Saturday, April 07, 2007

Sounding Board

On the final day of the Popular Culture Association conference, audiophile die-hards stayed for our panel on podcasting, about which the canon of scholarship is currently very small. My UCI colleague Annette Schlichter organized the panel and closed the session with a preliminary sketch of her "Our iPods/Ourselves" research on gender, sexuality, and the voice in independent podcasts that include queer, transgender, and scatological discourses. She also talked about the importance of recognizing the role of procedural rhetoric or what could be considered a form of technological determinism when it comes to the compression of MP3 files that dictate the spectrum of the listening experience.

We were fortunate also to have Richard Berry from the UK join us; Berry authored "Will the iPod Kill the Radio Star?" for Convergence. Berry used the concept of "the long tail" to explain the lessons of niche marketing for commercial radio. He also -- very justifiably -- complained about the title of our panel and the fact that this cultural phenomenon wasn't limited to a particular brand or even to a general type of mobile device.

Like Berry's paper, my presentation focused on how podcasting relates to traditional broadcast media. Although I spoke some about how blogging and podcasting were related, my main focus was on supplementarity with television. In my analysis of my main case study, "Tim's Podcast" for the Bravo television show Project Runway, I argued that the alternative audio channel presented a counter-discourse that probed questions about gender, sexuality, class, body image, and intellectual property that weren't directly addressed by the mainstream-oriented TV show; at the same time, I argued, the podcast by a Parsons faculty member was asserting the authority of institutions of higher education and the often policing Enlightenment values that they represented.

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