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Blog // Thoughts
July 7, 2005

The Revolution Will Not Be Podcast

Jonny Baker is firing off some great questions on the uses of podcasting, “why is it that when churches discover a new technology they still think along the lines of the media they used in the old world?…” It is interesting how widely the podcasting debate has spread since Apple’s included it the latest iTunes […]

Jonny Baker is firing off some great questions on the uses of podcasting,

“why is it that when churches discover a new technology they still think along the lines of the media they used in the old world?…”

It is interesting how widely the podcasting debate has spread since Apple’s included it the latest iTunes update. Especially as podcasting is not new, the technology has been round for a while (though it probably gained critical mass this time last year). Before we criticise the church-based applications as being old forms in a new technology, it is worth noting that prior to the iTunes announcement the major use of podcasts was to replicate blogs and radio broadcasts. Yes, the history of podcasting thus far, is largely a history of ranters and radio.

It is not surprising then that most current suggestions for podcasting involve reworking existing applications, like podcast sermons instead of sermon tapes, podcast congregational interviews instead of pulpit interviews or newsletter interviews and so on. Even some of the interesting musical applications of podcasting, like daily jazz improvisations, recording session updates and live concerts are still reworkings of what can already be done with email and streaming audio, or just cassettes and CDs.

This reflects the way we adapt to and utilise new technologies; we first use them to replicate tasks we are already doing, only faster and better. Once we do that, if we are reflective and creative, the new technology will open up fresh possibilties. Whether we are talking about ftp, or email, or DAW recording, or digital image processing, the story is the same. Trying to use new media to replicate real world applications was the first step in realising new forms of creativity. Or imagination follows our actions.

A cool example of this is the way some podcasters have tried to re-imagine the museum tour experience and the result is some fresh, irreverent and free podcasts that in one sense play the game we have all played for years (taking the mickey out of dour museum tour tapes), but in another sense offer so much more. Podcasts as sound-seeing, or personal travel narrative excite me. It is exciting because it is a little dangerous, a little subversive; it enmeshes expererience with narrative and an unofficial narrative at that.

I’m not sure podcasting is the next revolution (thanks to Damian for the title of this post), that will come when we can video-cast. But Jonny’s questions should still make us stop and think seriously. For me, if there is a problem with podcasting sermons it is not using new media to replicate old applications, rather it’s using new media to reinforce hegemonies of communication. Why not use podcasting to allow for alternative voices (podcast responses and critiques of the sermon, for example), or subversive voices (podcast interviews with people who decided not to come forward at the evangelistic rally). Let’s hear podcasts in the flavour of Ship of Fool’s mystery worshipper or irreverent podcast tours of cathedrals or theological libraries.

[tags] Podcasting [/tags]

Responses
brodie 17 years ago

I think the attraction for many churches in pod casting is not “let’s jump on this new band wagon”, but is as you suggest one of convenience. For many it’s about how do I get my message to as many people as possible?

Johnny is right to stir the waters and challenge us to be more creative. Unfortunately when we thing of accessibility to what we communicate we more often do so in how easy is this to get hold of, rather than how easy is this for people to understand.

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