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My Information Diet: Podcasts, Audio And Attention

Still pacing around a bunch of foggy ideas here.

Podcasts: I don’t listen to enough podcasts, and I’m bad at keeping up with the ones I’m subscribed to.  I recently bought myself a bluetooth earpiece, so I can more easily keep up with podcasts while remaining easily contactable, and also functional while I move around a house with people in it.  The current list, which I need to add to once I start properly managing what’s here, is:

Unreported World, journalism from Channel 4.  

Four Thought, short talks from BBC Radio 4, frequently presented by comrade Ben Hammersley,

The Future Human Podcast. Little Atoms, from Resonance FM.  (science, ideas and culture)

The History of Rome, by Mike Duncan, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History and In Our Time With Melvyn Bragg from BBC Radio 4, because I’m a history buff and these are a source of great pleasure to me.  IOT, especially, makes my occasional train ride to London very nice.  And the Psychedelic Salon, because I like old Terence McKenna lectures.

Music podcasts:  Rob Booth’s Electronic Explorations, Broken20, Soft Oblongs, Dublab,

Basically, I’m not absorbing nearly enough new information via audio, and need to work on that a bit.

Audio seems to be somehow harder to build into the day.  I’m not sure why.  Probably because most podcasts are still emulating classical radio (and god knows I wouldn’t want IOT, for one, to be any other way), and so they demand primary attention.  I can’t be doing a lot else when playing a podcast.

A few people in digital circles have been talking about audio in relation to information radiance.  Secondary Attention, which is the attention we give to “glanceable” screens, status pop-ups and tickers.  This also obviously relates to Continuous Partial Attention.

Here’s an example of Secondary Attention in a live context: Guardian Ambient Headline Radio.  Warning: will not work in all browsers.  Developed by Dan Catt, one of the last things he did for the Guardian.  This is the most recent version – a previous version had much better music!  It’s a New Aesthetic-y degraded image from a news photo, the headline the article came from generated as a text, and when it cycles to the next headline, a logotone fires and a speech bot will read out the headline.  With ambient music playing the whole time. 

(This is how he thought of and made it.)

Imagine one of those hooked to Google Reader.

(Tangent: Julian Bleecker of New Future Laboratory has been talking vaguely about something called Ear Freshener  — I can’t find a single post that encapsulates whatever he’s planning, but these are some earlier thoughts of his about sound as interaction design)

I need music while I’m working.  Russell Davies, who’s been talking about secondary attention sound for some time now, can’t handle music radio.  But we agree that having ghost agents whispering in the corners would be useful.  I’d even be okay with my phone singing to me more.

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