Listen/Speak Web

It’s podcast mania out there.

I’m getting more requests for information, demos, etc internally. People are wondering what the implications are for the Apple iTunes U offer (I signed up, what’s to lose?). I have weak optimistic hopes we can move quickly past the “Oh, I can put my lectures online” flash of brilliance.

Just the sheer mention of the “p” word has climbed in geometric proportions since the beginning of the year, and mostly attributed to the Christmas New iPod Effect.

And as to more of this pre-amble, I am loathe to dicker over definitions of things… but still, almost before I left San Diego yesterday, I had an interesting exchange with Bryan Alexander, who asked me if I thought podcasting was a Social Software.

My first thought was “no”. Well actually it was, “gee, Bryan is so damn smart, and I do not even have a good pat answer as to what ‘social software’ is!” I have a fuzzy internal definition along the lines of Chief Justice Potter Stewart‘s porn quip, “I know it when I see it.”

And at the same time, I have heard discussions that want to call any technology that has some sort of communication as ‘social software’, lumping in email, discussion boards, chats, etc. Yuck. That does not wash for me. What does that get us? So I am thinking it more has to do with technologies that allow for a simple or complex network connections to be made between people and information, and mostly allow for things that leverage the power of the crowd. And there needs to be a personal gain into doing the social thing Yuck again.

But in all that, we both agreed that podcasting falls outside the grey blurry boundaries. For one, it is all about broadcast, there is no interaction back from the user to the podcasting person/thing/entity. And that gets me thinking– if the Web 2.0 ballyhoo is all about moving to the “Read/Write” web than the next bump up for audio ought to be the “Listen/Speak” web. Is that just being cute with words?

And this is where podcasting to a small or medium size degree bugs me. it’s one way transmission of huge blobs of data. You are stuck with a huge chunk of indivisible media, which you listen from start to finish, or guess where something is in the middle (see Podcasts, All or Nothin’). There is no way yet (beyond the magic of Jon Udell). Thus, you cannot easily rip and mix (repurpose) audio content, nor can you point to specific sentence/phrase within the audio blob. You cannot bookmark a segment 4 minutes 32 seconds into a 55 minute cast, nor can you attach notes, annotate. You cannot tag a quote in an audio.licio.us site.

So while iTunes does an elegant job of enabling podcast subscription and download in one interface, it’s really only as advanced as the Mosaic Browser period that was Web 1.0 in 1993.

When we were doing the NMC Horizon Board discussions a year and a half ago for the 2005 version, I had a flash of an idea that quickly sublimated, but it was something like a concept of an audio wiki, where sounds could be quickly built in segments, re-edited, intensively linked by multiple persons. I’m not sure what one would do with it, but if something like this really existed, it would atomize audio content down from the podcast duration into smaller, reusable chunks.

So someone please let me know when it is time for Web Audio 2.0. Until then, like many, I’m trying to quickly ramp up on podcasting, and how to explain, demo its potential to others.

Later… Interruption. About 20 minutes after filling out the iTunesU information form, I got a call from an Apple dude, and signed up to get in early.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Just want to pick up on one part of your post Alan … only briefly coz I need to blog about it in more detail … and that is Read/Write or even Listen/Speak web. I got to thinking last night that our vocabulary around all of this is so digital immigrant and not digital native, and that language may be constraining us. OK, I need to post more about this on my blog as I had a lot of thoughts the language that may be more aligned with digital natives perception of what this is … but that won’t be till the weekend probably!

  2. Leon,

    Thanks for the pointers, I thought this was somewhere “out there”. And I feel a bit silly since I’ve seen LoudBlog before, and it looks like its worth another look as I try to find a better management system for organizing podcast-ed medi.

    But truly, the BBC project is what my dream had ocnjured. Let’s hope it sees light of day.

  3. I have yet to meet one of the mythical “digital natives” – we’re all immigrants, of varying degrees of comfort in the digital stuff.

    Even the vast majority of new undergrads are not what is being described as digital natives – most don’t have blogs. most don’t do flickr. they do all have cell phones, but not all are using txt msg.

    I use the term “read/write” web because in my experience, most people outside of our edublogger echo chamber (and other similar communities) still “view” the web…

  4. Points taken D’Arcy … maybe I was getting a bit carried away ,.. I feel like I”m in a fog and not really grasping where they are coming from. And you’re right my use of the didgital natives / immigrants dichotomy is not helpful. I guess I’m thinking more along the lines of mindset than use (although obviously the two are connected) and where that might be taking us.

    So how would you characterize undergrads in Calgary/Canada in this digital aspect? Alan, what about where you are? Leon, what about the UK?

    The undergrads here are NOT digital natives in terms of tech use. They do use IM, phones, sms/text msging, photosharing (not nec flickr) a lot .. and of course Google (but are not skilled with info eval). But it’s peaks and troughs – most still come with little experience of basic office type apps (but that is changing greatly here with the students currently in late primary going in to seondary i.e 10-13 yrs old). I’m more stuck by attitude towards these; both their confidence in playing around with things and in their perception as seeing them as the C in ICT .. a way to deepen connections with peers and find new peers.

  5. Really can’t comment for the whole of UK but from my 12 year old son’s perspective.

    We have a monitoring piece of software at our school called RM Tutor which lets the the teacher see what you are doing and where you’ve been – someone has already hacked into that using notepad…

  6. Students here seem to cover the whole spectrum – there isn’t a single description of “nativeness” that would apply to all 35,000 of them… I’ve seen students (apparently recent high school grads) struggle with basic web browser skills. I’ve seen older students who live and breathe digital media and html. And everything in between.

    There are outlayers – I’d guess the Notepad hacker was one – but by and large students still seem to “view” the web. Maybe they’re getting ready to leapfrog it? Who knows. But when they’re shown various ways that they can publish effectively, lightbulbs go off.

  7. Nick- The “pure” Native must be considered something like an Archetype, not a characterization of an entire population. The pitfalls of the Premsky mantra is slipping into that assumption- and while I think he recognizes it. So to some degree, we are all on a sepcturm of immigrant to nativeness, and moving one way or another all the time.

    Like Leon, we base a lot of it what we see in our own home laboratories, the in house teen. Again useful, illuminating, but dangerous to extrapolate.

    I cannot speak for our system, and since we have no census data of student technology native statsus, it’s specualtive based on observation. We see that many (not all) carry cell phones. Many (not all) have several email accounts.

    On the other hand, one faculty colleague who has taught with technology, online and hybrid, for 20+ years, reported a surprising situation last year, where in one of her sections she had a complete class full of total immigrants, and extremely patriotic ones at that. She struggled most of the year to have her students use the technology for what she had in mind, yet was still ahving to cover the basics of computer use we’d like to think is there.

    I would say rather than looking at specific technologies they use/don;t use, its more approriate to look at *how* they use and how they learn something new. Do they wait for the yellow Dummies guide? Do they require a manual? Do they yell and scream when repsented a new interface, or do they explore, try to intuit? Do they work alone? Do they depend primariy on the teacher for guidance or do they use peers?

    And frankly, it will always be a moving target. Someday, this generation we call “natives” will be over-run by the next generation who think their parents/teachers who are so “clueless”.

  8. Thanks all three of you for coming back .. it is really helping me thilnk this through a bit more. Alan’s story of the teacher’s experience, has reminded me of how different our student populations are, or at least appear to be. The questions about student learning practices around technologies would be an interesting insitutiional study, Thanks foilks.

  9. I like the term “digital citizens.” Whatever our origins, and no matter how thick our “accents,” we are in this brave new world together and we need to help contruct processes and opportunities that are fair and fairly delivered. Unfortunately, I still have colleagues, esp. on the admin. side, who believe they’re at home and having a very bad dream about all this IT stuff. They keep trying to wake up, and wake me up, but all the yelling in the world can’t disguise the fact that they’re simply drifting deeper into slumber.

    One other thing to note: senior citizens are among the most active digital citizens of all when it comes to e-mail, lists, and other basic but vital digital activities.

  10. Postscript on Bryan’s question and ensuing discussion: I think the categories of “transmission” and “interaction” are just as potentially mischievous as those of “digital native” and “digital immigrant.” I’ll be blogging on this soon. Yes, podcasts can become shovelware, dumping lectures into RSS feeds, but abuse shouldn’t define the category or limit imaginations. More soon–you have been warned. (woof!)

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