Rr:radio conversation - email exchange with Tetsuo Kogawa

published: February, 1998

Rr:radio conversation

Someone forwarded an email of mine to Tetsuo Kogawa, here is an edit of our email exchange that followed.

Josephine: >Tetsuo Kogawa got the excellent idea to build chains of these small transmitters, to still be able to broadcast in the entire city. These transmitters do not reach further then about 100 meters, so global domination with a single mini fm station in large areas is rather difficult.<

Tetsuo: This situation was about the first stage of Mini FM in the early 80s in Japan. At that time, we had not so much knowledge on transmitter technology and, at the same time, the authority was nervous about our 'unexpected' trick (micro politics). As late as 1986, we started to use more powerful (but it is only one watt) transmitter that could cover at least 1-2 mile radius. The point, however, is not the stronger power of transmitter. As long as it is alternative (later + native), it must be different from usual broadcasting. Forgetting 'broad'-casting, we insisted 'narrow'-casting.

Josephine: you know that narrow casting is a term that is also used for webcasting? (because the broadcasts on the net can only follow the path of the net, and not fill the entire ether)

Tetsuo: In my understanding, the more creative or positive function of the Web is to be not 'casting'. Unfortunately, the Internet is used as a new type of casting, though.

Josephine: You are so right about the 'casting' issue. One problem when discussing these matters is terms and definitions though. I tried to find new/other words for audio broadcasts on the net that I like, but it was too hard. Maybe terms will just emerge somehow. The weaving is a nice metaphor indeed for sound, even more so then for other kinds of information/data, sound being invisible.

Also: a problem with some terms is the limited expectations people have. For instance the word -radio-. Radio is so much more then broadcasting, and even broadcasting could be so much more varied then what most broadcasters do with it. So for what audio/radio/sound on the net is concerned, I still often like to use the word, but nowadays I use 'audio art on the net' or, all kinds of combinations that all never really fit.

Tetsuo: I agree. I now understand what you have in mind over our difference of terms.

I think that the term of 'radio" becomes more and more diverse than ever. Since the term of "radio art" became popular after the early 1990s (the first radio art festival was held in Dublin). Now I like to use "radio" even to video transmission. Basically, my idea and concepts are based on the radio art tradition that is complicated but you can presuppose.

Even if one calls "broadcast" or "narrowcast", no difference is that both pro-pose/pre-sent (anticipate) listner's need. That's why you call 'casting'. The listener is cast by the caster. The Web can overcome this modernist structure.

Josephine: The active participant should be possible of course, but many will still prefer to simply enjoy. I suppose you don't mean everybody is a radiofreak/artist? I don't mean to be rude. I don't know you so I have no idea where your remark is coming from, what is the basic thought behind it. One thing that has always been very attractive about radio for me is the relative easy access to the technology: its cheapness, its simplicity (I cannot build a transmitter btw, I am not a technician at all) and these two things combined with the relative large impact radio can have. Where I started to make radio (you might have heard of Radio Patapoe? You know Toshiya Ueno?) the emphasis was always so much more on the content then on the so called perfection of technological skill that it was addictive and extremely stimulating. Noise, mistakes and chaos were actually promoted as part of the mythical greatness of Patapoe. This way of thinking will never leave me anymore. Come to think of it, I had also a period in which I did not care at all if anybody listened. I liked very much the randomness, the possibility of somebody accidentally bumping into my voice/sound on the dial. In a car, anywhere.

Tetsuo: By talking "The listener is cast by the caster. The Web can overcome this modernist structure", I tried to say the basic change of the function. Even if it is neither sufficient nor radical, the net radio using RealAudio has been changing the attitude of the listener. This never happened even in micro radio. (We--the member of Radio Run in Tokyo had a lot of experiments: a program for only one listener and, as you mentioned, a program for no listener). However, in these, listener is listener and caster is caster. The difference always exits. That's the point. The net radio has a possibility that you never pro-gram/anticipate/pre-sent something to send and can overcome the difference between so-called 'sender' and 'receiver'. For instance, I have just installed the system that I can transmit at any place where the telephone is available. I will bring my laptop computer that is installed RealEncoder5.0---unfortunately only for Windows95 right now---and connect it to my webpage by it. This can be possible for those who can access to the Internet. I want to show you how it is like. Maybe I will have a party---radio party--soon using this system. In the party, I plan to use not only the net but also various kind of media---face-to-face relationships to telephone, videophone, and free radio transmission.

I know Geert Lovink. He sent me a bunch of the tape long time ago. I guess that your mail might be forwarded by Geert. Toshiya was one of my students. I know he is now an addict of Amsterdam.

Josephine: The net is bringing many interesting new features to radio, but some things are actually quite limiting, and the worst thing is this extended broadcasting on the net, with special agents that prepare you a preset and fixed menu of soundstreams they are programmed to find for you. How much more narrow can consumerism get?

Tetsuo: I absolutely agree with you. That's stupid usage of the net for radio. They should be shut out for more bandwidth.

Josephine: Are you connected to a space in Tokyo?

Tetsuo: In terms of airwave radio, I am not interested in "narrowcasting" type micro radio any more. You can use a lot of narrowcasting including web radio. Even in Japan where the broadcasting policy is very retrograde, you can now find "community FM", satellite broadcasting, cable TV and so on. Also, I am not interested in radio as a means of transmitting message.

I gradually learned that the appropriate size of the power is one watt--One watt of truth. So, I started to design a transmitter of one watt that consists of lesser and popular parts and higher quality.

You will find the uptodate diagram in my webpage: (or go to---> and then to--->"Like Old Times" ----> March 19, 1997 -----> Micro Radio)

Josephine: I hope I do not offend you with this remark, but it sounds more like a philosophical statement then appropriate tactical media thinking ... isn't the question rather: how to use a specific medium for specific environments and situations?

I don't think community radio ever replaces free radio, there are always limitations when one is legal. People suddenly become more protective about equipment, one has to pay for each piece of music (here anyway)..

Tetsuo: Absolutely. That's why another type of radio. I never have positive expectation to community radio.

Josephine: I like what you say though, please do not misunderstand me, I like it from a poetic point of view very much

Tetsuo: "One watt of truth" derives from Napoleon Williams (the founder of Black Liberation Radio, Ill, USA) who used a 1 watt of FM transmitter but was accused by the FCC. His accusation stimulated the micro radio movement in the US in the 90s. This would never happen if the power is 0.1 or 10 watts.

The reason why I said one watt is appropriate is very simple. The coverage is proper for a community that you can walk and the technique to build up is cheap and easy. In my workshop, I build a set of it within an hour. In my workshop, I build a transmitter, show something of radio art and invite audience to the process: radio party.

Josephine: I see... you like the communal idea of this. I can walk further then that though. Even with my legs that hardly ever walk and always cycle.. :) What happens when you connect to the net and you cannot possibly walk the reach of your audio? How do you resituate this feeling you get with making radio for the neighbourhood you live in to this new situation? I am curious, and you probably have a wonderful reply...

Tetsuo: I think this is very important point to Japanese cities. More aggressively than in Europe, the community culture and band-ness (funny expression?) here have been destroyed. That's why we have few community radio stations in Japan. But this situation might be good for the Webradio because the "listener" are separated and have no physical/geographical "community" anymore. The web may rejoin them on the cyberspace at least for the time that the webradio works.

The reason why I insist upon the lesser power of transmitter has something to do with the electromagnetic pollution. Even one watt of FM airwave might disturb our health, but I think one watt is a compromise. Think of the power of professional broadcasting: over 100KW and even 500KW.

Josephine: I know this is a problem, and not many people bother with this. I even know a guy who was stupid enough to have a commercial pirate put a very strong transmitter right above his bedroom, in a high squatted building. A technician here in Amsterdam once told me, that after he and his mates had installed a transmitter, they would not come near it again. I don't know however, whether stories about polution on further distance are not exagerated...

Julius (on the amsterdam freeradio team list): I don't agree with that. I know from some (dutch) research on this matter that up to about 500 Watts (not KILO-watts) the opposite is the case&semi; The health-effects on humans are actually GOOD from these reasonably low levels of FM airwaves! (I'll look up the URL for you) And indeed, from my own experiences I have to say that if FM airwaves would disturb our health, I would be in a hospital now, while in actuality, the opposite is the case: I feel quite good.

Tetsuo: In my article, I also emphasize that smaller transmission creates an interesting face-to-face communication.

Josephine: well, I will have to read it again (I read it last during n5m) Isn't it maybe more appropriate to have an unmediated conversation in such a situation though? :)

Tetsuo: When I was invited to Vancouver last year, I tried to show an idea of Natural Radio. This is an appropriation of surveillance system. I installed four FM transmitters at every corner of the building where my workshop/performance was held. The performance was that I showed making one of the transmitter, explained my idea showing my webpage on the large screen, installed the transmitters and then let the audience listen the sound. Nobody programmed and they listened "natural" sounds of birds, cars, voice of gathering people in the lobby.....

Josephine: this is an absolutely beautiful idea. I really love it.

Tetsuo: Right now, I am preparing Web radio using RealAudio/Video system. It will start next week. The linkage of Mini FM and the Web radio should create more polymorphous relationships. That's why I am interested in the Internet.

My plan using the Internet is, at the present stage, to make a sound version of Webcam. You access to my Web page and listen to various live sounds. I link the RealSystem and Mini FM (natural) radio transmitters because the present condition of streaming technology does not like heavy streaming. So, I will use one input of RealSystem but the input has various outputs from plural Mini FM transmitters that have no limitation of the number (the using frequency is limited, of course).

Josephine: wooow, an even better idea!!!!! I love it!!

I don't understand what you say about the present condition not liking heavy streaming, can you explain this more? I don't understand how you want to solve this problem connecting the 'Realsystem' to mini fm...

What is the input, and what is the output? The net is the input, or the many different mini fm transmitters? Does it mean one can listen to any of the mini's which in their turn are fed with the local sounds of where they are?

Tetsuo: I wrote that "the present condition of streaming technology does not like heavy streaming". This means that although the RealSystem of audio and video is wonderful in the function, but on the actual lever it works very poor if a lot of users access to the webpage that has the RealSystem. Because the bandwidth is limited. the alternative (again, I have to emphasize: this is not necessarily a compromise with the technological limitation but a strategic use of the limitation) is to 'weave' other media such as airwave radio, telephone and so on. My present illustration of "natural radio" is such that I install 5 to 8 of 1 watt transmitters mainly outside of the house&semi; they bring various sounds/voice and even music to the place where the computer to access to the net is available. The RealEncoder (that has a function of "live broadcasting"---don't mind the TERM) can send some of the sound source (here you can have various radio art experiments) to it through the server.