Podcasting and the listening culture

On Wednesday I was over at the University of Bath, keynoting the Higher Education Academy sponsored Podcasting for Pedagogic Purposes SIG workshop on podcasting. Podcasting is quite a new technology, but its roots run deep back to the broadcasting cultures first emerging in the middle of the last century when radio was the prime method of mass communication. Podcasting taps into an even older culture of listening though - one that can be traced back into the mists of time, where tribal elders and story tellers would gather their clans around a village clearing or camp fire and pass on their values, social mores and traditions through a form of cultural transmission.

On Tuesday night I was invited out by the SIG organisers Jethro Newton, Andy Ramsden, Andrew Middleton and others. I was very pleased to spend some time too with Derek Morrison with whom I had a very interesting discussion over dinner in an excellent Indian restaurant. We were able to bring our own drinks, and we brought our own stories too. One thing Derek said stuck in my mind: He asked what would happen if universities suddenly removed their e-mail services. Very little would change for the students, we agreed. They would simply continue to communicate as usual through Facebook, Myspace, SMS and other non-institutional media. It would be the academics and other staff members who would be seriously affected. There were a lot of conversations, and as I listened, I realised that most of our conversation was indeed storytelling.

And storytelling still remains an important component of 21st century conversation. This kind of cultural transmission continues but now at a quicker pace and also in an ambient manner because it can just as easily be technologically mediated. In the Western industrialised society, we find ourselves in a situation where people expect to be able to walk out of their door, and step onto a bus or train wearing their ear-buds or head phones, listening to their favourite music, talking book or web download. Look around you as you travel to work today and you will see what I mean. The technology mediated listening culture that first emerged in the middle of the last century has come of age, and listeners can now travel through their well trodden urban landscapes whilst their imagination and emotions are stimulated by a very portable, personalised audio system. What is the untapped potential for this type of technology in education? What are the underlying psychological principles? These are questions I tackled in my keynote. The slides from my talk are below, and also available on Slideshare.

Related posts:

Wisdom of crowds (Andrew Middleton)
Podcasting and the listening culture (David Hopkins)
Learning through listening (Jean Jacoby)

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