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Jonathan Puckey's Radio Garden Knows No Borders


This week, a website launched. It's like catnip for radio-obsessed people like me. I'm looking at the website radio.garden. It's a simple globe. You spin it around with your mouse and click on dots to play live radio broadcasts from around the world. Like - OK, let's just spin around over here.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Korean).

CHANG: Chungju-si, South Korea.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Speaking Korean).

CHANG: All right. How about here? I'm just going up to Seoul.


CNBLUE: (Singing in Korean).

CHANG: Oh, yeah - nice.


CNBLUE: (Singing in Korean).

CHANG: All right. Now I'm going to scoot on over to Europe. Rome.


UNIDENTIFIED ARTIST #1: (Singing in foreign language).

CHANG: It's basically an awesome real-time adventure to hear voices and music from around the planet. Radio Garden was designed by Jonathan Puckey in collaboration with the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision. Jonathan Puckey joins us from Amsterdam now.



CHANG: So how did this project come about?

PUCKEY: Yeah. So a year ago, we were invited by the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision to actually come up with an installation for their museum for a research project called Transnational Radio Encounters. And this research project is about radio that crosses borders and radio of different languages. And we actually quite quickly came up with the idea of making a website instead of an installation.

CHANG: You know, it is interesting. On this globe, you don't see any state borders in the U.S., and you don't see any country designations in the rest of the globe. You know, it's just, like, a satellite image. Why leave out the borders?

PUCKEY: Like, radio itself, of course, doesn't know about borders. It's a signal that travels as far as the signal strength goes. And we kind of wanted to reflect that idea. In the past when you used to listen to radio, you would even have, like, the city names on the dials. Like, you would tune into - for example, in the Netherlands, you would tune into Hilversum. And we kind of wanted to, like, replicate this sort of idea that, yeah, you're kind of traveling in your mind as you listen to this radio. And you're not, like, busy with where you are exactly.

CHANG: I like that idea. Like, right now, I'm just going to click on this dot in the middle of Asia - oh, it's Afghanistan.


UNIDENTIFIED ARTIST #2: (Singing in foreign language).

CHANG: I love that. I feel like I'm peeking through the window at someone else's party. But I don't feel shut out. I kind of feel invited. And it makes the world feel smaller to me by being able to navigate it so quickly with a mouse.

PUCKEY: Yes, I really like the idea that you can get lost. Like, you don't know exactly where you're going. Like I tried, for example, to find San Francisco the other day and actually had a hard time pinpointing it because I'm so used to actually seeing a map and sort of knowing exactly where I need to go - really enjoy this sort of fact of sort of getting lost.

CHANG: Right. So besides the live broadcast, there are a couple other buttons here. I'm looking at jingles. I'm going to click on jingles.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Singing) Seventy-seven WABC.

CHANG: (Laughter) That is from 1961, New York, obviously prerecorded.

PUCKEY: Yeah, well - because we were working together with this research group and one of the research projects was research actually into the world of jingles.


UNIDENTIFIED SINGERS: (Laughter) Seven-ninety, WAKY...

CHANG: The Radio Garden website - it's less than a week old, right? And it's already been shared like crazy on social media.

PUCKEY: Yeah, this was really surprising. We launched on Monday, and it's just been going all over the globe. Right now, we're sort of going viral in Brazil and actually Saudi Arabia and actually countries where we didn't even have that many radio stations or content from those places.


PUCKEY: But they seem to really be getting into it. We've been receiving, like, copious amounts of requests of radio stations to have their station put on the website, which is really surprising. I have, like, a list of, like, 600 emails that I still need to, like, run through this weekend...


PUCKEY: ...Adding all these stations the website. So that's been great.

CHANG: Jonathan Puckey helped design the Radio Garden website. He joined us from Amsterdam.

Thank you.

PUCKEY: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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