What’s on these cassette tapes? A past life, a bygone era

More interesting than the  fact that I still have a collection of cassette tapes is what they contain. I managed to play one of them on a not-so-ancient player, and realized it has the edited and raw recording of a program I produced at Broadcasting House at the BBC in London in 1988.

On it are unedited interviews with Margaret Douglas, a TV producer, director and feisty executive during the Thatcher years, who ended up being director general of the BBC. She passed away in 2008. Also there’s one with Allan Little, a well known foreign correspondent at that time, and Nicholas Hinton from Save the Children’s Fund.

But as they say, wait, there’s more! This tape, below archives some work done some years before when I was in advertising, at Phoenix O&M. Our clients’ names are on the tape label. A courier company, a milk-powder and the sugary syrup kept us creatives busy into the night. Driven, of course by persistent account managers who hovered around our desks with 8-page briefs, screaming about a three o’clock deadline.

Between Barnes Place, Colombo and Langham Place,  London the voices and sounds on these tapes are like a time capsule. This week I plan to digitize some of the material to share with my friends. If you’re reading this and are one of those who worked on my team  at the Beeb or at O&M let me know.

Making a podcast is easier than you think

I often teach podcasting, but from a different angle now – nearly ten years after I began one at ASU. Now it is all about the planning, the content, and the delivery –rather than the technology and distribution.

In my Public Speaking (COM225) class at junior college, I ask my students to work on a group podcast when we cover ‘Speaking to a global audience‘ and ‘Virtual audiences.’ This semester too I threw out the challenge to create a podcast on topics they randomly picked.

Here is one, created with some planning plus a great interview that makes it sound quite authentic, rather than a class project. The surprise: It was basically recorded on a phone! She used the app from Anchor FM, which provides unlimited hosting.

https://anchor.fm/samantha-rubianes/embed/episodes/Fixing-Education-Is-Easier-Said-Than-Done-e2n7bk/a-a7bcbm

Gone are the days of needing to buy a special device such as the Zoom H2N I once used. Or downloading software such as Audacity, which I still find valuable. Take a listen and see what I mean.

Radio days! Podcasts back with a vengeance!

In case you’ve not noticed the podcast landscape had changed. I’m so glad this genre – audio story-telling –has survived in a digital age that at one time seemed to gravitate toward video, slapstick entertainment, and uninformed opinions.

These are highly-researched, well-produced shows – not just opinionated rants. 

Here are a few:

Code Switch – Fascinating takes on race and identity

Rough Translation – A great way to escape the echo-chamber!

The Hidden Brain – Shankar Vedantam’s insight into human behavior

The Tip-Off – Peeling back investigative journalism, by Maeve McClenaghan of London’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism

 

Some older podcasts still give the newbies a run for their money. Those such as:

  • This American Life – Ira Glass’ extremely topical take on all things social, political, personal
  • Invisiblia – Gripping tales and insights about the forces that shape us.

 

The wisdom of Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson has a knack of breaking down complex ideas into simple concepts. He is the kind of teacher who makes you enjoy learning, without feeling you’re being lectured to!

Some of his statements (and tweets ) are legendary, as are his wide-sweeping statements about science, technology and life. Such as:

“To be genius is to be misunderstood, but to be misunderstood is not necessarily to be genius”In a Popular Magazine feature, August 2015)

“An informed opinion is never based on somebody else’s opinion, lest you empower others to do your thinking for you.”  @neiltyson  Aug 28, 201

But as much as I respect DeGrasse Tyson, I don’t agree with his stance on God and creation. But that’s another topic.

If you want to probe the big questions about science, or even current events seen through the eyes of a scientist, (as this one about the digital revolution) it’s worth tuning into his podcast.

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Podcasting is hot stuff. Again!

There seems to be a growth spurt for podcasting.

I love the fact that the audio format has been on the upswing, even despite the explosion of screen-based communication options. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you video didn’t assassinate the radio star for various reasons. Such as

  • Podcasts is immensely portable, and does is perfect for multi-tasking
  • Podcasts capture the ‘authentic’ voice of the person or the moment being represented – no fake ‘DJ voice’ required
  • Podcasts have in their DNA something akin to long-form journalism – deep dives into content, rather than skimming a topic

  • Podcasts lend themselves to drama, even while being authentic. The nearest thing to the documentary.

My recent favorites are Snap Judgement, Serial, Invisibilia (former radio Lab producers), and Star Talk.

Apart from the usual line up of This American Life, For Immediate Release, and EdReach, an education podcast for Ed-tech matters I now dabble in.

 

Interestingly this year will be six years since I first got into podcasting. And this year may be the year we begin podcasts at my school. More on this in a later post!

Podcast – Blast From the Past –with BitGravity

I came across a podcast by Tracy Swedlow of BitGravity in 2009, when I worked at ASU’s Decision Theater. It made me go back to the early days of podcasting, and how it lit a fire that made me look at social media and self-publishing in a whole new light.

Link here:  Podcast with Bitgravity CEO
New News Podcasts with Tracy Swedlow on BlogTalkRadio with The TV of Tomorrow Show with Tracy Swedlow

Why SoundCloud rocks

Whenever I get tired of reading the news, I switch to SoundCloud.

I’m currently doing a series of lessons with my students on audio, and having them experiment with the power of voice. (I know: It fits nicely into the theme I’ve been plugging in my book, Chat Republic.) Truth is, young people are enamored by video, and instinctively see audio as its poor-relation.

But ever so often, one of them says something in a microphone that makes them realize how simple and real an audio experience could be.

Here’s one that is part of an NPR experiment itself. An experiment to study why audio seldom goes viral.

It’s almost impossible to listen to this and not (a) feel close to the event (b) wonder how someone managed to record this near-death experience.

Truth, Lies and iPhones

I had been fascinated about the Mike Daisey story that broke some months back here in the US.

It opened up a can of worms about how truth (or ‘truthiness’ as Stephen Colbert put it) and how we twist and maim words and facts. Politicians do it, as do talk-show hosts, reporters, advertisers, scientists, corporate leaders etc.

As someone who writes for the media, I thought this brouhaha was way too important to dismiss as one man’s folly. Daisey was the everyman in a culture of compromised truths and spin; a culture that sometimes believes the means justifies the end in getting a message across. (Anyone remembers Message Force Multipliers?)  The infamous scientist who lied about climate studies admitted he had has a  “serious lapse” of “professional judgment and ethics.”

The classic statement by Daisey for me was this:

“I’m not going to say that I didn’t take shortcuts in my passion to be heard. But I stand behind my work… It’s not journalism. It’s theatre,”

Is marketing also ‘theater’ then? It could be argued that some aspects of it –product display, packaging etc– is staged, right?  Could some forms of PR (stunts, at least) be also considered theater? Are we sometimes taking Daisey-esque ‘shortcuts’? This is the uncomfortable space many of us operate in.

That’s the background to my recent piece in LMD Magazine, titled “Truth, Lies and iPhones.” Read it here.

Or download a PDF of the article here.

(Incidentally ‘truthiness‘ despite its quirkiness, became the Number 1 Word of the Year in 2006.)

Six months in ‘multi-media radio!’

Can’t believe it’s been six months since I took up the challenge of starting the weekly radio show, Your Triple Bottom Line. It’s truly been a terrific ride!

There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes, lining up the guests, planning topics, keeping the content fresh on the web site –which runs on the WordPress blog platform — and using Twitter to chat with listeners, often while the show is in progress! Sometimes we upload photos, and have even tried video streaming. And then, after the show, I edit down the file (shrinking the commercial breaks, etc) to  a podcast format that I upload to iTunes and Libsyn. With so much multi-media rolled into the show, I find this new radio format invigorating.

It also lines up nicely with my other digital and social media work.

I am truly grateful to all our guests (who agreed to be under the microscope, so to speak), and of course our listeners. Thanks too, to my co-host Derrick Mains who is such a natural on a talk show.

Speaking of whom, listeners, many of you may have been tuning in to the live stream or listening to the podcast via iTunes, seem to add an international flavor to  show that happens to be primarily out of Phoenix Arizona. Listeners seem to come from Australia, Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, Chile, Brazil, UK, Israel and a few other places, apart from the national audience.

How do I know this? I use the URL shortener bit.ly, which has a great feature that tells us about incoming clicks on the live stream link, http://bit.ly/Your3BL.

Next week, we plan to do a survey to get more feedback from listeners. Till then:

A working model of ‘Social Capital’

I’ve been indulging in Wikis a lot this year.

I wrote quite a bit on the topic here and elsewhere, recently. And his Monday I was in charge of the wiki portion of what amounts to the launch of the first open source business development plan in Sustainability, for Arizona. More about this here.

So on Wednesday, when I visited Gangplank to get a better sense of this remarkable working environment I could not help notice the parallel.

If Gangplank is a piece of software, it would most probably be a Wiki!

It’s a a true collaborative space, whose ‘permanent residents’ (independent businesses) don’t pay rent, though they get to use the utilities, the workspace, conference rooms, wifi etc for no charge. Derek Neighbors, co-founder of Gangplank and our guest on the radio show this week, prefers to call this an investment in ‘social capital.’ It reminded me of another semi-financial term used in the book Groundswell –how collaboration earns a person ‘psychic income.’

But to get back to the topic of wikis, if you consider how much time has gone into Wikipedia –approximately 1 million man hours, according to Clay Shirky-– it is a model that works even among largely anonymous people. So of course it world work when you get a room filled with creative people.

Just step into Gangplank, and you’ll see a working model -or a ‘use case’ if you prefer another geeky term!