Reflections on Podcasting

LetsGoPens's picture

In my podcast, I reflect on podcasting. I discuss my experiences of composing and listening to podcasts over the past few months, and pose some questions I have been thinking about. Some of these questions come from the course syllabus, and others have emerged from my own experiences and considerations for future teaching.

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Podcasting as a writing tool

Kristen, Nice job. The questions you raise touch on many of the things I have been thinking about over the past semester, too. I wonder if maybe podcasting is an outdated tool for many of our students because of its single dimension. Yes we all have to "write" it, record it, mix it and produce it, but it is still about the written word with a few pluses. Some of us were better than others at creating interesting dynamics (inserting sound bites, or sound effects) but it was still really about the words.
I think the multimedia assignment we are currently working on is much more in line with the way our students (secondary and elementary) think these days. They are all already mixing music, images and video into their research products in a way that makes my mouth drop open some times. I know some of our colleagues at Georgetown and UNCW are doing it, too, but we just haven't had the opportunity to really see those. It's too bad that we won't be able to share our multimedia journal projects in class. I imagine they will be amazing.

Louise

I have no idea

You raise some very interesting questions. Unfortunately, I do not have the answers. I have been wondering about many of the same things. To an extent, I think people's interactions with podcasts depend on the way that they learn. As you say, you are a visual learner; therefore, it must be difficult for you to listen to something without a visual component. I am the same way. I believe that if the podcasts had a video element, I would be more inclined to give it my full attention. (However, if I was just watching someone talk and it didn't have interesting visuals, I may still be tempted to let my mind wonder or check facebook instead.) Also, you ask about focusing on podcasts versus multitasking. Honestly, I think by using podcasting in a class it is working against the purpose of the technology a bit. To me, podcasts are things listened to while doing other things. They practically insist that you multitask (which kind of goes with Kelly's idea of how technology is shaping us). However, for class purposes we need to (somewhat) focus on the words and concepts more than we normally would. (Although, these perceptions could be part of the personal hierarchy I'm assigning to the technology). Anyway, as you can see, your questions are ones that have been wrestled with by others podcasting this semester.

One thing I am curious about, that you did not mention, relates to this week's readings. How is podcasting affecting identity construction? We read about gay communities on the web and women who play video games. Ultimately, both of these communities are still combating dominant ideologies in these virtual spaces. Therefore, my question is how are expectations of dominant ideologies played out in podcasts and how can they be undermined? (Loaded question I know). For example, are women without a "feminine" voice more or less inclined to capture a listener's attention?

Christa Weaver

jmb3318's picture

Audio Thresholds & Attention Spans

Kristen – nice, succinct job on this podcast. I liked your rhetorical focus on the way that pocasting affected composition and our interactions with technology. We have been discussing this in our class as well, and many of us would agree with you that podcasting has had some unexpected effects. Our reading this semester has taught us that just like the Burkian view of language, technologies both select and reject certain uses, contexts, and applications through the design of their interfaces. Interacting with podcasts required the development of new skills for those of us who were not already familiar with the medium, while also providing experienced users with feedback for fine-tuning these skills. The development of rubrics and use of peer evaluation and critique thus grants something for everyone. In this way, the use of podcasting for our course composition can be aid to provide constructive outlets for both novice and power users. I wonder whether power users are more perceptive to aural nuances than novices, perhaps similar to audiophiles who have a greater ability to hear (and therefore debate) the nuances of warmth and tone between analog and digital music. The conversation about ambiance and noise/signal ratio applies here, in a potentially engaging manner. To avoid biological determinism, should we infer that power users develop these abilities through interaction and engagement with audio material over time?

And I agree that this medium requires new skills, both as a producer and consumer. Many of us have had similar problems with staying engaged while listening to podcasts. Rather than think of this as a fault of the content or form of the medium, I think this points to the specific type of listening skills required for audio-based content. Those of us who routinely listen to talk-radio or other podcasts seemed to have an easier time, while the rest of us had to learn to adapt our attention. Perhaps this is indicative of Linda Stone’s conception of “continuous partial attention,” such that power users are better able to focus or multitask than podcast novices, who get stuck trying to pay attention to everything (http://lindastone.net/qa/continuous-partial-attention/). I know I have also found my mind wandering while listening, often not through any fault of the speaker; this doesn’t happen when in class or listening to music, so I believe it to be indicative of our interactions with the medium itself. Since the podcasting interface allows us to stop and repeat and playback sections, I wonder if novices find themselves doing this more than power users? I certainly found myself repeating sections a lot. Maybe, as you suggest, this can be more concretely related to VARK and other theories about learning style differences, which really sort of base themselves on variable attention thresholds.

This learning curve can also be seen in the composing process, as you describe. I thought your connection with Ong could be potentially productive, seeing as how podcasting seemingly bridges oral and literary composition; however, since we are all already products of a literary-based system/society, I wonder to what degree the spoken delivery can be said to count as “oral,” in the way Ong described it. Perhaps it depends on how one composes a podcast; like you, I write mine first and then read and record. I tried simply taking notes and performing off the cuff, but was unhappy with the results. Others seem to do this more effectively. Maybe the differences here could be described in Ong-ian terms (I don’t know if that’s a real phrase, but it should be). My organization is much more fractured than when I compose for a written work, perhaps alluding to differences in arrangement and style between the different mediums. Finally, I am also interested in your point about how our voices affect the delivery of our content, and to what extent that contributes to our ethos.

Cheers,
Jeff

"Legen...wait for it, and I hope you're not lactose-intolerant because the last part is...dary!"

Amber's picture

Great Questions...

First let me say I really enjoyed and appreciated your music and the upbeat tone you used as you spoke. In addition, your podcast was free of background noise which allowed me to focus on what you were saying instead of the excess noise.

It is interesting that you asked these questions, in reference to podcasting, as last week we discussed the same questions in class. Your candid response was appreciated as I felt much the same way you did when listening to the podcasts. I found myself having to stop and replay the podcasts over and over again in order to comprehend what they were about. Additionally, I was dismayed by those that tried to be more creative in their podcasts instead of following the podcast structure (as outlined by the typical NPR podcast). While I realize that they likely took more time to create these podcasts, for some reason I was irked that they wanted to bend the rules (even though these rules were ones that I had self-imposed on myself as I tried to mimic the few nationally published podcasts I knew about).

You discuss whether we should write, read, rewrite a script for the podcasts and then ask whether the podcast allows us to “get off the hook” in some respects because we aren’t turning in our writing, but instead are allowed to change as we speak, calling for less scrutiny of what we are saying. I agree that in some respects we are let of the hook; in fact, I did not write a script for my podcasts, choosing instead to talk based on my notes on the articles and the questions I asked as I read the articles. I know others in the UNCW class discussed how they appreciated this chance to talk extemporaneously as we thought, rather than prepare a formal script and stick to it. I do not think there is a right or wrong way to prepare the podcast (because we had no “rules” determined for the assignment in that category), which further shows we were able to “get off the hook.”

You ask if our voice up the stakes. We spoke of this during class and seemed to agree that it does. If you look at the average podcast ratings, the people with the highest seemed to have a determined podcast “voice” and style. While it could be argued that their content was better, or they had more friends in the class to vote well for them, I would say there is a correlation between voice and rating. I can honestly say that if the person sounded less than enthused to be speaking, I gave them a lower score. A further example is my last podcast. I scored the highest out of all my podcasts on this one, and I think it is because not only did I state I had a cold (yay sympathy points), but my voice conveyed as much (who ever thought sounding like a man could be positive for class).

I think a written response would be more difficult because as you mentioned, the structure is set and we will have our words, sentence structures, word choice, grammar, etc. graded; whereas in the podcast, we were beginners and did not turn in a script. However, I still prefer written assignments to podcasts, because I feel like I am better able to convey my meaning and I appreciate the rules associated with writing.

In class we discussed how our thoughts about podcasting might have changed if we made video podcasts instead. I’m curious if your feelings would have been different if the video component had been utilized by someone in our classes.

Amber

Amber Randall
abr9042@uncw.edu

Reflections continued...

I am adding myself to this conversation because I really valued the time to listen to Kristen’s podcast and read the responses of my classmates about this assignment. The podcast requirement was one of the reasons I took this class. I felt it was a skill that I wanted to learn and what better way than through a class.

Comparing listening to podcasts with, for example, reading a blog, I find that podcast listening requires a greater investment. Even as we take in the things around us, as I do as well, as Kristen noted, a podcast requires active listening. Missing a sentence or two means an arduous task of finding your place and re-listening. With something written, I can move around more easily, skim, and get the trajectory of the argument all at once. I can read at my own pace. This is very limiting; so with podcasts, technology seems to “want” us to slow down.

In terms of what technology wants, I think another question would be what does technology want for this assignment. Whether you want to take notes, listen to the podcasts more “ambiently,” or listen out of order (sometimes I did this), the proper way to engage the technology was so that we could fulfill the assignment of rating and writing responses to the podcasts. If you are listening to a podcast in another context, say on the news or on academic subjects, the determinant of how we listen seems to be more having to do with the content than the technology itself. Of course there are limitations and directives we take from the technology but again, I think this relates to the level of understanding and engagement we are required or desire to have. I think this is a position that Sheppard would understand. Sheppard’s work to design a website is focused on both technology and audience. What content or interaction is relevant for the audience? I wonder if I had imagined an audience outside our class if I would have done my podcasts differently?

Great job. Thanks for providing us with a moment to reflect.