Archive for November 30th, 2004

Dowbrigade Ponders Podcasting

9

The Dowbrigade has always been a sucker for the latest
thrill. Whenever it looks like the other kids are having more fun than
we are, we have to get in on the action. So we have been casting increasingly
jealous glances at the Podcasting crowd, trying to figure an angle to
get us in the door, some form to apply the phenomena to what we have
been doing or are trying to do, some way to contribute to the movement.

We initially came up empty. Although we liked listening
to some of the podcasts we were downloading, it didn’t seems a natural
form of self-expression to us, nothing like the adrenalin rush we got
when we started blogging.

In fact, we were stuck on the same point which had gotten
us back when we
first considered
the great stuff Christopher
Lydon
was doing with integrated audio interviews on his blog. It
comes down to the essential differences between writing and talking.

These two superficially similar
uses of language are actually quiet different in  terms of cognitive
processing. When we participate in a conversation or listen to an podcast,
our attention is focused on the  voice and flow of ideas being communicated.
We are
forced to follow the train of thought in a more or less linear manner,
determined by the speed and linguistic associations of the speakers.
Although interesting comments, ideas and connections may flash through
our minds as we listen,
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 we will
spend an hour rereading and ruminating over a single paragraph; at others we
may skim an entire book in the same time. The speed and depth
of my
reading
are mine to control. We can check facts, look up contrary opinions and follow
idea paths that our reading inspires.

Our writing methodology is similar. Although
we take to heart the "unedited" aspect of the blogging model, we confess
to reading over our output before posting, polishing a phrase here or
there, experimenting with synonyms to achieve style, flow and alliteration,
removing an occasional unintentionally insulting adjective or otherwise
"revising" before posting.

We have survived enough situations with our foot lodged
firmly in our mouth to have little faith in our ability to "wing it"
verbally, and prefer the measured madness of our written voice.

This is not to minimize in any way the art and utility
of oratory and verbal exposition. We have a deep admiration and appreciation
of those who can develop and expostulate on the spot elegant word castles
and arresting arguments. But it’s not our thing.

Some people are great writers.  Others are great
talkers. There are even a few blessed individuals, (Chris
Lydon
and
Gore Vidal come
to mind) who are great at both, but most of us must muddle through with
flawed skills and hope our offenses against the mother tongue are not
capital
in nature.

Finally, while we actually like how our writing looks
and sounds up there on the Dowbrigade News, we have never been able to
stomach the sound of our own voice.  We cringe whenever we hear
ourself on tape, convinced we sound like a pompous, adenoidal know-it-all,
which is, of course, pretty much what we are. The idea of doing a 30
or even ten minute voice feed as part of our blogging output filled us
with dread and disgust.

Then we realized that we DO a stand-up, three-hour
vocal show EVERY DAY, five days a week, thirty two weeks a year, when
we get
up
in front
of our class and lecture, joke, drill, discuss, interview, instruct and
cajole them in the intricacies of Advanced Academic English. A Podcast
in the raw! If we just recorded our daily class, boiled it down to an
hour of highlights, and posted it to the class blog, would that qualify
as a podcast?

More to the point, would anybody be interested? Its
just an English class, for God’s sake. Despite our mastery of the genre
and renowned didactic skills, the audience for such a show would be
limited, to say the least. But maybe somewhere in China, or in a small
town in Sudan, or in a hospital somewhere in Siberia, there is a kid
who wants to learn English and would be thrilled to listen, almost live,
to a class delivered that day at a major American University.

Plus we can force those occasional students with flimsy
excuses to listen to every class they miss. Students could replay classes
when studying for tests. There would be no escaping the Dowbrigade.

Anyway, we have resolved to try recording our classes
on our iPod and posting the resulting mp3 files to our class blog, Monkeybrain. We have no idea if the resultant file will be audible or in any way interesting
or useful, but hey, we’ll never know until we try.

We’ll post the results of this experiment soon, together
with some more thoughts on the utiity  of podcasting academic lectures..