During the course of this project several points and observations were able to be made and certain lessons emerged from the candidate’s work.
First, and quite notably, the candidate observed that it was easier to induce the participation of the audience via the broadcast portion of the project as compared to the live performance sections of the project, and the student researcher can remark as to a few possible reasons for this. One reason the candidate surmises that the audience was reluctant to labour and compile a playlist during a performance is that the performances took place at tavern-venues, thus, we can assume that that audience had gathered to unwind; they might have been drinking or having relaxing conversation with colleagues and friends whilst listening to the music, as one does at a venue, most likely the audience was doing both. Because of this the focus of the audience’s evening was not on experiencing and considering the possibilities of autonomous media, but rather to relax and unwind. Therefore, to ask for a certain amount of labour in the form of participant content creation during an audience’s leisure time, the student-researcher contends, was to ask too much from a social group who most likely simply wanted to be entertained by the working DJ. But another reason the candidate contends that the broadcast format worked better in terms of harvesting audience participation is that the production of a recorded mix for the purpose of radio play and the performance of a live-DJ-set to PA are much different, insomuch as, during the live sets, the concentration of the DJ must remain on the live mix itself, whereas with producing pre-recorded mixes for radio in a studio starting and stopping of the tracks/mix can occur, and the product of the mix itself can be produced over the course of hours or even days rather than it immediately having to be performed in realtime as is the case with the performance paradigm. This freedom from concentrating strictly on the mix allowed researcher-DJ-producer to connect and communicate on a deeper and more attentive level with the audience. This attentiveness produced greater results in terms of audience participation. The broadcast elements of the project resulted in a more active form of audience participation audiences were much more enthused about submitting content for a radio production. The candidate was met with much less resistance in finding audience participation when the platform was terrestrial radio. The candidate hypothesizes that having control over the airwaves comes across to audience members as more of a novelty and radical form of media production than having a playlist performed in a live space on the audiences behalf which bears a resemblance to the idea of making requests.
However some audience members during the course of the live performances did indeed participate. But these audience-participants, the student noticed, were already content creators themselves. For example, during the course of the ‘Heavy Blooms’ event in Ottawa in May, several audience members were more than willing to provide lots of music to the DJ for transmission over the PA. But it should be mentioned that these audience members also had projects with whom the DJ was sharing the stage with that night. The audience members happy to provide content building blocks, in the form of recorded songs, were performing indie musicians and artists at the event themselves who jumped at the chance to have their own recorded original music played over a public address system. Regardless, what resulted was an autonomous agenda being set by audience members.
Another lesson that arose from the work was the importance of engaging the audience, that is, simply describing what was being asked of the audience in the hopes the audience would participate during the course of the project was not enough. Audiences did not instantly leap at the opportunity at helping create the overall content of the mix projects and thus set the agenda. Rather, participation had to pulled from the audience and strong social connections needed to be made for this to happen. For example
One interesting aspect that did emerge during the project was the actual result of the product itself. The crowd-sourced mix elements changed the DJ’s sound completely. As such the result was something surprising that was unable to be foreseen by the DJ-researcher. The mix could not have been conceived of without the help of the audience. As a result what did emerge was something new to the DJ-producer. For example, mix #1/3 in the broadcast portion of the project resulted in a compiled playlist of songs in the genre of what the compiling audience member called ‘bachelor jazz.’ This was a completely new sound never heard before by the candidate-DJ-producer. A previously unknown part of the culture then was what was brought to the surface. Although this project dealt with songs on a playlist, we can transfer this idea onto social issues that receive salience in the press and news media; we can say that opening the authorship process up to the audience has the capacity to reveal previously unknown contentious issues and social concerns. This realization was a positive revelation of the project.
But one thing that the student-researcher feels the project lacked, though something that would have gone a long way in stimulating participation is an adjoining interactive web page aspect of the project. Besides a research blog, (used mainly for the use of keeping track of the candidate’s developing ideas,) the project lacked a web element. No doubt could a strong interactive web presence have made engaging audiences and cultivating participation easier. Insomuch as there was no web presence there was no central place or hub that the project could be accessed by the audience, ongoing communication therefore lacked and this had a negative result on the project’s overall propensity of participation and crowd-sourced content.
As well as what a strong web presence could do for the project, it would also be interesting to see how the project would change as per the medium. For example, our project relied on audio media in the form of recorded songs, but how might results and project design have changed if the project unfolded in, say, newsprint media, or film, or new media such as apps? It would be interesting to see how the contexts of the work would change if we were to work in a different medium. We were working in the realm of DJ media and asking the audience to participate by suggesting set-lists of songs, but what would happen if we were to work in, say, the realm of film media? Would we have to ask the audience to assert autonomy by writing a script? Would the audience have had to contribute cinematography? How would an audience assert autonomy if it were a different form of media? For example, if we had been working in the news-print world, would we have asked the audience to write entire news stories?
One difficulty the researcher-DJ experienced during the project was that, though we were always focused on and willing to play crowd-sourced content, not every crowd-sourced playlist was appropriate per the venue/platform. The creative control lost to the audience sometimes was troubling because the larger group did not always positively react to the chosen list of songs. This speaks to the differences in tastes among groups of individuals. Commitment to the crowd-sourced playlist took flexibility and versatility away from the producer-DJ, and although the rudiments of the content were sourced from the audience, when things went awry, it was not the audience or group where the buck stopped but, rather, solely on the researcher-DJ. For example, during one of the live performances, crowd-sourced songs were playing however the result was to the dismay of the venue owner, but it was not the larger audience of individuals who were reprimanded by rather the researcher-DJ solely. The candidate would contend that this speaks to the roles of leadership and direction of a producer. The producer is in a privileged position whereby their tastes and sensibilities are trusted. In the project’s commitment to audience autonomy and the participatory crowd-sourced content approach, the researcher-DJ relinquished some of this privilege when at times it might have been best to reserve the right to trust professional instinct and not send certain sounds out of the mixer. The point being made here is that although the crowd sourced the content, the individual producer bore all of any negative response. However, conversely, the researcher-DJ also received praise solely even though the product was a result of a group’s autonomy.
A related and similar complicating factor of the project was that the researcher-DJ was in a position whereby they had to answer to a higher chain of command. For example, venue owners opinions trumped the audiences, this speaks to the control ownership classes have under capitalist paradigms. And the same was true during the broadcast portions of the project; the radio show host, who’s show it was, ultimately had control and final say over the audience’s compiled content appropriateness. Luckily for us, the radio host we were working with was always more than willing to let whatever the audience compiled play out.
But even with all this in mind the candidate would argue that the project was indeed successful in applying Bey’s model of TAZ to media. Audiences, in the form of compiling the content of track lists, were able to assert a sense of autonomy and set the agenda in the media, if only for a finite amount of time. Nonetheless, the project was successful in creating a media-space whereby the individuals in the group could conceive of a radical or different form of media and cultural production, one that initiated from the bottom up where the audience were rendered active objects as opposed to passive media users.