A low cost cellphone computed community radio station
In almost any society radio is well known and widespread. In many cases it is something so fundamental that it is considered trivial.
In South Africa as in many other developing economies the booming mobile market also suggests a boom in mobile access to radio, because you can listen to it using the built-in radio capabilities found in most of even the cheapest cellphones.
How we might challenge conventional thinking around radio – exploring alternative ways of combining it with the increasing access to cellphones?
Instead of radio building on a model of being regulated, centralized and remote – can it be open, mobile and highly localized?
How might local communities benefit from having access to their own highly localized radio infrastructure?
LoVoCo Mobile – Localized Vocalized Community
LoVoCo Mobile is a low cost mobile radio station running from a cellphone. This makes it possible to call it from anywhere in the world and be broadcasting live – wherever it goes. You can also broadcast by playing audio files from the phone or simply by speaking into the microphone of it. A pair of standard earphones can be connected to the cellphone, enabling the broadcaster to verify what goes on-air.
During a test transmission with a small scale farming community outside Cape Town one of the farmers called out: “Everyone in the farmer community, come and broadcast yourself!”
This notion of “broadcasting yourself” became characteristic for the kind of ideas the farmers had about using the prototype as a two-way social media platform.
“On air announcements” or “news feeds”, at a certain time and given frequency, could be broadcast to keep the community updated.
Other ideas involved leaving the radio open for the community to call in and update each other from anywhere – “on air tweets” in analogy of online tweets. Through further discussions an interesting question came up:
Would it really be necessary for everybody to have smartphones and internet, being literate and skilled with complicated interfaces to participate in online community – if you can have on-air community just using your old cellphone and own voice?
Could this offer a new perspective on the notion of “airtime” for your phone…
LoVoCo was developed locally in Cape Town in collaboration with a group of radio producers at Worker’s World Media Production, who are currently continuing the field testing of the prototype with different communities.