Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scan This

Tēnā koutou katoa – Greetings to you all
Video console

We’ve had an avalanche of enthusiasm and opinion about podcasts and videocasts, audio comments and video comments on blogs. I don’t knock any of those. I’m all for innovation, and I like the idea of identifying with the person who is communicating with me.

Back in the bad old days, people got all enthusiastic about embedding a picture of themselves in a word file, and printing out the letter on a colour printer.

PDFs also became popular about the same time, though not as accessible. Embedding an audio file in those was a development. That showed promise – a bit of a veer to the side, since the PDF was originally intended to provide a portable printable format, but that's cool.

At that same time, we had webs with embedded audio files and streamed videos. Web 2.0 hit us and all of that burst in cascades of foam as things went wild with Twitter, Tumbler, Seesmic and lots of other goodies besides.

A put-down on text

There’s been a bit of put-down where blogs with text comments are concerned. And I wonder if any real thought has been put into why blogs should still be so popular, or indeed, of the real merits of text.

Here’s my take on reading a post or comments against it, compared to listening to podcasts or watching video comments – and I emphasise here that it’s not my intention to knock any of those technologies, for I truly believe they all have their place.

But . . .

When it comes to scanning for detail that may be useful, I find it difficult to do this with audio or video. Even if all of the comments are video comments in response to the original video casted post, there is no way I have a hope of scanning the page to see if there’s anything that interests me there. I have to doggedly play the files – one by one.

Frankly, there is no way I can get the feel of what the discussion is all about just by scanning the post. The same applies to audio files. In short, they actually slow me down and can make skimming for information exceedingly tedious, if not impossible.

When it comes to citing, or quoting from a video-post or video comment I have the same problem. I've yet to hear anything to the contrary. It seems that they’re not transmutable, for the ‘in’ way to respond or comment on a video-cast seems to be only acceptable in kind.

Yesterday, I listened to a 10 minute conversation-cast. I had some ideas that I’d like to comment on, and though the speakers were all introduced one by one, I’m damned if I could remember all their names.

Not an easy scan

D’you think I could easily scan across the vid to pick them out? Not a chance. I gave up in the end and submitted a bland comment with no appropriate reference to the speakers because I could not easily recall who they were.

As I said at the beginning of this soliloquy, I’m not knocking the audios or the vids. They have their place. Just don’t expect me to drum up enthusiasm to respond in kind when I know damn well it’s simpler to write a brief comment.

Ka kite anō – Catch ya later


V Yonkers said...

There is one more problem: download time. Although I do have high speed now, I didn't for a long time. In addition, some of my students are in rural areas without high speed access. I think you limit your readership (thus those that will "listen" to your comments) to those with high speed hook up.

Ken Stewart said...

I would agree with your observations, simply by reviewing my own consumption habits.

What I have found is audio is extremely versatile when traveling from one location to another or using it as background noise. However, when I want to reference a tidbit within the audio, I always end up having to dig up the transcript.

Past this, I am a visual learner. Seeing things in "black and white" helps me not only ingest the information but digest it.

Overall, I enjoy all multimedia, but have found I enjoy the fact I can scan text much more quickly and move on allowing for a greater consumption rate. I find my experience can be more full with multimedia, but I can also lobby for having an imagination and allowing that to be my multimedia.

I do not know the appropriate "educational" terms for this, but it appears to me we are allowing our society to move away from cognitive processing of the written word towards a lower-level of processing thus leading to simple regurgitation - not synthesis.

Nancy White said...

As a died in the wool scanner, I was nodding in recognition of your observation that audio is not very scannable!

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koutou katoa!

@Virginia - you and I both. We only got broadband last month. I too am aware that many of my students' families living on farms in New Zealand do not have access to fast Internet even yet.

@Ken - I wonder if it is a learnt skill, this ability to scan text more easily than other forms of communication. Many years ago I attended a speed reading course. I came away not that richer for the experience, other than I'd learnt of the wide range in abilities, to learn to scan text rapidly, among people of similar age and background.

I love your personal take on multimedia - now that's technology!

@Nancy - fair CoP :-) I hear what you say.

Ka kite

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Tēnā koe Ken!

Synthesis (and analysis) are indeed skills associated with learning and understanding. I'm not so sure that appreciating the written word is so important to the possession of these skills, though it does seem likely that this might be the case.

One of the postmodern features of where we seem to be going today is the minimalising of text, or at least the place of text, in communication and learning material - although this is probably contestable.

A leading philosopher who died in 2004, Jacques Derrida, proselytised about his idea that perhaps text was now an outmoded form of communication, that face to face in the form of audio or video communication was more valid and real and that written material served as a vehicle of poor fidelity for communication - one that was misleading and ambiguous. I didn't follow Derrida.

Ka kite