Saturday, 26 November 2011

Texas questionnaire

Michael Nevradakis is a PhD student in Media Studies. I was one of many contacted by him for a research study being conducted by him and Joe Straubhaar of  The University of Texas at Austin, Department of Radio, Television & Film.

The goal of the study is to ascertain characteristics of DXing which its participants find appealing, the cultural and community aspects of DXing, the experiences DXers have had as part of their involvement in this hobby, and the views of DXers as to the future of DXing in light of the rapid pace of technological change and development. As part of this study, he conducted interviews with DXers about their specific involvement in the hobby and their views about DXing.  I thought I’d share my response with my blog readers, and hope that Michael and Joe get the volume and quality of questionnaires that they need, It’ll be fascinating to read a summary of the whole study.

I’m flattered as it’s the second time recently a student has asked for my input. A young German lady, Sabine, doing an MA in radio at Goldsmiths College in London interviewed me over coffee in September for her thesis on Radio Berlin International.

 1. Describe your involvement in the hobby known as DXing.

Mostly I listen to broadcast stations on shortwave, mw and longwave. I am general editor for the British DX Club monthly journal “Communication”. I also write the “Long, Medium and shortwaves, Broadcast Matters” column for UK monthly magazine RadioUser.

2. Do you attempt to DX broadcast radio signals? Ham and amateur radio signals? Or other types of transmissions? Why did you choose this particular type of transmission to focus on as a DXer?

Just broadcast radio signals, I started decades ago in pursuit of different sources of news entertainment and music when I was a teenager. I am intrigued too by numbers stations but do not really follow them. Not actively interested in hams or utility myself.

3. What initially drew you to become a DXer? When did you first begin DXing?

I used to listen to BBC World Service on medium wave for comedy shows, then realised they were on shortwave and got a sw radio. I then stumbled upon Radio Sweden, Moscow, etc. and all the other delights of English and other language broadcasts and other languages. I started when I was very young, in the mid 1970s.

4. Were any family members also DXers and did they influence your interest in this hobby?

Not really- my father was a wireless operator in the Air Force during his national service in the 1950s but I’m not aware of that really having any impact on my radio interest. There was always a radio on in the house when I was growing up though (BBC Radio 2, Radio 4 and LBC-London Broadcasting Company) so I suppose that had a positive effect on me.

5. What appeals to you about the hobby? What aspects of DXing do you enjoy the most?
 I enjoy hearing news and views from different sources- the British mainstream media is narrow minded and does not cover many areas that interest me. I like to hearing views from Romania, Canada, Thailand etc. I enjoy the international news from shortwave stations that enlightens me, and also local and national news and culture, such as local music and travel programmes. I also enjoy just tuning to frequencies and listening to different music genres and languages.

6. How would you characterize the act of listening to and tracking down distant signals?

I think it is a fascinating thing to do- you feel part of a privileged group of people, hearing sounds and information that the mass population are not really aware of. Sometimes you feel as if the broadcaster is speaking almost solely for your benefit.

7. How do you keep track of the distant signals which you have received?

I tend to write them down in a logbook (This is nothing fancy-I reuse incomplete school exercise books or buy recycled note books). Although I do have periods of time when I don’t do this methodically.

8. Describe the cultural and community aspects of DXing. Do you feel that DXers together comprise a community? Do you interact with other DXers?

There is definitely a large and active DX community, yes. I interact with many other DXers by email with some of those in other countries, websites, blogs, through internet forums such as Yahoo groups and World of Radio DX Listening Digest, Social Media (FaceBook and Twitter) and also through my own radio blog.

More importantly to me I socialise with other members of the British DX Club and am in regular contact with many members through my club activities. Likewise through my writing for Radio User magazine and interacting with readers.

9. Would you describe DXing as a form of “social networking” because of your interaction with individuals from other locations and cultures or because of your ties with other DXers?

Yes, it has been a form of social networking for many decades, before the term was ever thought of. However, Facebook and other forums do enable me to make contacts with DXers in other countries and in my own country that I previously would not have been able to do.
I would be interested to know what percentage of DXers belong to a DX club though, and how many DXers operate in isolation. The advent of the internet certainly enabled anyone to get in contact and be part of the DX community at no cost. Belonging to a club requires an annual subscription, but these are cheap and well worth the camaraderie, information and pleasure that it brings.

10. How would you describe the intercultural communication that you have been exposed to as a result of your involvement with DXing?
Very positive, just gaining a glimpse of other people’s lives in other cultures, as well as their DXing.

11. Does the DXing community have any events or gatherings where you meet other DXers face-to-face? If so, have you attended any such events?

There are regular meetings in the UK. The Reading International Radio Group meets every two months and there are British DX Club Meetings too. There are others around the UK on a more informal basis that I also attend when I can. As a busy woman, in a full time job and with a family it is difficult to make the time I would like to get to these events as most are 200+ miles/kms from where I live.

12. In your estimation, is DXing a “gendered” hobby—in other words, do you feel that DXing is a male-dominated activity? If so, why do you believe this is the case.
Speaking as a woman I am aware of others women in the hobby, although we are in the minority. Sadly it is very much a male-dominated hobby. But many hobbies are. I think this is rooted in gender stereotypes when growing up- which hopefully have changed for current generations of children.

Boys were perhaps encouraged to have “technical” hobbies and play sport whilst girls were encouraged to do more practical activities such as cooking, and fashion. Music is the one area that united us, but there were many overlaps even in the 1970s, with some girls enjoying DXing and cycle maintenance and some boys enjoying cooking and craftwork.

13. How is DXing responding to the growth and rapid pace of technological development, such as internet broadcasting/webcasting and digital over-the-air broadcasting?
I don’t like to generalise but DXing is reacting well in the main- it has to. DXing has always been in a state of evolution, like all technology. From cats whiskers, to the advent of FM, transistor radios, digital readout receivers etc. Broadcasters and policy makers are not always aware of what they are doing though and those that eschew shortwave for internet only are shortsighted, losing listeners as a result. Broadcast stations need to use shortwave and the internet in tandem.

14. Has new technology, such as the Internet, aided your efforts as a DXer in any way?
Yes, the internet offers wonderful ways of communicating and sharing DX tips, QSL card collections etc.

15. What do you foresee for the future of DXing? Is it a hobby that is, in your view, dying off?

There is still a sizeable and active DX community around the world. Some are leaving the hobby because of electrical interference, for instance in the UK the British Telecom (BT) broadband home hub has been proven to interfere with shortwave signals but the regulatory body Ofcom appears to not take it seriously enough.

DXers themselves die and unless younger people get into the hobby it will be gone in another 50 years. It has always been a minority interest- which surprises me as radio is such a fundamental mainstream activity that most people listen to daily, They just need to witch away from the dull local FM station and hear the other wonderful signals that are still out there.

Many international broadcasters are leaving shortwave- mistakenly, but many remain, and there are so many other exotic an interesting signals to be heard when the bands are less crowded. Middle Eastern and African music for instance.

16. Are young people still being attracted to DXing?

I am not sure that they are- as I stated before. I believe all DXers have a responsibility to try to pass the hobby on- to young family members and local youth organisations (such as scouts and guide movements in the UK.).

17. Please share any final comments and thoughts about DXing or your involvement in the hobby.

It has given me decades of pleasure. I have been enlightened, educated and entertained by so many diverse radio stations. Sharing my interest with fellow DXers has been rewarding and being able to write about the hobby too has been a great privilege. To paraphrase the John Miles’ song “Music”, “Radio was my first love, and it will be my last.”

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