Christopher Lydon: The Nature of Sound

Can sound be usefully incorporated into the blogging format? That is the question
being explored by Christopher Lydon, eminent radio personality, in his blog,
appropriately called Christopher
. The blog consists largely of annotated
streaming oral interviews with such blogging luminaries as David
recently), Doc
, David
, Eugene
and Dave
. The interviews
last from a few minutes to over an hour, play right in your browser window, and
even allow you to surf or work with the interview playing in the background.

In content and spirit the interviews are true to the spirit of the blogosphere;
iconoclastic, bottom-up and community-driven. Lydon has a knack for putting
his subjects at ease and quickly getting to the heart of the matter at

However, questions remain as to the ability of the audio medium to integrate
into the multi-threaded informational pastiche that typifies blogger-consciousness.
Certainly the human voice, as Chris points out, can carry mood and message
over and above that conveyed by the written word. This is great for Chris,
whose mellifluous,
resonant tones convey a comfortable intimacy. However, not all of us are
similarly blessed, and blog radio might not work out so well for the stutterers,
the squeaky-voiced
or the simply nervous.

Perhaps more fundamentally, the underlying nature of and differences between
oral and written communication may play a role. These two superficially similar
of language involve significant differences in cognitive processing. When
we participate in a conversation or listen to an interview, our attention
is focused
on the flow of ideas being communicated. We are forced to follow the train
of thought in a more or less linear manner, determined by the pace and direction
of the speakers. Although interesting comments, ideas and connections may
through our minds, unless we take careful notes or have an exceptional memory,
they usually fade away unexplored.

On the other hand, when we are reading we can stop to savor an idiomatic
gem, marvel at a lyric construction, note and develop those spontaneous connections
that fill intellectual life with creativity and wonderment. Sometimes I will
spend an hour rereading and ruminating over a single paragraph; at others
I may
skim an entire book in the same time period. The speed and depth of my reading
are mine to control.

IMHO, the most significant aspect of hypertext, the seed from which the internet
and blogosphere sprang, is the way it can multiply and expand on the reading
paradigm, introducing seemingly natural but heretofore unexplored forms of
intuitive cognitive information processing like multi-threading and multi-jumping
idea to idea, author to author, page to page. Innovations like mixed RSS
news feeds and skills like managing multiple windows have all evolved to
feed this
newly discovered human need to multi-task. The blog universe is the current
cutting edge of this evolution in cognitive networking, and it is decidedly

So how to integrate an information-rich but intrinsically linear data format
(audio interviews) into this cut-and-paste, mix-and-match, outta here and
on to something else media frontier? Perhaps oral records will constitute
an essential
archival resource, documenting the oral history of the information age. Perhaps they will become the digital background soundtrack to web-based activity. Perhaps
enterprising but unscrupulous entrepreneurs will convert weighty interviews
into convenient sound-bytes (hope not) for easier marketing and commercial gain. But check out
Lydon’s blog
and see for yourself. It’s worth a listen.

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