Published on September 16th, 2012 | by stephranson

The Guardian’s – Hackney Hear | Moving Stories On The Move

The Guardian’s – Hackney Hear | Moving Stories On The Move stephranson
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Hackney Hear


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Originally Featured on Steph Ransons Listening Blog:

I’m not going to look at a ‘show’ or ‘feature’. Instead, I’m going to look at how the ever evolving platforms in which radio can be accessed is being used in a new, innovative and creative way.

At a recent university convention celebrating the life and work of Charles Parker, all those in attendance (that being me and 30 odd others) had the opportunity to sit in on talks hosted by both close friends/colleagues of Charles Parker and key people in the radio industry.

When it came to one of the final talks of the day, the audience were introduced to four people who would discuss multiplatform radio and how it is likely to evolve. Radio these days isn’t just radio. It’s becoming very visual, as a way to add value to the listening experience. Take for example the use of webcams in radio studios up and down the country, in commercial, public service, community and student stations. Audiences can also interact with radio via many different channels including text messages, smartphone apps and social networks. These all contribute to the ‘multiplatform radio’ that we all know (and love!) nowadays. But what could the future hold in terms of how audiences interact with sound? How would sound be used to give listeners something else – something new – something exciting?

And this is where Francessca from The Guardian comes in.

There’s the possibility you might already be aware of this, but over at Guardian HQ, they’ve come up with something they feel will be the next great listening experience for audiences. It’s called Hackney Hear.

In reality, the name is a bit deceiving, as this new app is currently accessible in a few boroughs of London, not just Hackney. And the locations in which the app can be used in is constantly being developed and expanding.

So what is Hackney Hear?

Personally, I describe it as a museum-walkie-talkie-like tour for whichever borough you happen to be in. You download an app to your smartphone (app currently only available on iPhone or Android) and open the app when you are in an area that supports the feature. As you walk around, the app will pick up on your location and play to you a story, poem, piece of music and so on which is significant to that street or park etc. Listen to locals tell you their special memories of a particular area, or eye witness accounts of major events that happened. You may even end up listening to a piece of music that may have been penned at the very spot you are standing!

For a proper explanation of the app, I’d suggest you visit the official Hackney Hear Website. Here you will find lots of useful information including where to download the app from, what parts of London you can use the app in and which locations the app may expand to in the near future.

On the website is also a very informative video which gives you a good insight into the app and what it sounds like. You can watch the video above if you would like to get a real feel for Hackney Hear

I love how this app is ‘immersive’ and also how the audio you hear at each location will be from locals and the local area. Audio will be real and authentic. I also find it interesting that due to ongoing advances in technology, where it seems visuals in radio are becoming the norm, sound is being delivered to audiences in an innovative way. I’ve mentioned in this blog numerous times about how the absence of visuals can be a strength in radio sound, as it allows the ‘Theatre of the Mind’, or the audiences imagination, to run as crazy and wild as the listener desires – meaning there are no limits to where you want the sounds to take you and how you enjoy them. In essence, this app could make a stroll around a park or even just a trip to the shop a totally different and exciting experience.
However, I do have some concerns about the app. When the idea was first pitched to me in the convention, I thought it was a good idea but nothing phenomenal. I considered it to be a one-trick-pony style app. My main reason for this was that maybe the app would be fun and interesting to use once or twice, but I wasn’t too sure if it would be something you’d want to go back to all the time. Right now, the app is only available in a few boroughs of London. This also raised concern with me, as the typical ‘Londoner’ is someone who’s always rushing around, with something to do. Everything seems on a much faster pace in London, and it left me wondering how many people would regularly just stop and wander around listening to the stories and music on the app? Yet again, I feel people would but maybe once just to try it out.

Maybe I’m wrong! And maybe you disagree with what I’ve said. If you do then let me know by commenting this blog or tweeting me @StephRanson.

The idea for Hackney Hear is still very new, but the app is available to download and for you, if you’re in London, to go around and test it out! If not, there’s always the videos and testimonials on the Hackney Hear Website to check out until the app is available in other parts of the UK. Which may be very soon, who knows?

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