What is Radio? Still an Open Question

It was an intense two days at the What is Radio? conference in Portland. The range of ideas presented at the event was amazing: deep discussions on aesthetics, history, organization, place-making, "voice" (defined many ways), law and policy, science and technology – and that just begins to scratch the surface. We did not collectively answer the conference’s question…because there’s no simple answer to be had.
Radio Survivor was there in force, and has provided some in-depth coverage of specific panels and plenaries: check Matthew Lasar’s reports on the keynote event and the state of classical radio in NYC as well as Jennifer Waits’ reportback on the world of prison radio. Both also presented their own research: Lasar offered perhaps the closest thing to a definition for "radio" to be found all weekend, while Waits detailed the ~90-year history of her alma mater’s radio station. (She was also there on assignment for Radio World, so expect some coverage there as well.)
In addition, the conference organizers recorded short interviews with several participants, which allowed many to give an overview of what they brought to the event. Some of my favorites include Michael Marcotte‘s near-plea for public radio to invest more in local news; the work that Monica de la Torre has done to illustrate the DIY-roots of Spanish-language radio in the U.S.; Ivy Glennon’s scathing indictment of the state of women in radio; and Jeff Jacoby‘s perspective on what it means to "teach radio" in the 21st century.
They were also nice enough also gave me the opportunity to riff a bit on the troubles of radio’s digital transition in the United States. What is Radio? was the first opportunity I had to give a bona-fide book-talk – the room was packed for our panel, which delved into the future of radio in a digital media environment.
The feedback I’ve received from the conference has been uplifting, providing some much-needed inspiration to finish the manuscript. David Ossman, a founder of the Firesign Theatre, joined our panel via Skype (sans video, which was perfect for a gathering like this) and repeatedly called my research "terrifying" – which I hope to use as a future blurb, because that’s pretty much what the story of HD Radio is.
There’s more to come, too. Conference organizers are planning an edited volume with companion web site.