Teaming Up to Explain the Internet's Future

May 1, 2014

Credit Woodley Wonderworks / Flickr Creative Commons
The Internet of the future means you can announce "Earl Grey tea" or "duck," and it will appear.

We did a Colin McEnroe Show about the current state of the internet, and what it could become in the future. Turns out, Chattanooga, Tennessee is way ahead of the curve, having taking it upon themselves to create a superfast Internet system. Colin's vision for the introduction was me stepping into the futuristic starship that is Chattanooga, guided by Greg Hill, learning the ways of the people and meeting some of their school children.

Greg and I gathered WNPR Executive Producer Catie Talarski, NPR Kroc Fellow Alan Yu, and Colin into the studio with us to record, first and foremost, a futuristic kind of laughter that would go towards the end of the script.

Chattanooga, TN has come a long way.
Credit Snapshots of the Past / Flickr Creative Commons

In the scene Colin wrote, the Internet of the future means you can announce "Earl Grey tea" or "duck," and it will appear. School children (Catie and Alan) can solve the health care problems in Ecuador, or diagnose a sinus infection, with the click of a keyboard or wave of a wand.

My character says, "Look, this is crazy. Just because you built up your bandwidth with Gigabit service, that can't possibly result in an advanced civilization." The cast of characters laughs.

Greg explains, "You would never understand. I think it's time you go back to your simple home." I beg him not to send me home (he does), and, dejected, I happily distract myself by watching the movie "Ernest Goes To Jail."

My favorite part of the construction of this show was getting everybody in the studio to record the laughter, and Colin's thoughtful vision of what it should sound like. Listen to this behind-the-scenes clip:

The Multitrack view for the introduction to our show about the future of the internet.
Credit Chion Wolf / WNPR

One of the other cool things about today's introduction was how many sound effects we needed. We started with starship bleeps and bloops (found on YouTube), which you can see on the bottom of the multitrack view. We also needed a shuttle door opening.

Above that track, on the second and third levels, you can see the three people's voices along with sound effects like a replicator, a duck, and a door closing. Dots on the sound waves towards the end show volume control for a particular clip. Sometimes there's fine-tuning of the sound for just a second or two. Other times you set it low, like the ambiance at the bottom, leave it alone, and fade it out at the end.

Below listen to the full introduction. As a bonus, there's also the last word of the show, which has me revisiting Greg in Chattanooga: