The Art of Listening

Posted on 11 March 2009 at 3:42 pm in Coursework.

The Listener Remixed by Kim Dohrman

My first foray into being a podcast consumer started when I bought a larger, hipper iPod to replace my old dying model about two years ago. With so much space to fill, I looked to podcasts as a way to always have new content. Subscribing was easy enough; I was already using iTunes as my portal, so I searched the iTunes store for appealing podcasts. Established radio networks are a reliable source of quality material, so I went straight to NPR: Terry Gross’s Fresh Air and the occasional music series, All Songs Considered, appealed to me the most.

My problem turned out to be time. Fresh Air is a daily program, an hour apiece. For a while I picked and chose which broadcasts I wanted to listen to based on the guestlist, but after a while iTunes stopped downloading the new episodes automatically since I had failed to keep listening to the older ones. I managed a little better with All Songs Considered; it appears less often, not quite once a week, and is only 30-45 minutes. Eventually I fell too far behind it as well. Perhaps if I were a regular train commuter I’d be a better podcast consumer, but I’ve mostly been a bicycle commuter in my professional life and weaving through downtown traffic is trouble enough without the latest political debate on Fresh Air to distract me.

I’m more interested in the possibility of listening to music and news podcasts via my computer. I spend a dire number of hours per day in front of this monitor and podcasts of interviews or new music sound more compelling than my usual rehash of old music I’ve heard a thousand times. I’ve subscribed to two podcasts via RSS feeds on my browser from SFGate: Tim Goodman on television and Mick LaSalle on film. I’ve also subscribed to the San Francisco Public Library’s Word and Performance series. Via iTunes, I’ve re-subscribed to All Songs Considered and added Cool Tools for Library 2.0. Overall, I prefer the iTunes interface for subscribing to podcasts: iTunes is already my go-to program for listening to music, and it interfaces with my iPod and iPhone if I want to sync the podcast in multiple places.

Listening to Greg Schwartz’s presentation for the SirsiDynix Institute was fairly compelling and I was impressed by the range of library uses he described. Some seem obvious: storytime, for instance, or broadcasting planned presentations and lectures. I really liked his example of the Primary Sources Theater “performed” by an Academic Library on Long Island — that sounded inventive and interesting.

I’ve never been patient enough to listen, but with so many diverse offerings, perhaps it is time for me to develop my skills in the art of listening.

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