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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Live from Technocultural Studies 112

Natalie Roman, a fourth-year American studies major, works on a cassette player, a device long superseded by digital technology that is faster, more convenient and more reliable. But she pushes on the player’s buttons to produce the sound of creating a mix tape — recording sound effects is an essential part of radio production.

Roman is a student of a New Radio Features and Documentary, known by its acronym TCS 112, which was introduced this quarter by Jesse Drew, director of the technocultural studies program. Students have a weekly opportunity to talk live on the radio, a firsthand experience that isn’t found in any other Davis classroom.

“It’s essentially a radio production class,” Drew said. “It looks at the history of radio, the impact of radio on our culture, but it also looks at where radio is going from here in terms of how it’s being integrated into the internet, and into online technologies and streaming.”

The class starts at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays when students begin to prepare their assigned pieces. At 10:30 a.m., four to five students go on air for 10 minutes and talk about campus life, community, science, music or sports. The show concludes at 11:30 a.m.

“It’s up to each individual to figure out how they want to do their own editing, how they want to put together their own show,” said Steven Gordon, a fifth-year English and technocultural studies double major. “Everybody does it differently.”

Gordon said he didn’t really know what to expect just from the name New Radio Features, but he said he was pleasantly surprised.

“I’m glad that it’s really hands-on and that we’re actually doing stuff with the radio instead of just learning about it in a lecture setting,” Gordon said.

The class normally meets twice a week. On Tuesdays, the class meets at Davis Media Access on Fifth Street. This Davis-based community media organization houses 95.7 KDRT, where the students go on air. Thursdays are structured more like your average, classroom setting to go more in-depth production and the radio industry.

“I thought it would be interesting,” Roman said. “I already work with KDVS, but this is a different set up. It’s a lot of production.”

The course was written years ago by Drew, whose wide media production background includes working at the Dolby laboratories and helping to start the 95.7 KDRT radio station.

He said he hopes TCS 112 will help students improve speaking skills, which becomes a challenge when faced with an open microphone. It’s also intended to train them to take out their earphones and listen more carefully to their environment.

“[Students] are only listening to pre-programmed sounds and not enough of the sounds in the world around them,” Drew said. “So I think it gets people to listen to sound more carefully, and also gets them to communicate using sound, communicate ideas in another medium besides the typewriter or the laptop.”

Even with everything transitioning to mobile phones and laptops, the audience for radio remains. As soon as we step into our cars, the radio is most likely on.

“There’s something that people enjoy about hearing a live voice on the other end when you’re driving,” Drew said. “It’s something that sort of keeps you more perked up and in tune with what’s going on in the world.”

The beauty of today’s digital age also allows people to listen to the radio on smartphones and computers. The KDRT broadcast is podcasted and streamed live, meaning anyone in the world with Internet can listen to the live feed or access a recorded version the next day.

“It’s a little intimidating,” Gordon said. “I mean, it’s live. There’s no room for error and especially when you have to work the soundboard and you have to make sure everything transitions into the next thing and then introduce it and go out. But it’s very fun.”

Tune in to KDRT 95.7 FM Tuesdays from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. to listen to the TCS 112 students talk about campus life, community, science, music and sports.

JOYCE BERTHELSEN can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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