Stromberg-Carlson, Model 25-A, 1932. (CSTM artifact 1969.0688.001) Photo: Peter Coffman

Our project builds on the research and theorization of radio publics in Canada by illuminating the material underpinnings of the medium as well as the visual and material culture that constituted part of the broader cultural discourse around radio. To interrogate the idea of radio publics and assist us in emphasizing the dual material and conceptual registers of radio, we take up the French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour’s contention that “things” are essential to the constitution of any public. In “From Realpolitik to Dingpolitik – or How to Makes Things Public,” Latour argues that things, as matters of concern upon which we may or may not agree, gather people, and thus are crucial components of publics. He also reminds us that the etymological origins of “thing” actually rest in a place where people gathered to talk about these matters of concern. This conception of “things” is helpful in considering the radio as a public-making instrument, emphasizing both the medium of communication that brings forth “matters of concern” (and indeed, the radio itself was a matter of some concern throughout this period) and the material objects around which people gathered. A significant part of the story of radio publics then is the radio “thing” itself. How was it envisaged by manufacturers, retailers, or even consumers for that matter? What did it look like and why? How did its representation affect the idea of a radio public?

We would like to acknowledge the support of the Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada, Carleton University, York University, and the Canada Science and Technology Museum.