into the same pablum top 40 or so format in every city. So listening to radio from NYC or Philadelphia was totally different from that in Charlotte or Atlanta. As a kid I would sit with my transistor radio and listen to the big hits and latest music from what were then to me far away locations. The ability to do this had to do with AM Radio’s physical property that the radio waves bounced off the Troposphere at night, and based on weather conditions could land hundreds, and in some cases a thousand or more miles away. Sometimes the connection would last for hours – sometimes only a few minutes. We called it “Skipland” because the signals would move around based on weather, and it was unpredictable where they would land. As such you might get a perfect signal at your home, but lose it in a trip to a friends house a few miles away.
A new ap lets you do just that now, only it covers just about the whole world.
Radio Garden is a meditation on connectedness and what broadcast technology does to local culture.
…Radio Garden, which launched today, is a similar concept—a way to know humanity through its sounds, through its music. It’s an interactive map that lets you tune into any one of thousands of radio stations all over the world in real time. Exploring the site is both immersive and a bit disorienting—it offers the sense of lurking near Earth as an outsider. In an instant, you can click to any dot on the map and hear what’s playing on the radio there, from Miami to Lahore to Berlin to Sulaymaniyah and beyond.
The project, created for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision by the interactive design firms Studio Puckey and Moniker, was built using an open-source WebGL globe that draws from thousands of radio stations—terrestrial and online-only streams—overlaid with Bing satellite imagery.
The result is the best kind of internet rabbit hole: Engrossing, perspective shifting, provocative, and delightful.
The Golden Record is now more than 12 billion miles away from Earth, somewhere in interstellar space. Here on Earth, Radio Garden allows you to travel not just through space, but through time—or at least time zones. So when it’s 5:08 a.m. in Nome, Alaska, and the local radio station is playing “Mercy Came Running,”—a song by the Christian trio Phillips, Craig and Dean—it’s also 5:08 p.m. in Moscow, where Haddaway’s 1993 hit “What Is Love” is on the radio.
At the same time—as in literally at the same time—you might find Bruno Mars’s “Grenade” playing in Rome, where it’s 3:08 p.m., and Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” playing in Honolulu, where it’s 4:08 a.m, and The Talking Heads’s “Wild Wild Life” playing in Buenos Aires , where it’s 11:08 a.m. (That’s in addition to all the songs in languages other than English playing everywhere from Ghana to Egypt to Mexico.)
Looking at (and listening to) the planet this way can leave you feeling paradoxically detached while still connected—like an omniscient observer finding familiar sounds in unfamiliar places. For one thing, radio as a medium often has a similar sound. That’s not just because American pop music in particular is a global export, but because of similarities in how radio is produced around the world. Local stations, wherever they are, often broadcast a mix of music, ads, traffic, and weather reports—and deep-voiced announcers adopt a similar tone across cultures. The aesthetic of the Radio Garden site—which uses satellite imagery rather than maps with political borders—helps further promote this feeling of connectedness. That was deliberate: Jonathan Puckey, who runs the interactive design firm Studio Puckey, told me that he and his colleagues wanted to leave people with the sense that “radio knows no borders.” (Besides, he points out, click around enough and you’ll find you can “tune into an Ethiopian spoken station in the middle of Kansas and an American station in the middle of South Korea.”)…