Why is podcasting important?

Yesterday, I experienced something new as I recorded a podcast.

It began innocently enough. I thought I would do ten minutes or so on basic philosophy: why I keep a weblog, and why I record podcasts, and why I think both are important. I’ve hinted at some of this before, but I thought that I might try to be more explicit as to the outcome that I am seeking when I publish my blogs and podcasts. It goes slightly deeper than just talking about gadgets and books and movies and cooking.

It is about creating. It is about conversing. It is about expression.

Think about what a remarkable thing your network connection really is. Up until about ten years ago, your own ability to publish your own works was severely limited. That is because your creativity had to have concrete, material representation, and copying and delivering these material representations (paper, cassettes, video tapes) required the moving and copying of physical objects, and that required costly labor and materials. The concrete, material representations of your ideas are not the ideas themselves, but there was simply no other way to get them to others without giving them material form.

The ubiquity of computer networks and digital media has blown that whole notion away. Now your ideas have only the thinnest physical existance. They move at the speed of light (or at least the speed of your network connections) to anyone else on the network. Your creativity can now be shared by hundreds (in my case) or thousands or millions and soon to be billions of others.

This realization has not escaped the many hardcore capitalists of the world, and their response is obvious: “With an audience that large, let’s try to sell them something!” Some think they can do this with advertising: reminding people that without their own particular product, they risk falling behind on the endless treadmill of life. Some think they can do it by selling their own punditry, because listening to someone else’s thoughts saves you the tedious burden of forming your own thoughts. And some think they can merely repackage the same old stuff onto new gadgets, and that you’ll gleefully pay for the experience.

It’s kind of sad actually.

The revolution doesn’t occur in the few-to-millions capabilities of the Internet. The revolution occurs in the long tail of communication, where millions communicate with each other in exchanges of rich media.

I suspect that most A-list podcasters are nodding their heads at this point, but I suspect (as my rant yesterday hinted) that they don’t really get it. When Dave Winer turns around and says that to solve the problems of podcasting, we need to create an industry to support it, he doesn’t get it. We do not need an industry. We need individuals with very modest resources to get out and start weblogging and podcasting, to listen and respond to other blogs and podcasts and to encourage others to do so. I don’t need to develop a business plan to achieve those goals.

I’m interested (despite the rather pedestrian choice of blog topics that I pick) in the development of culture and individual expression. That’s not an industry: that’s a personal responsibility. Take responsibility for creation and sharing, and utilize the unprecedented tools that we have to build the kind of world of ideas that you desire.

It’s powerful stuff.

So, back to yesterday’s aborted podcast. Yesterday’s rant generated more email response and comment than any other item I’ve posted in recent memory, if not the entire 2+ year history of brainwagon. And that feels good. It feels good that people are actually reading and responding to my commentary. That my readership might be up. That people might talk about what I talk about.

Therein lies the trap. It’s tempting to just continue to flame away: to go back to the well again and again, to milk the apparent popularity of this observation to make myself feel more important. And in listening to my podcast, I realized that might have been what I was doing. So I decided to trash yesterday’s episode. To me, it’s more important that I promote what I view as the ideals rather than just fuel my own popularity. Being provocative or negative is one way to generate traffic, but it doesn’t generate culture.

If there is a philosophical underpinning to brainwagon, it’s the idea of individual empowerment. You can figure it out. You can do it. You can understand it. Go do it. Program. Build. Cook. Write. Talk. You don’t need to have the industry tell you how, or wait for a product to appear to make it easy.

Have a good one.

War of the Worlds ala Spielberg

Apple has just posted the teaser for Stephen Spielberg’s remake of War of the Worlds. Not much to see, but try comparing voice over to the great introduction done by Orson Welles for his famous Mercury Theater Broadcast. Orson’s radio voice and delivery may be unequalled in the history of radio, and he’s at his best here.

More War of the Worlds links: The classic 1953 film, the terrible but strangely addictive short-lived television series, and the text of H.G. Wells original from Project Gutenberg.