The paper discusses audio material, its position as a scientific source material, its material-inherent specifics and theorization. Thereby it contextualizes audio material, e.g. tape recordings, digital audio tapes or files, with other source genres like written documents, pictures or film.
After an overview of the specifics of audio material, the paper deals with the question, how audio material, here in particular radio news can be classified, positioned and used as scientific source, hence detecting problems and prospects with respect to other source genres. Audio material is by now underutilized as a means of information by scholars, not least because their complicated transferability to literate systems: It is an objective of the paper to sum up and to discuss the aims of theoretization of audio sources and its significance for the arts. Besides the structural problems of transforming audiovisual media – with its high rate of non-verbal information – into text and the use scientists can make of them, its accessibility by editing is a major topic: editing solutions by publishing audio files in the internet seems a desirable way to overcome formatting issues. The paper focuses mainly on the the 1990s radio news program “Journale”, produced by the state-run Austrian Broadcasting Cooperation (ORF). The second, more technical part, describes the „Journale“: their structure, thematic focuses and the changes made over the three decades over producing this popular radio show. Finally, the “Journale” homepage and its technical features is explained, by that showing how something fugitive like sound can be documented for the public and made more concrete and available.
Funded by the FWF (Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung), the Österreichische Mediathek/Technisches Museum Wien, managed to digitize the recordings as part of the scientific project „Journale - The Radio News of ORF, 1990-1999“ (duration 2010-2013) and now publishes the contents in a website. By that, the project makes the data accessible in the internet, for an academic and non-academic public, free of charge. The asset of user-friendliness and free accessibility is crucial for the project’s initiators, in particular in the context of knowledge transfer and the democratizing potential of the internet. Due to their excellent journalistic quality and their vast outreach, the digitized radio news features of the “Journale” provide insightful information sources for research in political science, history, linguistics, media studies, electoral analysis, but also for interested non-professionals. In this respect, the paper is to give information on the evanescent medium radio and how it may supply new insights. As the format of audio material has great impact on the way it is used as a source, at the same time digitization changes the characteristics of the audio files. The main feature of radio (and sound in general), momentariness, vanishes into a repeatable, reproducible, constant term. At least radio’s second main feature, sentiment, remains.