Bullroarer to web-conferencing: Communication tools - Ancient & Modern

By Chris Hall

When your flight is delayed at Sydney International airport you, have several options available to you to help whittle away the time. Recently, while waiting for my delayed flight to Indonesia I had breaky, read some of my book, studied a bit of Indonesian, had a coffee and triple-checked the flight status with the airline staff. Before long, I was checking out the many fashion, electronic and souvenir shops that are all over the airport. While window-shopping, I came across a bullroarer in one of the souvenir shops.

A bullroarer is a tool that, when used properly, generates a loud, low-pitched sound. It is essentially a piece of wood attached to a string that you swing around really fast in order to generate sound. One main function of a bullroarer is that of communication. As its low frequency could be heard over vast distances, it was excellent at calling or signalling others far away. Versions of bullroarers have been used by many peoples around the world from the ancient Greeks to Maoris. Bullroarers have been widely used up until modern time by Indigenous Australians and it plays an important role in traditional Australian Indigenous culture (Ancient Origins).

It had been ages since I'd swung a bullroarer, and when I saw it, I was immediately transported back to my childhood. Growing up, my brother, sister and I learned about things such as bull-roarers and boomerangs from my dad. We would throw boomerangs in the park where we would do our best not to land them on the roofs of nearby houses. We also used to swing bull-roarers around and try to get them making the loudest sound we could. We even made bullroarers out of a pieces of string and a wooden rulers and boomerangs out of ice-block sticks. For some tips on how to make your own bullroarer see the instructables website.

Reflecting on the present, I couldn't help draw parallels between UniBRIDGE Project and bullroarers as tools of bringing people together. Of course they are very different tools used in different contexts. The bullroarer was used to send out a call to those within the large range of its sound and those who responded came together to interact and share their knowledge at a particular place. UniBRIDGE Project also puts the word out for students at Australian and Indonesian universities to come together and share their languages and culture. However, this time the knowledge sharing is online and in real-time using the latest web-conferencing and Web-2.0 platforms.

To see a bullroarer in action, check out this link.

To see UniBRIDGE Project in action check out this link.