TWITs / Amateur Podcasts (Who Listens to These?) / And Who is Watching These Things??

This is kind a “three-fer” blog posting about podcasting and the next wave, videocasting:

  • You might want to take a listen to the “This Week in Technology” podcast show; last week’s episode included Larry Lessig on the panel. It was a pretty interesting conversation, making accessible a lot of the rather complicated issues of copyright in the digital age. As Lessig pointed out, almost everybody– especially young people– violates the letter and/or the spirit of copyright law nowadays with the way that they download music from bit torrent technologies and the like, and that’s a bad thing.

    It was interesting to me because I listened to this show the day after I had had a conversation with students in my Thursday night class about copyright issues and Internet downloads. They seemed to be either apathetic or unaware that downloading music for free and without permission is explicitly against the law. This “criminialization” of a pretty common behavior is in and of itself a problem, and Lessig made a compelling argument in this podcast.

    Having said all that, much of this show and other TWITs episodes (I’ve listened to parts of a couple) really amount to listening to some smart guys sitting around in a bar talking about computer geek stuff. It works here because all of these guys are experienced in the media– the leader of the pack is Leo Laport, and while he and the rest of them might say they’re computer geeks and they kind of are, really, these guys are all old pros from radio and TV– and because they have some pretty high production values. Which brings me to my next point…

  • Who listens to these things? I’m not talking about TWITs or all the NPR and other network news sorts of things that are available as podcasts nowadays through iTunes; I’m talking about the complete amateur stuff. As I look through the iTunes “top 100,” I can see that most people are agreeing with me since most of what’s there is coming out from “the pros;” but take, for example, The Dawn and Drew Show, which is a couple in Wisconsin talking about stuff. I have been told it is “hillarious.” I dunno about that. Maybe I just don’t have the right gene for appreciating things like this kind of podcasting, the same way I just don’t “get” public access television.

    As I have written about here numerous times, I’ve been including audio for my online class this term and I am going to be doing so podcasting for my online (and not online) classes next semester. Based on what students have told me, these audio files (more or less “mini lectures” about some of the readings) have been a success for these classes. In the winter term, I’m going to do some podcasting of “shows” that sort of provide a wrap-up of my classes for the week. I think; I’m still trying to decide. And, like I said in a post about a week ago, I figured out how to do a podcast that can be listed with iTunes (and presumably other syndication services) with nothing more than an blogger account, an RSS 2.0 feed (via feedburner), and a cell phone.

    However, I am under no illusion that anyone other than my students would be at all interested in listening to these podcasts– and it is kind of up in the air that my students are even that interested. So who the heck is listening to all of these random podcasts listed on iTunes? Anyone?

    And I know what you’re thinking– “Oh yeah? What makes you think that anyone is actually reading this thing, anyway?” Good point. But I keep a blog in part as a selfish note-taking device, it’s a lot easier (and less time-consuming) to skim through some blogs (especially with an RSS feed reader of some sort) than it is to “skim” through some podcasts, and I guess I’m just more willing to read “random thoughts” than I am to listen to them. Maybe that’s just me.

  • Just to make matters worse, it looks like we might soon move beyond not so interesting audio blogs to not so interesting video blogs. Via boing-boing this morning (so I guess somebody is watching), I came across Drive Time, which is a weekly (or so) video blog about a guy’s commute into work in the Boston area. The camera is somehow mounted on his dashboard and what we see is him driving and chatting with passengers– in the episode I sorta watched, his wife and then, later on, some other person he picked up. (Deep sigh…)

    Look, I’m not saying there is no potential to this stuff– far from it. But right now, I think we’re at a phase of the technology in which “success” is being marked by only the ability to pull it off, and, as anyone who has sat through a painful video/slide show with some family member can telly you, the ownership of a video/still camera does not necessarily translate into “art.”

  • Enough of that for now. I need to go record some more audio for my class, maybe experiment with an “unofficial” podcast for my unofficial blog, and then maybe price some cheap digital video cameras….

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