Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Sharon Needs a New Word

I'm just rolling in from two back-to-back conferences, TYCA-SE and CFTTC. Someone please remind me next proposal season that sometimes everything does get accepted, and life just isn't long enough to do everything. But what the heck. Both conferences were wonderful, and I'd fired up and ready to take on the world even if I am too tired to lift a finger.

Something kept nagging at me, though, as I listened to the fervor over podcasting in both places. Inevitably, once anyone started talking about podcasting everyone in the room wanted to know everything they could about it. It seems lots of college presidents have issued the mandate to "Go forth and podcast." People everywhere are anxious to learn. Some are anxious to share what they know. Yet somehow we've also made a kind of cool club out of the word podcasting in which the term itself is used in a spirit that shuts people out.

Over an over I heard people say, "Oh, no. If you only post audio online, that's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files."


I'm well aware that technopurism defines podcasting as both episodic and available by subscription, but there are a lot of other great possibilities for digital audio in education. Many we haven't even discovered yet.

There's nothing wrong per se with limiting the term podcasting to mean only one kind of delivery for digital audio. The problem is that podcasting is the cool word, and we don't have one that sounds as savvy and impressive to bandy about for all of the other things we might do. Hence, we have people saying things like "That's not really podcasting. That's just making audio files." As if anything else is less cool and less important.

I don't mind a little technolitism here and there, but this particular variety of it was a constant at two very different conferences. I found it terribly counter-productive.

I think we can safely assume that most people who go to conferences to talk about technology genuinely want to share their knowledge in a way that is helpful to others. Saying things like "that's not really podcasting," however informative it might be, is not exactly helpful. It shuts people out. It makes people feel like the learning curve is insurmountable. It discourages them from experimenting with one little step at a time on the path to technotopia.

Therefore, Sharon needs a new word. Help me out, world. What can we call non-subscription based digital audio that will sound just as cool as podcasting?

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