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Dorothy J Burk

UMS 6184/6
Abstract: Radio and Modernity: Time, Place and "Communicative Capacity" by David Hendy
The conception of time and space instilled by radio has several effects on our own experience of space
and time in the physical sphere, and on our sense of identity. Hendy argues that two important effects of radio
that must be studied are on "sense of place" and "sense of space." The essential contradiction to be taken up in
the article is that of the ability of radio to cause social alienation while also having potential for rekindling of
social life. Hendy refers in this respect to "radio's communicative capacity."
The first section of the article deals with time in radio. Because radio broadcasts have no visual
component, they exist and develop only in time. This existence in time is dependent upon constantly
reinforcing what is being listened to and who is talking. Hendy argues that ultimately the well-constructed
notion of time in radio leads to a "thematizing" of daily life. The ability of radio to become a part of routine,
daily life is reflected in the fact that radio itself has come to be seen as ordinary and routine (261).
The second section of the article deals with the dimension of place in radio. Hendy argues that while
radio might construct a public forum, the limits of that forum are much more dependent on broadcasters than
listeners. He discusses several devices used to build community via the radio, one of the most important of
which is advertising; ads tie listeners into a consumer culture to which they feel belonging. Radio must work to
have a sense of locality despite the fact that it is quite place-less, and this sense of locality is used to re-present
the audience to themselves, as the community.
The final section of the article deals with Hendy's original assertion that radio has intense
"communicative capacity," the embodiment of the paradox between social alienation and the rekindling of
social life that is accredited to radio. Hendy argues that radio has an ability to communicate which is not
always realized, so that often nothing is said even when something is being said. He points particularly to DJs
and hourly news updates, which go on whether or not they have anything notable to say. Hendy argues that the
effects of radio might not be entirely negative, but that intellectuals must do the work of identifying what sort
of cultures radio constructs or reproduces, and how radio defines the dimensions of our social lives.

Article referenced
Hendy, D. (2009). Radio and Modernity: Time, Place and "Communicative Capacity." In B.E. Duffy and J.
Turow (Eds.), Key Readings in Media Today: Mass Communication in Contexts (pp. 256-277).
New York: Routledge.