The idea for the Golden Record was always as absurd as it was romantic—which is to say, utterly human.
Isn’t it just like our species to conceive of such a project? To decide to record a strange and wonderful mixtape of eclectic songs and sounds, strap the album to a spacecraft, then send the whole apparatus billions of miles into the cosmos where it might soar through the vacuum of space for eternity? The alternative to an endless flight into the depths of space, of course, is that the Golden Record might actually be found in the unknown light of another world—on some distant planet, by some other species that could hear the record and begin to know humanity as a result.
Radio Garden, which launched today, is a similar concept—a way to know humanity through its sounds, through its music. It’s an interactive map that lets you tune into any one of thousands of radio stations all over the world in real time. Exploring the site is both immersive and a bit disorienting—it offers the sense of lurking near Earth as an outsider. In an instant, you can click to any dot on the map and hear what’s playing on the radio there, from Miami to Lahore to Berlin to Sulaymaniyah and beyond.
The project, created for the Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision by the interactive design firms Studio Puckey and Moniker, was built using an open-source WebGL globe that draws from thousands of radio stations—terrestrial and online-only streams—overlaid with Bing satellite imagery.