31 October 02005

E-learning podcasts and the wonders of transcripts

E-learning figurehead Elliott Masie is offering a wide range of podcasts in connection with the current Learning 2005 conference in Florida. In keeping with the reflexive tradition of the medium, this includes a podcast about podcasting…

The implementation of the podcasts is as professional as you'd expect: there's an option to play the audio with a Flash player (courtesy of Audioblog.com, as explained in the how-to-podcast feature), and there's a PDF transcript of all the audio.

Paradoxically, it's the availability of the transcript that draws attention to the limitations of the medium.

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30 October 02005

Recording the Lea Valley: sound and vision

The new film by Saint Etienne and Paul Kelly, What Have You Done Today, Mervyn Day?, is billed as an homage to the Lea Valley. Seeing it led me first to dig out Peter Cusack's 02000 album The Horse was Alive, The Cow was Dead — which is an audio document of the same area — and then to consider the different ways in which the two pieces work.

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28 October 02005

How niche radio combines broadcast and on-demand formats

A whole radio station dedicated exclusively to one artist? That's what US satellite radio broadcaster Sirius is offering from next week in the shape of E Street Radio, promising "round-the-clock Springsteen music" — at least until the end of next January.

As well as the standard album tracks, there will be musical exclusives and interviews. Whether the music will be wall-to-wall Bruce, or whether it will include related material like the artists that influenced him or were influenced by him, is unclear. But this radio 'first' may be a harbinger of a new format of music listening that combines the cyclical patterns of broadcasting with the niche targeting of on-demand technologies.

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26 October 02005

Proliferation of music products

When Robbie Williams' last album was released three years ago there were 10 bits of content: the album package itself, a few singles, and associated videos and ringtones. When his new album was released on Monday, there were 164 bits of content. These include material for DualDisc, individual tracks for music download stores, and a whole set of different ringtones, 'wallpaper' and special bundles of content, some of which is exclusive to individual mobile carriers like T-mobile and Sony Ericsson.

These are the figures given by Williams' manager, Tim Clark of IE Music, speaking at a MusicAlly debate yesterday evening. They give a sense of how the music industry is embracing the ethos of lifestyle gadgetry in providing the maximum number of diverse, tailored products for different platforms.

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20 October 02005

Sharing book recommendations

Based on my reading this year, I've added some more book recommendations to the Stuff We Like web site. This community site shares the tag-based 'folksonomy' approach of flickr and del.icio.us. It also shares the links to online retailers of some music playlisting services like Soundflavor or UpTo11.net — though Stuff We Like is not-for-profit and any commissions go to beneficiaries.

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15 October 02005

Games, puzzles, simulations and role-plays

The email exchange between Seb Schmoller and me continued after my last entry on games and learning, and we discovered we were writing at cross-purposes, as we had different ideas about what counts as a game. This is my attempt at some brief definitions of different kinds of play, and their relation to learning.

It started with a discussion about production values — does the idea of games in e-learning imply the same kind of expensive production values evidenced by the computer games industry? Seb wrote, "there are some circumstances in which low production values do not get in the way of a good game, with crosswords and sudoku being good examples of them". But I said these don't need high production values because they're not simulating anything outside themselves. And anyway, I'm not sure sudoku is a game; I think it's a puzzle.

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14 October 02005

Adelphi Charter on creativity, innovation and intellectual property

The Adelphi Charter was launched at the RSA yesterday evening. The RSA convened an international commission to draft the charter, and will now lobby governments to adopt its nine principles in practice as well as in principle.

Unfortunately those principles are so far available only in PDF format (12 KB download). They're bold and clear in their resistance to increasingly protectionist tendencies in intellectual property. As the RSA Journal put it, the charter is based on "the recognition that the vital balance between the public domain and private rights, between encouraging creativity and protecting private ownership and control of information, has tipped too far in favour of rights-owners".

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12 October 02005

Games and learning design

Like many people, I often accumulate knowledge by seizing on 'facts' that reinforce my intuitions and prejudices. So, given my feelings about use of games in e-learning, my radar jumped on the ESRC press release that says, "young people's experience of playing games (76% at least weekly in 2003) had a negative effect when they approached science simulations like a computer game and did not take them seriously" (via Seb Schmoller's mailings).

One way of reading this is that the attempt to sweeten the pill of learning with the sugar coating of a game fails to take account of young people's media habits and expectations. If you make it look like a sweet, it gets treated as a sweet: the sugar rots the kids' teeth, and they don't digest the pill! As Seb says (in a personal email), "You'd also need to know more about which learners reacted this way — level, ability; and how good the simulations were". Neither of us have been able to find the report which the press release describes, but my searching threw up a few interesting leads.

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10 October 02005

Recording online radio vs. podcasts

iFill screenshotIn the last year or two, the concept of martini media — 'anytime, anyplace, anywhere' access to whatever audio and video you feel like — has shifted from being a vision of a possible future to being an almost taken-for-granted inevitability. The speed with which it comes about will be slowed by the friction of dealing with rights-holders' concerns (some valid, some less so), but momentum will nevertheless bring it about in the end.

Hence I've not really been keeping up with my collection of harbingers of martini media; they are too many and various these days. What brings me back is another radio-related technology: the Griffin iFill software, which fills up your mp3 player with recordings from online radio stations. (Last year, Griffin produced the hardware-based radio SHARK, which provides some of the same functions for AM and FM radio.)

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6 October 02005

Age and tradition in music buying

One other thing about the 'infomercials' that I mentioned in my last entry: the LA Times article reports that the informercials "will be largely targeted at the baby boomers who 30 years ago fueled the music industry but who today buy fewer albums". A Universal Music president is quoted as saying, "Nobody has found a way to capture the 40-year-old and older audience". Though a slew of statistics that have been issued recently suggests that the older audience isn't sitting passively waiting to be 'captured' but is actively researching and buying more music than ever before.

This connects with my essay at the start of the year about the increasing breadth of both the ages of popular music buyers and the eras of music being listened to. The argument there was that a combination of demographic, technological and cultural factors that resulted in the upheavals of rock'n'roll and punk. At the time, these youth-led 'revolutions' seemed to change the landscape irrevocably, but from further away it's easier to see the continuities and the traditions that stretch back well before Elvis released his first single.

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4 October 02005

Record labels make their own documentaries

Bob Dylan album sales have registered a tenfold increase in the wake of the Dylan documentary produced by PBS and the BBC. With windfalls like that, it's not surprising that major and independent record labels are getting into the business of making their own documentaries and features.

Mute is among the early UK labels starting to offer podcasts related to its releases. And Universal is reported to be making its own TV documentary 'infomercials' to help sell box sets of its catalogue.

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