Manifesto

Mission Statement:

Audio drama is one of the most intimate and expressive dramatic mediums, rivaling theater and film in poetic, visual, and narrative qualities. Many people are unaware of this - a stigma lingers that "radio drama" is a scratchy, cartoonish thing of the past, as if people thought that cinema ended with silent movies, unaware of all the great films made since that time. In reality, audio and radio drama is the great frontier of modern theater - with subtle, intimate performances and powerful, gripping stories.

My aim is to promote a discussion of the art, sociology, theory, and future of this remarkable artistic form. The current state of audio drama is precarious, but through careful consideration of how content is presented, distributed, and interacted with, I believe that the radio and audio drama community can grow and prosper and reach an even wider audience.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Distributing Knowledge

There is so much audio content out there, and it is so difficult to find out about it. There are several resources that help, but there's no one place to go for answers. Developing an understanding of the medium in terms of what's out there and who's doing it is fundamental to developing and maintaining an audience.

The BBC does not maintain, to my knowledge, a database about their radio output. If they do, it's not accessible to the public. Sure, there are listings on their web site, but these are confusing and far from comprehensive. Wikipedia has some information on radio plays, but most of the information we're talking about falls outside Wikipedia parameters, particularly with regards to notability. For an online encyclopedia with Wikipedia's scope, they just can't handle information about obscure radio plays. And that's ok. They don't have to.

But we can be as specialized as we want to be.

Over the years, many people have spent incredible amounts of time working to preserve, promote, and maintain knowledge about audio drama, particularly BBC content. They are volunteers who have rescued and cataloged audio drama, since the BBC doesn't even maintain archives of their work. And these people exist all over the world, working independently or in small groups or networks, trying to raise the profile of audio drama. The problem is, they can't all work together. It's as if there's a giant puzzle – the Radio Drama Puzzle – spread out across the continents, and many different people have pieces of the puzzle, and are assembling their pieces separately. But there's no one coffee table on which to assemble the entire picture. There are several examples.

Diversity

Nigel and Alison Deacon's Diversity website is probably the best online resource for information about British radio drama. They've spent many years and thousands of hours archiving and compiling information about radio plays, authors, and practitioners. They've done an amazing job, but there's two issues with Diversity.

One – they're basically doing all the work alone. It seems like they have had information sent to them from other people, but when it comes down to it, they have to collate and enter the data and then post it on their website themselves. If I had a piece of information to complement their work, I wouldn't be able to add it there myself. They would have to upload it themselves, and they're busy enough as it is. With a wiki-style interface, I could input the information that I have, and other people can add and modify it, and make it better.

Two – The data on Diversity doesn't link to itself. With Wikipedia, each entry is connected to other entries, forming a useful network of information. But on Diversity, the information isn't aggressively cross-linked within itself. I can click on the entry for Rhys Adrian and get one long page about it. But I can't zero in on specific radio plays, or click on cast members or producers who have worked on the Adrian plays. The information doesn't flow to other information.

RadioListings

This is an extremely comprehensive site that is very hyperlinked with itself. But the format is difficult for the eye to follow, isn't presented in easy to navigate lists, and is limited in terms of how much information can be presented . Also, the person who runs it apparently (and unfortunately) is very ill, and can't devote as much time to it. This raises the issue of longevity in an information repository. When a comprehensive database is undertaken by an individual, there's always the danger that life circumstances, financial or personal or medical, might interfere and jeopardize the project. To be truly useful, and to grow as an authoritative source of information, an audio drama database needs to be independent of individuals, able to last in perpetuity.

The Audio Drama Wiki

The solution to this problem of centralized knowledge is, as far as I can tell, a wiki. To this end, we've created one – the Audio Drama Wiki, hosted by Wikia. Wikia is the commercial arm of Wikimedia, and I think offers the stability for a long-term collaborative project. And if I get hit by a bus tomorrow, nobody needs to worry about the whole thing disappearing.

So, if you are interested, check it out. I'd love to get whatever help I can. There are some easy ways to get involved:

  1. Steal from Wikipedia. There are many articles about audio drama on Wikipedia already. Copying and pasting some of them into the Audio Drama Wiki is a quick and easy way to generate content. Just be sure to edit the content for relevance and formatting. A lot of the information the ADW should include is information that is too specialized or obscure for Wikipedia to bother with. But the main articles, such as Tom Stoppard or Howard Barker, for example, are great springboards for creating more articles in the ADW about specific radio plays.

  2. Content from Diversity. Basically, all of the information the Deacons have compiled needs to be entered into the Audio Drama Wiki. Just be sure to cite the source. They've worked long and hard for many years gathering that info, and should be properly credited.

  3. Content from Radiolistings. It all needs to go in!

  4. Credits from audio broadcasts. If you've got audio files from radioarchive, for example, each torrent usually comes with a text file including the title, author, and cast and crew of the radio play. This information can be easily copied, pasted, and formatted to become an Audio Drama wiki page. Or, if you don't have an accompanying text file for your audio, just listening to the credits at the end, jotting them down, and entering them into a wiki page would also do the trick.

Together, I think we can make this happen.

No comments:

Post a Comment