With the rise of privatized automobility and the increase of traffic jams, new sociotechnical systems have emerged that aim at traffic control. Radio traffic information has been a key element in these systems. Through a qualitative analysis of historical radio broadcasts of the largest Dutch news station between 1960 and 2000, this article explores the changing format and content of traffic information updates. I will show how the rather formal, detailed, and paternalistic narratives of the traffic reports in the 1960s gave way to more informal, witty, yet flow-controlling traffic information discourse in later decades. I will explain the dynamics involved by drawing on mobility and media studies and by developing two distinct notions of flow, one of which builds conceptually on Raymond Williams’s work on mobile privatization, the other is grounded in the field of traffic management. In so doing, this article aims to contribute to a better understanding of the role of public radio broadcasts in our world of privatized automobility.
Marith Dieker is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Society Studies at Maastricht University, The Netherlands, where she also obtained her MSc degree in Cultures of Arts, Science, and Technology. During her studies, she developed an interest in the more “mundane” technology-related phenomena of everyday life. She currently investigates the development and appropriation of car radio and traffic reporting practices in the Netherlands, southern Germany, and the metropolitan area of New York. Her project “Talking You Through: Traffic Information and Car Radio, 1950s–Now” was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org