Thursday 18 January 2018

Radio review: The air is full of noises and strange sounds

Sarah Carey
Sarah Carey

Eilis O'Hanlon

According to BBC Radio Four's Digital Human, the Japanese once believed that any man-made object would gain a spirit after 100 years. They called it "tsukumogami", and the programme asked whether this is what's now happening with modern technology.

Not literally, of course, but machines can spook their users in ways that resemble hauntings. Some who play video games for long periods, for example, can start to see and hear things from those games in the real world in a manner that can make them question their sanity.

As games become ever more sophisticated, the boundaries between reality and the virtual world become ever thinner; and that's not so surprising.

As cultural historian Jeffrey Sconce, author of Haunted Media, a study of the association between electronic media and the paranormal, pointed out, there is a long history of electricity and magnetism interfering with normal perception.

"There is something very occult already about broadcasting," he said, and now, with wi-fi everywhere, "the air is pregnant with all of these voices and energies."

Futureproof, Newstalk's weekly science show, touched on similar phenomena by exploring "the hum", the constant low-level noise like a drone or rumble which some sufferers claim to constantly hear.

Glenn McPherson from the University of British Columbia hears it himself and has spent years researching the experience, which he thinks is either internally generated, like tinnitus, or is caused by certain people's reaction to radio frequencies, meaning they are allergic almost to modern technology. It was all fascinating stuff, and certainly more engaging than yet another celebrity interview or row about Trump and Hillary.

Though politics can be fun too. On Newstalk's Talking Point, presenter Sarah Carey presided over one of the few discussions on Brexit which managed not to tarnish all those who voted to leave the EU as either racist or stupid.

Not that former Fine Gael leader Alan Dukes was ready to call a truce with the Eurosceptics yet. He himself would "prefer" a soft Brexit, allowing the British to walk away with a good deal that benefited both sides, but added that this might simply encourage others in Holland and elsewhere to run for the exit too.

Irish Daily Mail editor Sebastian Hamilton was taken aback, and wondered "if you're suggesting that, in order to make the European project work, we have to batter the British into submission"?

"You are deliberately misinterpreting what I said," Dukes shot back.

Really? This is what the FG man actually said: "The way I see it is this - the bloodier the British nose, the less collateral damage there is for the rest of the EU, and vice versa." In what way then was he supposedly misrepresented?

If this really is the Irish establishment's attitude to the upcoming Brexit talks, then we should all be afraid, be very afraid.

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