Top of this document
Go directly to navigation
Go directly to page content

Article: claudia wegener,


audio media literacy, acoustic education & production

A skills training programme for web-based multi-media

tailor-made to local requirements and organizational focus of the participants

“Media as a Means of Community Development & Communities as Agents of Media Development,” motto of the NO-GO-ZONES audio radio project.

“I & EAR” is a mobile training programme and adaptable educational service based on a methodology of listening. It enhances communication and conversation skills through the practice of audio-media production. The programme encourages a creative and critical self-development through a skills training for content production beginning with the direct environment, professional and daily life of the participants; and offers opportunities of empowerment through a focus on the training of trainers. The training is practicing a combination of audio-media skills, a creative use of information communication technologies (ICTs) and oral history methods with a view on demystifying the production of Media.

The programme can be called upon and hired by community centers, activist organizations or initiatives, arts and cultural centers or outreach projects, libraries, museums, archives, radio stations, university research centers, media schools or art colleges, development organizations and peace initiatives, to name just a few.

"I & EAR" website

1. Context and introduction to the programme

• Learning through listening
• Skills training for local content production
• Bridging gaps of literacy by training in audio media production
• Sculpting sound & voice to media content as a means to engage
• Developing new tools & sites for local media production

“If the tape recorder would have been invented before writing, writing would have never been invented,” says the Nigerian radio engineer and media activist Tunde Adegbola.

Audio recording techniques can bridge gaps of literacy; as music and poetry can bridge language frontiers. The tape recorder can function as part of an oral transmission and storage infrastructure in many professions and areas of life where the spoken word is main medium of deeds and actions. It is in the hands of professional producers and researchers in those fields; and, if we’d follow the logic of the argument further, it probably ought to be in the hands of many more people in daily life, much rather than pen and notepad; especially there where a cultural tradition could be said to be “oral”.

But the mediating potentials of audio recordings are limited without the tools and skills of acoustic production techniques and technology. The toolbox and knowledge of audio editing and production is required in order to sculpt recorded words, sounds and voices to content, messages and stories – that is, packaged products and publicly accessible resources of knowledge - that could be shared and exchanged, broadcasted, re-produced, distributed and transmitted through the public media and communication channels of the “information-age”. Today, such resources to find a voice and have a say could be – potentially – at everyone’s fingertips.

2. Demystifying the production of Media

• Exploring literacy through a methodology of listening
• Building infrastructure for a collective production of Media
• Uncovering a collective “writing” of history with audio media tools
• Developing local expertise & advocacy through the training of trainers

This introductory course to audio media literacy strives to assist people in ‘media-ting’ professions, be they artists, or cultural producers of many kinds, educators, activists, researchers, librarians, historians, social scientists, photographers or journalists to access the toolbox of audio production techniques & technology to advance their work; and to do so in the creative and critical ways which will enhance their communicative efforts to greater effect.

a modular audio production course training small groups of participants in audio media skills, concepts and techniques, their on-line & off-line use and possibilities with a view on (and an ear for) demystifying the production of Media

a training of ‘the ear’ through the processes of audio recording and editing of interviews, reports, stories, or documentaries; enhancing communication skills while gaining multi-media capacity

an opportunity for the participants to re-assess their environment, daily communication or professional practice from another ‘point of view’ as a step by step exercise in “active listening”

a hands-on listening workshop with the potential of training dedicated groups of professionals as audio media trainers for their particular fields of expertise and local environment

slide show DURBAN SINGS audio media & oral history project

3. Content covered & practiced in the programme

• Developing ways of active listening for every-day life
• Exploring new broadcast methods
• Creating media resources from local knowledge
• Developing channels of distribution for local knowledge & production
• Building steps to an education in correspondence with local life & culture

The programme offers ways of exploring the inter-relations of audio media, ICTs and oral culture. It comprises collective assessments in a group of participants of their professional communication practice and local environment through a training in audio media tools, skills, concepts and techniques – including,

- the use of various types of audio equipment,
- ways of recording sound & voice under set conditions or aims,
- uploading, downloading and capturing audio,
- clipping and editing (single track, multiple track),
- play-listing of clips & tracks,
- editing & mixing as storytelling,
- uploading & posting audio on-line,
- creating dedicated on-line and off-line audio archives,
- linking audio files to blogs & web-pages
- ways & concepts of publishing & distributing audio & multi-media
- copyrights & creative commons licenses, etc.

The training will pay particular attention to oral culture, its general concepts and local practice, and to oral history methods and their inter-relations to audio media productions in the context of the participants’ local and professional environments.

Oral history methods can be understood as a dedicated research practice of collecting, processing and evaluating audio data, told history or testimonies under a particular subject or set of questions at a certain time and place towards packaged presentations for public access, be they on-line or off-line archives, collections of transcriptions in print, transmissions or hard-copy productions of various kinds.

Concepts of audio media and broadcast methods will be discussed and developed in seminar-like sessions based on the participants workshop-productions and chosen projects; including for example,

- public archives & private collections
- live mixes, edited mixes & re-mixes
- playlist & footage archives
- editing, authoring, censoring
- interview & conversation
- authorship, ownership & collective production
- audio walk, ‘reality radio’, audio report & documentary
- audio note-taking, audio diary, “audio images”
- audio media & multi-media
- audio correspondence & ‘slow broadcasting’
- ethics of listening, production & publication

details on audio editing for multi-media storytelling

4. Summary of suggested course outline

(see table workshop-outline)

• Developing modules for creative exchange across generations
• Net-working with audio media & collective productions
• Engineering local & global communication infrastructure
• Making contemporary community depositories of indigenous knowledge

The intention of the programme is to tailor-make a training course to the local requirements and professional focus of a group of 5 - 15 participants. Content and layout of the course as suggested here over 4 weeks, can be adopted to suit the availability, interests, aims, knowledge and practice of a particular group of professional practitioners; as well as local availability of resources.

“Everyone a Teacher, Everyone a Student,” motto of the Breakdance Project Uganda.

The “I & EAR” programme for audio media literacy and enhanced communication seeks to draw practical inspiration from the old wisdom that we learn more intensely when we teach – if we teach we always have to be your own best student; hence, the training of others is recommended as part and parcel of the course, and outlined as such in the course structure overleaf. Once we have gone through the experience of teaching and activating ourselves through listening, the practice of passing on the knowledge to others, and thus, multiplying media and media-ting capacities around us may come almost naturally.

The programme could for example be offered as 4 weekend block workshops of skills training and seminar-like group sessions, allowing for time during the week, for each participant to begin training and working with two people locally on making recordings towards a collection of audio. Participants would thus be testing what we have been practicing over the weekends whilst gaining experience already in the procedures of passing on their knowledge to others.

The “Homework” projects and local training of each core participant would be tutored by the facilitator through a rota of site visit; and collectively assessed and discussed during the weekend sessions.

The suggested number of participants is 5 – 7 or, no more then 15, also depending on the availability of resources locally (IT in particular). If, the training of trainers is agreed to be part of the programme in the way sketched above, this could mean that the core group numbers 5 participants who each train 2 others locally, bringing the over-all number of participants to 15. Locally trained participants would be involved in the weekend training sessions on a rota and according to availability of resources.

Each weekend block would have a dedicated focus and productive output, such as a collection of audio recordings, on-line authoring & publication, or CD productions. The entire programme would also aim to drive productive efforts towards a collective production of the group, a CD compilation, on-line stream and/ or on-air radio show.

Following the four-weeks programme, a feedback workshop will be convened to allow for a collective assessment of the course, the skills learned, the outputs at hand, and from there, brainstorm and exchange about perspectives, ways and means of how to continue with the practice, how to root and integrate it into the participants’ regular professional fields.

5. About the programme’s producer & facilitator:

Claudia Wegener had a scholarly and intellectual formation in German and British art schools; and has been involved in teaching as freelance lecturer since 1996. She developed the “I & EAR” skills training programme which is based on a methodology of listening drawn from her creative practice as a sound and media artist (a.k.a. radio continental drift). Returning from an artist residency in Johannesburg in 2006, she focused her entire practice on acoustic productions & audio media projects, including skills training through participatory audio radio project, like STREET WRITINGS for vulnerably housed people in London’s East End (2006), ambitious collective audio media projects like the NO-GO-ZONES project with black youth in South London (2007/08) and the DURBAN SINGS audio media and oral history project for former township community with activist youth organizations in Durban S.A. (2008-10). She is developing and teaching an audio media course for photographers with the Market Photo Workshop in Johannesburg (since 2009). Working among people in the inner city of Johannesburg during the production of the LONG WALK public chess tournament project (2005), she says, “changed her hearing”, and that she attributes her heightened attention to oral culture to the living and working among the people of Jozi in the first place. She is particularly committed to making the “I & EAR” programme, her production and training skills available to organizations, community groups or collectives of artists and activists on the African continent; and here especially to groups of women and young people. Her pioneering creative involvement in media activism follows the proposition that media can be a means of community making and development, and that communities can be the agents of media development.

For up-to-date details on projects & productions see: radio continental drift

6. Template Projects

DURBAN SINGS audio media & oral history project (2008-10):
developing & facilitating a community outreach initiative for the Centre of Civil Society at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban South Africa towards mutual productive exchange between the research centre & local communities; fostering active local media production in 9 former township communities through the training of activist youth organisations in audio media, ICTs & oral history by means of collective creative productions.

Centre for Civil Society; University of KwaZulu-Natal; Rosa Luxemburg Foundation (main funder); British Council; TrAIN research centre (UK); Ulwazi; cjam (CA); Keleketla Library (Johannesburg); Wits University Digital Arts; SAfm

project blog
reference page on CAN

No-Go-Zones audio radio project (2007-08):
developing & facilitating an outreach initiative for Camberwell College of Arts in South London UK into its surrounding black communities; comprising 6 weeks drop-in & mobile audio radio studio sessions & live broadcasts on Resonance fm with a production team of participants from the minority group of black artists in the college & youth from a local youth offending team. The publication “Influence100” mapping out the findings and the “tool-box” of the project including an interactive DVD with contributions from 100 global listeners becomes the template for the production of the DURBAN SINGS project.

Camberwell College of Art/ University of the Arts London; Southwark Council; Art Council England (main funder); TrAIN research centre (UK); open-air SOAS; cjam (CA); radio 1001 (France); vibrofiles/ double entendre (publication);

project blog
reference page on CAN

“Audio-Photographics” (2009 – ongoing):
developing & teaching an audio media course for photographers at the Market Photo Workshop Johannesburg aiming to integrate audio media into their professional practice not only as a research skill & additional bonus of multimedia capacity but a creative listening tool to critically assess & develop their own professional visual production & its procedures.
Partners: Market Photo Workshop Johannesburg (2009)

multi-media workshop-productions by students (2011)
audio photographics facebook platform of exchange (on-going)
playlist workshop audio recordings (2009)