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OU on the BBC: Connecting - About the series

Updated Thursday 27th April 2006

This series of a Friday play and three interconnecting afternoon plays on BBC Radio 4 looks at the real and dramatic impact of communication and technology on our lives, and those of people near us and far away.

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The World in My Ear will take a look at how technology affects us, and will be broadcast on 9.00pm on Friday 5th May.

The first afternoon play, Call Waiting (broadcast 2.15pm, 9th May 2006), features a woman whose husband is an engineer for a company installing software in Uzbekistan. After he goes missing, the drama unfolds about her attempts to find news on him and what happened to him in Uzbekistan.

Last Call (2.15pm, 10th May) is about the PR Director of the company, CamComEurop. As she learns more and more about the engineer and his mission, she realises that everything is not as it seems and the answers she finds lead her to even bigger questions.

The final play Network Failure (2.15pm, 11th May) concerns a software trainer installing recording software at a studio in Mozambique. His experiences with the local people and how technology impacts on their lives teach him about the reality of life in rural Africa and the real differences between African and Western culture epitomised through his work.

John Monk, Professor of Electronics at the Open University said: "This is the first time the Open University has used drama to look at the issues raised by the use of modern communications technology.

"The plays portray the genuine concerns about the ethical practises surrounding technology.

"Engineers and designers working on communications systems sometimes think of the product first and the people who will use their products second. A good example would be if in Network Failure the main character, Ian, tried to show the local people how useful texting would be without grasping that 80% of the local users are illiterate. Not only that, in some countries the mobile phone coverage is poor and the mobile phones in use do not have character sets suitable for the local African languages!

"There is always a strong link between people and technology. Not just in how it is used but how it affects them and drama is one way of forging the connection in a memorable form.

"One example is the play 'All My Sons' by Arthur Miller which provides a good example of the tragic consequences of careless manufacture and the surrounding dilemmas.

"There was once a tradition in Britain, of seeing Engineering and technology as a form of Art. The phrase 'the Mechanical Arts' was in common use, rather than 'engineering' or 'technology' however we are beginning to see a revival in interest in the connections between philosophy, art and technology. Maybe drama will help to reaffirm the link and stir the listeners' curiosity enough to encourage study of the issues raised by the plays and alert budding engineers to the ethical dimensions of the profession."

Connecting in more depth:

 

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