Dave Winer gets to do a podcast that will be broadcast on KYOU in San Francisco. In his latest Morning Coffee Notes and on podcatch.com he talks a little about the differences between podcasting and broadcasting and he’s also asking for thoughts about what he should say.
This is what occurs to me:
1. Dave starts with a description of the difference in terms of form, explaining that the main differences are that the constraints of time and geography are lifted – broadcast generally means you can only listen if you’re within range of this transmitter (arguably less so with internet radio/webcasting) but more importantly everyone has to listen at the same time. I think this is an important distinction to make when trying to explain what it’s about – talking about RSS feeds and Podcatchers is a bit like explaining a blog by saying it’s an online journal presented in reverse chronological order – but I think there are more important things to say about the social, cultural and political implications of the ability to do this.
2. That there’s something interesting to say about the different societies and economies that these two ways of disseminating ideas spring from. Radio, as one of the initial means of broadcasting was born in a world where manufacturing industry was the dominant, expanding bit of the economy to be in, and the distribution and application of electricity was the exciting new technology that was radically changing the world. Radio was born in a time when people were working out what that all meant and how they wanted to organise society in that context. Hierarchies, a small number of people working out what a large number of people should do and then getting them to do it, was an efficient way to do it and radio mirrors that. The similarity with today and the rise of podcasting is that we’re figuring out how we want to use a new technology that is changing our world – but in the world where the use of information and knowledge is the dominant part of the economy we’re finding that different ways of organising business and society are more effective than hierarchies and this, I believe, is reflected in podcasting.
3. Building on what I wrote the other day about the podshow type of thing, I think the important benefits that podcasting has over a broadcast model are that:
- It’s empowering – it provides a (more) level playing field for people to express themselves and lowers the fear associated with expressing oneself in public – it doesn’t matter – I can screw up because my continued ability to podcast is not dependent on how many listeners I have.
- It enriches communication between people across the world, allowing (if I so choose) richer, more real, emotional and spiritual connections between human beings because nobody gets to decide what I say to you except me.
- It allows for the immediate communication of multiple subjective viewpoints. OK that’s knocked my head off for a minute, I’m going to have to come back to that one some other time, but it’s about collaboration, unmediated speech, the power of conversation and the social construction of ideas – there’s a whole book in there.
- It allows me to hear a far more diverse range of voices (again, if I so choose) and to be heard by people not used to hearing my sort of voice. I believe that enriches me and enriches them – it also helps to reinforce the fact that whatever our differences, we are all human and therefore the same at some level – in this way I think it works against those who thrive on division and exploiting difference for their own ends.
Much of this could also be said about blogging and that’s where I think they’re the same (why podcasting isn’t just audio-blogging is the subject for a whole ‘nother post.
4. I think it’s important to not describe podcasting as a child of radio or in some other way that implies a difference in standing between the two – they are two ways of moving sound, both just as worthy as each other but useful for different circumstances and applications.