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Media and socio-cultural communication
Digital radio has been in development for over 25 years and yet is no nearer a point of successful adoption. This paper explores the emergence of contrasting European and American approaches to digital radio. The most established of these, Eureka-147 or Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB), which originated in Europe, is contrasted with the so-called IBOC or /HD Radio approach, as alternative collective conceptualizations of how technology can bridge contemporary broadcasting practice to an ̳imagined‘ digital future. Drawing on the concept of ̳symptomatic technology‘ (Williams 1974), DAB‘s origins in European R&D policy of the 1980s and its affinity with established European broadcasting practice is characterised as a distinct technological vision for how the frontiers for radio broadcasting could be expanded within the European political and cultural landscape of the time. DAB‘s attempt to map a global solution for digital radio, combining satellite and terrestrial broadcast strategies, met with significant US opposition which subsequently supported the development of the alternative ̳in-band, on-channel‘ approach. While neither solution is guaranteed long term success, their importance lies in the mobilization of the relevant national and international policy frameworks for the construction of radio‘s future.
Paying close attention to the discourses of technology inherent in these approaches and drawing on relevant contemporary engineering and technical descriptions, this analysis seeks to complement social shaping of technology studies (Mackay and Gillespie 1992) by focussing on the promotional efforts designed to support a particular technology‘s adoption.
O’Neill, B. ‘Back to the Future: The emergence of contrasting European and US approaches to digital radio’. Exploring New Media Worlds: Changing Technologies, Industries, Cultures, and Audiences in Global and Historical Context, Texas A&M University, February 29 to March 2, 2008.