Is pod-casting heading toward being a part of an information black hole in the future?
How do you find, track and sort useful information in a podcast?
THE QUESTION: Is podcasting and other audiovisual resources going to end up becoming a black hole in the information age?
Pod-casting: Do a search on the term, on images for the term and you will see an explosion of resources taking about making the technology available to anyone. Pod-casting will become what the printing press and the Gutenberg Bible was to the Middle Ages, a means of sharing information with everyone (if they knew how to read) at a scale never before imagined in society.
Such a democratization had a profound affect on the future of humanity, so much so, we would eventually decide, as a culture, that “reading was fundamental.”
At least until now. I will need to explain how I came to this unfortunate conclusion.
I am routinely asked why I don’t place more of my writing into a podcast/audio format. I am informed of the ability of my writing to reach a wider audience, engaging people who no longer choose to read to gather information.
I am reminded “post-literacy” is a thing today and I should be attempting to adjust my work for this new perspective in society. Post-literacy should be viewed as people learning how to read but beyond their educational requirements and what little reading they do for work, they choose not to, instead preferring to binge-watch television, listen to podcasts while they drive or work out.
A post-literate society is a hypothetical society in which multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read or write, is no longer necessary or common. — Wikipedia: post-literate society
In a world filled with information, coming in a variety of forms, with the interest in the written word being slowly undermined by short-form articles, tweets and other online reading choices, people’s attention span grows shorter.
They are less interested in deep-dives, in attempts to understand how and why certain choices are being made, with substantiating evidence and supporting facts being presented in a cogent yet concise manner. Reading as a choice, is being deemed passe by infovores of the modern era.
But as I think about this transition to unwritten media, video and audio, I am struck by a particular conundrum I haven’t heard anyone speaking on. Let me explain with an example.
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You are a podcaster with a show that lasts two hours. You present once a week with your two cohosts and you talk passionately about Subject X. Let’s assume it isn’t an academic thing, but something you enjoy intensely such as comics and decoding their stories for the uninitiated. (Many such podcasts and Youtube series exist of this nature and have rabid followings.)
Let’s assume you are a talented podcaster filled with knowledge both first hand from reading it and second hand from an expansive study of the material. You make your podcasts and at the end of the year you have 50 podcasts. (taking two weeks off, of course…)
You have this 100 hour data cloud of amazing and useful information, liable to be a resource for anyone who has listened to all 100 hours of it.
But what if you didn’t have 100 hours to devote to determining if a particular podcast was for you? What defines a podcast you want to listen to versus one you don’t? Is it language? Is it tone?
Do you like your podcasts with colorful (perhaps sometimes obscene) language? Are you looking for academic credentials to go with the information or are you seeking a purely amateur perspective?
A WALL OF SOUND
What if you wanted to know if this datacloud of 100 hours of information was worthwhile? How could you tell? Perhaps reviewers might let you know how much THEY enjoyed it, but that is subjective and what someone else enjoys does not mean you will.
Excerpts taken by dedicated fans (assuming your podcast is outstanding) and someone chooses to make excerpts or quotes you is probably going to be rare. It could happen but I wouldn’t hold my breath.
So, what we have here is a data resource with no entry point beyond LISTENING to it to determine its quality to a potential listener. This problem grows larger the longer you produce your podcast, even if you become much better over time. There is no way to know beyond the metrics which may be tracked by the site itself.
A video gets a million hits. Is that good? Does it mean that it’s good? And even then I still can’t know anything about the quality beyond the metrics being presented.
Here where I see a problem in the future. As writers recognize the losing battle of a culture obsessed with video and audio information delivery, how will we be able to reference such information in the future?
Right now there are only a few thousand podcasts, but what happens when there are millions upon millions of them? What happens when there are more podcasts than any individual can have the time to go through to find the information needed?
With the written word, we can use the power of the search engine to find and associate written works with statements, resources and information that can be referenced, reviewed and archived without special tools and in seconds.
An example: How Smart is Superman? In a search engine yields a half a dozen written articles, whose sources I can review, speed-read and decide, this is a good reference or not. I can immediately create a pull-quote and spend less than ten minutes once I find a source whose credibility I can accept.
With an audio file, unless the writer has included a transcript, I have to listen to it, and decide based on whatever fragment I listen to, IF it is a worthy and useful reference to use and to quote. Worse, I may have to listen to it in its entirety before I can determine if the source is good enough to use.
I can’t tell you the percentage of videos or podcasts that create transcripts, but I know it is no where near even 25% of the podcasts available on the public market.
While I am using comics at the moment, imagine if this trend continues into other forms of information being reorganized for a post-literate society. Will tools be created which can effectively transcribe video and audiofiles (no matter their quality) into an effective form that can be searched and referenced effectively?
Does this mean, at least for a time, audio and video files created today may be stockpiles of outstanding data that simply is and will be lost unless companies take the time to transcribe such information (or amend such resources) with relevant references to assist people in the future who may need those resources but lack the time to listen to thousands of hours of video and audio to determine their value.
This is not to say such things are not already happening. I suspect they are. But as we look though archives of information from the turn of the last century, much of that has been lost because efforts to store, archive and reference this information is vanishing faster than the efforts to track it.
With the explosion of modern media and everyone having the capacity to create audio and video files, will there come a day when there is too much data and insufficient will, capacity or technology necessary to make that data available to researchers in the future?
Will we be forced to rely on curators of such information, people who potentially make their livings reviewing such information and telling you what to listen to and why?
Podcasting has become so popular with 21% of the US listening.
Podcasts are more popular than ever. We all have something to say or something to sell. While this is just another…
Or as with so many things, will technology may be invented which can EFFECTIVELY transcribe podcasts and create an associated text-searchable file making their bounty (assuming they are good and worthwhile) available to searching academics and researchers in the future?
Is this a problem where a decade or two of information is lost (just like in the turn of the 1900s and early film) until the technology can make information in any form viable and available to anyone, in a reasonable amount of time, with a modest technological effort?
Or are we at the beginning of an age where the written word had begun to fade and the general acceptance of this means only data archives of video and audio opinion (not supported by research) shall become the order of the day? Or is there a third option I am not seeing?
What do YOU think?
DAY #7 of my STORY-A-DAY MAY, 2017.
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