MovableBlog: Letters From Home
November 24, 2004
The chances of my doing a podcast, which, as I understand it, is posting audio of people talking, are pretty slim. I've listened to a few podcasts, and finished listening to only a handful of those. As a podcast consumer and producer, then, I admit to not really understanding the big deal, but then again, I don't really get the big deal about talk shows in general. That's what podcasts are, and that's fine. Lots of people like talk shows, but I'm not a big fan.
As a cultural phenomenon, then, I think I get it, and it's a big deal, because for the price of a computer, a microphone, and an Internet connection, anybody who wants a talk show can have one. That's a lot less than having to ask for a broadcast license (are the days of podcasting licenses near?), setting up a radio station, and so on. The interesting part about podcasting is you don't really need a "pod" (or personal audio player) to listen in. As long as you have a computer with audio (who doesn't?) and an audio player, then you can consume podcasts. You could almost say that pods don't belong in podcasting. 10 points if you got the movie reference.
I am most excited not about people having their own talk shows, but people using podcasting to talk to their friends and family, using them as "letters from home". That phrase comes to me from DJ Shadow's "Letter From Home (Track 1)" and DJ Shadow's "Letter From Home (Track 14)", the first and last tracks of his excellent album The Private Press. (His first album, Endtroducing.... which combined thousands of samples to create an instrumental hip-hop album, is far and away my favourite of all time.) In both the "Letter From Home" tracks, DJ Shadow plays some found art, recordings people have made of themselves speaking to their family members and other assorted loved ones. The first one is a woman talking about how she had difficulty setting up her recorder and how her trip went, and the second is from a man talking about how hot it is and a woman talking about her vacation and plans to return.
I was once instant messaging with a friend whose phone number I didn't have, and felt silly asking for it, since we talked most of the time via IM anyway. She had audioblogged at one point, possibly about a rant she had, I forget. I called up the weblog entry that she posted her audioblog to, and just listened. Not for content, but to hear her voice. Blogging is great—no, really—but it's not really the unedited voice of an individual, at least not literally. Podcasting is the real unedited voice of an individual. It's terribly exciting to hear the voices of people whom I mostly know through print. I'm sure this will wear off, but it's exciting to hear the famous-to-me people speak in my living room, such as my living room is.
In the longer run, voice over IP is probably a bigger deal than podcasting, because with voice over IP, you can at least have a conversation. But podcasting is revolutionary in that, just as blogging did, it lengthens the tail. In other words, the big deal is no longer that some people can do it, but that pretty much everybody can. As a non-consumer non-producer of podcasts, I can at least appreciate them for that.