Articles

Livestreaming the City Through Police Radio

by An Xiao on January 20, 2012

The home page of You Are Listening to Los Angeles, with SoundCloud and Radio Reference embeds.

The home page of "You Are Listening to Los Angeles," with SoundCloud and Radio Reference embeds.

LOS ANGELES — Sublime’s “April 29, 1992,” a song about the Los Angeles riots, features it amidst a hip hop track. The Wire and Cops have made it famous. Police radio chatter is the stuff of media legend, a glimpse of urban turmoil in America’s most infamous neighborhoods, from Baltimore’s west side to Los Angeles’s south central.

Drawing inspiration from Robin Rimbaud and the lovely Mission Control site by soma.fm, artist Eric Eberhardt decided to turn them into a media landscape. Tapping intro radio streams and SoundCloud ambient radio, Eberhardt has created You Are Listening To, a web site that mixes hypnotic beats with the equally hypnotic chatter of police and fire forces.

“I first got the idea about a year and a half ago after the Giants won the world series,” he told me in an email interview. “There were crazy street parties going on all over the city that night & when I got home I noticed some people on Twitter were posting links to a site (soma.fm) where you you could listen to the SFPD radio in real time. After listening for awhile I started playing some music in the background & thought it sounded really cool.”

He set up the site using radioreference.com, which features a number of embeddable police streams, as well as SoundCloud’s embed feature. The remixes are backgrounded by the nighttime skylines of the relevant cities, which currently include Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Montréal. Eberhardt’s plan, eventually, is to include all the cities from radioreference.com and even develop an app for iOS.

It’s a fascinating way to experience the city. Until the app is available, most people tuning in will be listening from the comfort of their homes and offices, an ambient bubble amidst an abstracted aura of violence and turmoil.

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  • Anonymous

    I LOVE this site. I had it on nonstop during “Hurricane” Irene. So good. Thanks for reminding me about it!

    It would be fun to beef this up into some kind of full on, breathing visual database with geolocated tweets/updates, live weather data, traffic etc… Like the mood of a city… Then eventually you could start interspersing cities to get a pulse of the world…

    • http://twitter.com/anxiaostudio an xiao 4.5

      Nice idea! I bet there’s a way to keep the abstraction in tact too.  Maybe pulsing lights to represent geolocated tweets? A changing background to reflect live weather data?

      • Anonymous

        Yes! The abstracter the better! Eric, are you listening? Who do we need to talk to to help make that happen? :)

        • http://twitter.com/idontlikewords Eric Eberhardt

          Yep, I’m listening! Thanks for the praise, and the new ideas! I’m literally putting the finishing touches on a Kickstarter project to help fund the next phase of development for the site right now & I expect it will be live by later this week! The goal here will be both to build a mobile version of the site for iOS devices (and maybe Android?) but also to build out some of the new functionality that I’ve been dreaming about (and corresponding with listeners about) for the past year. Whether or not the Kickstarter is successful, I’m going to continue working on the site & looking for new collaborators, so please stay in touch! You can reach me via the email address on the site, so feel free to drop me a line and I’ll keep you in the loop on all the new developments. Cheers!

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