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Portacular Resonances: Radiophonic Fields as Socioinformatics

Authors: Garrett Johnson*, Ititit{inc}, Brandon Mechtley, ititit{inc}, Jonathan Bratt*, Arizona State University
Topics: Cultural Geography, Geographic Thought, Field Methods
Keywords: radio, electromagnetism, soundscape, social media, network culture, topology, process, portals
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/9/2020
Start / End Time: 1:45 PM / 3:00 PM
Room: Virtual Track 4
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Portals have become emblematic of telematic connectivity enabled by digital networks. Consider the slogan for Facebook’s consumer device Portal: “if you can’t be there, feel there.” Despite attempts to sidestep ocularcentric telematics (Montpellier 2015), media design fails to produce other kinds of portals than those cybernetic, McLuhan-esque rubrics of connectivity. Though media theorists criticize connectivity (Shaviro 2004, Galloway and Thacker 2009, Culp 2016), they propose few alternative modes of mediatiating togetherness.

We have spoken about Idiotic Resonances, a set of rhythmanalytic (Lefebrvre 1992) practices attuning to the excesses and entropies of complex systems using traditional medium-frequency radio receivers and the spatial variability of the electromagnetic spectrum (Mechtley & Johnson 2019). Radio technologies inflect socialmedia differently; pace Shannon, information works as an operator of collective individuation (Simondon 2009). We engage radio to produce alternative portacular resonances through interplay of Euclidean and Riemannian concepts of space, presence, and closeness (Deleuze & Guattari 2004).

We highlight delightful peculiarities and cultural practices with radio; skip zones (dead zones where radio signals are reportedly non-existent) and unintended ionospheric reflections (which bounce local radiowaves across the world) fold space-time suggesting a portacularity inheriting from Riemannian rather than graph-theoretical topology. Conversly, direction finding or “fox hunts”, a tactical procedure whereby the origins of radio transmissions are located via triangulation, reimposes an Euclidian reckoning onto the RF field. Through a politics of the weird (Fisher 2015) radio creates new relational portals vis-a-vis governance, social identity, and communication as an alternative to network culture.

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