Mobile Movements

By Rachel Baker, 10 July 2001

Rachel Baker on Infrastructural Interzones

So we’ve discovered the mobile – and with SMS we are nostalgically re-living the kind of neurotic joy first felt with the arrival of email. TelCo proprietorship notwithstanding, the mobile is now firmly installed as a social and cultural communication phenomenon, able to punch further holes in the media landscape. Out in the public realm of the street we carry around powerful personal mini-computers featuring a database, a set of relationships, and a transmitting/receiving device. Used in conjunction with other transmitter mediums like Internet and Radio, the mobile is compelling – not so much in the technological, but social sense, i.e. where public and private converge. Individual SMS and voice messages can, spontaneously and in situ, be channelled into public broadcast and distribution mechanisms (including print publications) and offer intriguing opportunities for public content generation.

Tigertxt, an SMS service for the fans of Hull City FC that I co-developed earlier this year, is one of a number of projects exploring this schema. For me, it showed evident political potential in allowing the immediate publication of ideas among a group of people with a specific agenda. Like Tigertxt, Irational’s Cellular Pirate Listening station – which combines the powerful mediums of FM-radio, Internet and cellphone – also deals with a specific circle of users. have installed a scanner in central London which picks up the pirate radio signals and rebroadcasts them as a live stream via the Net. The website’s interface allows users to retune to different live stations, add their own London stations and, crucially, see lists of pirate radio cellphone numbers to contact and send shouts.

As far as I’m aware, pirate radio in London is unique in its ubiquity and style, and offers one of the first instances where SMS communication was introduced into the broadcast mix. All conventional radio stations give out a phone number but, because of their legal vulnerability, pirates always use cellphones. Different DJs will use different cellpone numbers on the same station – it’s an integral ingredient of the format. The pirates have not yet been directly informed of the scanner, but the reaction so far – when somebody rings in to request a ‘shout for the Bristol massive’ for example – has been one of pleasant confusion.

The main problems with this online service are that many London pirates don’t come alive until the weekend so there is a lot of dead air during the weekday, and also Irational’s streaming server in Canada makes for delays when retuning to different stations. So, if anyone is willing to donate a 24 hour streaming server get in contact with the frontman, Heath Bunting:

Rachel Baker <rachel AT>

Irational.Scanner []Tigertxt []In the radio/SMS vein look out for Matt Fuller’s TextFM project.