For the past two weeks, our class has been concerned with learning how to create an effective podcast. This learning was primarily exercised through listening to pedagogic podcasts. Whenever a medium is used to teach how to make an effective iteration of that same medium, or a work is used as a paradigm for that medium, I often find myself subjecting the work to more stringent criticism. I found myself noticing aspects of the didactic podcasts about how to make a podcast, that I wouldn’t have noticed in a different podcast genre, like an episodic narrative. This phenomenon is also partly due to the fact that I exercise most of my active thinking about podcasts within the framework of critiquing and creating them. My consumption of the podcasts became less about deriving the useful information, and more about analyzing and critiquing the elements that the podcasts were comprised of.
For instance, the first thing I noticed about Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire Episode Four: Bare Bones, was the irritating music that played throughout. I found the music detracted from the audio clarity and undermined Abel’s efforts to effectively impart information, because it distracted from the substantive content. I found that the elevator music-esque backing track was part of a larger, multifarious problem with the presentation of audio. I found the audio transitions to be awkwardly implemented, and the editing as a whole to be a little chaotic: definitely not conducive to consuming Abel’s message. I also found that Abel’s voiceover work was not particularly engaging. I didn’t feel that she espoused the point touched on (ironically in an Out on the Wire selection) in a reading, about how effective self-performance on the air “requires [one] having to learn the craft of actually becoming an actor.” Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Abel exercised this practice. I actually found the readings to be more effective at imparting the salient points on how to make a good podcast. The Out on the Wire reading was especially efficacious, because it was visually engaging (and thus avoided being too dry, like some of the other more textbook-like selections), while still containing information that was useful to my podcast. My podcast has a sort of narrative-like structure, so the points about editing in this reading were particularly salient.
In assessing my critical consumption of the podcasts for the last two weeks, I was forced to realize that some of my rebuke might be undue. This is most likely a product of my vague dislike of podcasts. I’ve never really been partial to audio-based forms of performance media. When listening to podcasts, audiobooks and even radio talk shows, I often have the strange impetus to fast forward, or skim through them. I’m not sure why I have this tendency, but hope that with greater exposure to the media will learn to espouse it and its inherent virtues, like the ability to foster a personal connection with the creator and the audience because of the inherent intimacy created by the vocal presentation.
This tendency was seemingly affirmed by my social media activity. When perusing the feeds relevant to my activist concern, I was drawn mostly to pithy messages superimposed on graphics, rather than the embedded talking head video clips that are largely similar to podcasts in that they can be consumed solely through listening. I think that this inclination is actually not necessarily specific to podcasts, but more a function of the way that I (and many people in my generation) consume media. I have a tendency to skim text, and look for the most salient points, which is not really possible with an audio track (nor with a video really). I think that this is fundamentally related to the prevalence of social media and its formative effects on information processing. On Twitter, substantive information can be expressed in under 140 characters. Through social media participation, I am able to consume a far greater breadth of content at the expense of depth. Tweets about Heather Bresch and Mylan created a sort of coherent narrative that gave me an overall impression of the issue, but did not provide the detail and nuance that audio and video media like radio shows and televised news provide.