Learn about the idea of ‘Context is King’, other shifted paradigms and the realization of theories by media futurists including McLuhan (Hot and Cold Media), Alvin Toffler (predicted granular micronization of niche markets circa 1995), and even Jung’s ideas about the collective unconscious, and how the interconnectedness of communication media has begun to actualize it.
This episode of Canadian Podcast Buffet is brought to you in part by TD Canada Trust. When you switch your main chequing account to TD by August 3rd, you’ll qualify for either a free Shuffle, iPod Nano or a 30 gig iPod. Click here for details.
Photo by Jim Milles.
Mark Blevis: I’m Mark Blevis.
Bob Goyetche: And I’m Bob Goyetche. Welcome to special coverage of the 2007 edition of Podcasters Across Borders right here on the Canadian Podcast Buffet.
Mark Blevis: This episode is brought to you in part by TD Canada Trust. Listen at the end of the show to see how you can get a free iPod.
Bob Goyetche: So while you listen to the great sessions from Podcasters Across Borders 2007, keep in mind that Podcasters Across Borders 2008 is June 20 through 22 in Kingston, Ontario once again.
Bob Goyetche: On this issue you’re going to hear Arthur Master’s presentation “Context is King”. Arthur runs the Ottawa Local Podcast at www.ottawalocal.com.
Arthur Masters: Wow am I nervous. I’ve known about this for months now and I guess much of this speech is gonna come from conversations that I’ve had with Mark Blevis. One of the nice things about living in Ottawa is that I live just, you know, a minute’s walk from the Arrow & Loon Pub where Mark likes to get together with anyone who’s passing through town. And it’s easy for me to convince him to stay for an extra drink because he lives around the corner. And so once everyone else has wondered off back to their homes, we’ll sit around and polish off another couple of pints. And we get into these really neat conversations. And if we can remember them in the morning, it winds up on one of his blogs or on one of my podcasts. So despite that, I am really nervous and, whoa, I just pictured you all naked, that was uncomfortable.
Okay, I want to welcome you all to Podcasters Across Borders but I also want to welcome you all to the future, because what we’re doing right now, this realization of technology, this interconnected community that we have is something which has been predicted by futurists. Well, people will make predictions and we only pay attention to the ones that come true. Now maybe that’s kind of the shotgun theory, if you send out enough ideas, some of them will hit the bull’s eye and those are the ones that we wind up reading thirty years later. And that is the case, in that there have been a lot of ideas. But some people like Marshall McLuhan and Noam Chomsky and Alvin Toffler are futurists that seem to hit it just about every single time. And I just wanted to…perhaps you’re already aware that we’ve already realized some of these ideas. But I wanted to just hit on some of these points, so that you can all know what an incredibly exciting thing it is that we’re all participating in here. And there’s an ancient Chinese curse which says “May you live in interesting times” and I think we are living in the most interesting of times.
People, when they think about the future, we tend to idealize it. There was this idea once upon a time that we would all travel in tubes, you know, you would get up in the morning and put on your nice crisp shirt that was prepared by the robot maid, and you would leave your house and you’d get on to this shiny glass steel tube. And it would shuttle you across the city to your towering office building, where you would perform your terribly important task, punching numbers into a giant calculator, computer sort of machine. This isn’t how it happened. In fact, it’s the blue collar workers who take the tube to work in the morning, its people in Toronto who get onto the subway and it’s grimy and it’s noisy. And it’s not what we thought it would be. And the same thing applies to the future of technology. Alvin Toffler described the paperless office almost thirty years ago. I’ve seen more paper in offices…anyone here? Does anyone here have a paperless office? No? No, maybe Goggle does, maybe you know, some of those, you know, entirely online businesses do, but no one I know. But we do have something called iTunes, which is a recordless music store. And the only thing is he just got the media wrong. It wasn’t type media, it wasn’t print media, it was another form of media. And so these things are really becoming true and I don’t think any of the predictions have fallen flat. I think all of them have some validity.
One of the things that you also have to do when you’re being a futurist and thinking about the future, is you have to re-examine the maxims of today. What was the environment that we thought we were sitting in? And when we think about the future, can we go back and re-examine those and redefine them and does it fit the model better? Well, one of the old maxims of radio has been “content is king”. And this is the idea that when people tune into the radio, they want to know what time is it? What’s the traffic like? What’s the number one hit song? You’ve got to have this kind of a prioritized list of information. And I would like to propose that we have left that era and we’ve entered a new one where context is king. And this isn’t something new, I’m just stealing this from Marshall McLuhan. And this is his most famous quote. And I think podcasting realizes that maxim, the idea of context being king, more than any other media that we’ve had so far. And part of the reason for that is the way that the idea of podcasting has manifested in our minds.
Now I believe it was at the 2000 or 2001 Portable Media Expo that the word first was used. And someone had been speaking about narrowcasting which, as many of you probably know, is where you’re pulling a file from a website instead of broadcasting it. And this is what makes podcasting able to circumvent all of the conventions of radio and conventional media. And someone got up at the end of this conference and perhaps it was something that was…had come up in a conversation or maybe it just came to them. But they said, well there’s this new iPod product and there’s this narrowcasting. And those are the two most exciting things here. And next year, we’ll all probably be podcasting, ha, ha, ha, and it just stuck. And every single journalist who was there went home and wrote down podcasting, and put that into the article, and the word was born. But people didn’t understand what podcasting was. People thought oh, well podcasting is a delivery method. Well podcasting is the content of what you’re talking about. And then some people at first were confused because there was so much talk about well, what type of file format? Is this some sort of protocol that I’m just not aware of? And it was just so vague and blurry. But that did something wonderful. It combined content and context. The delivery mechanism was synonymous in peoples’ minds with the content. And when people first picked up a microphone and figured out how to do it, one of the first things that a lot of people have done, yourselves have done I’m sure, and I know you’ve all heard shows like this, is you talked about how to make your own podcast.
So the content is then giving you the tools and the information on how to use the tools to create more podcasts. And this is…so listening to a podcast actually primes you for creating a podcast. And the early version of Podcaster X or iPodder…I think it became Juice. It was Adam Curry’s baby. It actually had a program in one of the sub-directories that helped you write RSS feed. So as soon as you had the tool to listen to it, you also had the tools to make it. And this struck me as being an extension of this context, the medium is the message realization and this was now part of what Chomsky had described as means and viral means. And the content of an idea containing the information which is needed to prime people and get them to create more of that, something which is viral, you are infected and then you become a producer as a result of the information. And it passes itself on that way. Now I’ve never actually read a lot of Chomsky. I’ve read People on Chomsky and I’m a big fan of Douglas Rushkoff. I don’t know if anyone here is familiar with Douglas Rushkoff, a nice Jewish boy from New York. And he is a cutting edge, frighteningly intelligent futurist who’s…anyway, I just want to recommend if anyone gets a chance go read the book Media Virus. And it was written in 1993. But the things he talks about in the book are more and more relevant every day.
One of the things that resulted of this mass explosion of people who we’re being primed and then putting out content was an incredible diversity in subject matter. Now that diversity…if you want to have a hit, you don’t want diversity, you want mass appeal. So this has been the depth of the hit as well, having, you know, 800,000 voices all speaking on their own personal areas of expertise. And this has created a micronization of markets. Markets which appeal to a single niche. And if there’s a million people, all who are experts in one particular tiny field like, you know, there’s Jay Mooney who is an expert on capitalizing on….
Mark Blevis: Maybe your battery died. Thank you very much to Arthur Masters everybody. It was going nowhere man.
Arthur Masters: Wait till it gets there.
Arthur Masters: Check – one – two. Okay, we’re back. So, as a result of this incredible variety and this medium which actually primes people. Like, can you imagine if every single person who watched television was suddenly struck with the impetus to go out and create a TV show with the same like rabid drive that podcasters seem to experience it? You know, we would have a massive explosion. And if you look at the growth curve and the adoption curve that…it’s hard to get numbers for this year. Last year, the numbers were spectacular, it was experiencing this kind of zero to 5,000,000 podcast curve and it was really exciting to look at. But what this means is you have all these people, this incredible diversity, and there’s no focus. It’s not like podcasters are all computer geeks. Or podcasters are all on-line music junkies. Or podcasters are all hobby radio enthusiasts. You get this whole spectrum. And you’re not going to find two of the same person or two of the same common experience. So because of this, you get this incredible micronization, this over-specialization, sometimes to the point where none of us can keep a market of more than 30 listeners to our specific area of interest. But that’s okay, because we’re satisfying the need of those 30 people.
Now Alvin Toffler…I first heard of Alvin Toffler in 1993. And I was reading Wired Magazine which was in its second year of publication. And I think they were only putting out one episode every two months. And it was really counter-culture, it was edgy, it was anti-big business, it was pro-individual piracy and privacy and anti-big business. And it was really cutting edge. And today it’s more corporate and I don’t read it anymore. But they had Alvin Toffler. And I didn’t know who Alvin Toffler was but if Wired Magazine had Alvin Toffler, then he must be cool. And he was talking about in 15 years from 1993, he was saying we’re going to have thousands of channels. We’re not just going to have a sports channel, we’re going to have a sports channel for every sport. And at the time, there was still only 30 channels on my television set. So I don’t know what kind of drugs he’s on or what kind of, you know, crystal ball he’s using. But his ability to describe the environment that we’re sitting in right now I find mind blowing. And I’m so excited to be a part of it. And that’s why I’m here today. Because I really feel like I am living part of that wild roller coaster ride of ideas that I’ve have been reading about for 30 years. And it’s so flattering to know that I can participate. And right on the cusp, in terms of participating and being a podcaster.
Now once you have…now as I mentioned a moment ago, sometimes because of this great diversification, you have this very shallow niche. And maybe you’ve only got 30 or 60 listeners. This means that people aren’t doing it for profit. This means that people are doing it out of a sense of powered by passion, to use, you know, a phrase that Andrea Ross coined. They’re not doing it for money. They’re doing it out of a sense of volunteerism. And its very anarchist. It’s very communist, very socialist in that we’re providing a service which was a paid service. And we’re doing it out of a sense of, not out of a sense of duty, but out of a sense of fulfillment. We’re fulfilling a need in our society, in our media. And to do that, we had to democratize the tools of production and the means of distribution. And this…when I start to hear phrases like that, and that’s not…I’m not using these, I’m not making those terms up. That’s…I’m quoting from Chris Anderson in his recent book “The Long Tale”. He says we had to democratize the tools of production and the means of distribution. And right away, I’m thinking Carl Marx. This is the new factory. This is the electronic factory. And I’m the worker and I own the factory. And this is another radical revolution. You know once I made that realization that I was also living a socialist dream, you know, instead of just voting NDP, I can participate by owning that factory and I am the network. And I don’t do it for a pay check. I do it out of a sense of personal fulfillment. And that spirit is also something that Mark has talked about – the day when people would do away with things like currency which simply re-enforce power structures. And we would, you know, we would all become sort of renaissance men who had not one job that, you know, perhaps one task which was necessary to perform, but many other tasks that we would perform that society would benefit from. And there would be no pay scale, there would be no pay structure, there would be no ownership. And we’re also living in that world, increasingly so.
And I’m going to jump ahead to what I just mentioned, Chris Anderson, “The Long Tale”. Some of you may have read it. I wanted to make sure that instead of just bringing a bunch of guys to the table who’d been, you know, had all their theory’s out there for 30 years, I wanted to have someone new and more modern. And Chris Anderson is perhaps not a futurist, in that he hasn’t been jumping ahead 30 years and saying where we’re going to be. But he’s…he does a very good job of describing where we are right now. And he’s the Editor-In-Chief of Wired Magazine. And despite my feelings that Wired has become kind of a lukewarm corporate sell-out rag, I still respect his opinion. He’s a very hip guy. And he introduces an idea that someone mentioned to me the other day, just in conversation, that we have probably left the information age for the communication age. But we’re getting into a new age here. Where, because we’ve started to re-enforce the communication structure laterally, rather than just vertically, I mean by vertically, I mean from network to receiver. Now it’s from podcaster to podcaster, from blogger to blogger. There’s an increased amount of communication and we have entered into, as a result, the age of referrals. No longer are we dependent on the top 40 list on Billboard to tell us what’s a hit. We can go to our friend’s, you know, computer or look at his iPod and we can find the songs we want, even if no one else has heard of them. And it’s more word-of-mouth. And we’re now able to filter through all the stuff out there through a system of referrals. And this is a result of the increased kind of depth of re-enforcements that we’ve had along these lateral communication chains, which is a part of owning the means of production, being able to democratize these tools.
Like, if you want to buy a car, it used to be you went and you bought a copy of Lemon-Aid. You know, we all know the book Lemon-Aid. You know, I’m sure anyone whose bought a new car in the last 10 years or a used car in the last 10 years has probably, you know, looked at a copy or borrowed a copy, or sat in Chapter’s and read a copy. And the reason that was a great book is because it was a source that you would trust and it was a good referral. Well now, anyone who’s ever owned any model of car has probably posted a blog. And if you type in, you know, 2002 Honda Civic 4-Door, you’re probably going to wind up reading a lot peoples’, you know, referrals about whether or not you should buy a 2002 Honda Civic 4-Door. And this is something that we didn’t have before. And so it’s taken the power away from the hit-makers, the people who decide what popular culture is. And this is part of the whole kind of getting that long tale, having niche markets, fewer hits. And that’s something that’s interesting because it means that I, as a content provider, am not competing as far to get to the top. It means that people like Julien, who’s here somewhere…there he is. Julien, you know, 15 years ago, you might not have been able to reach, you know, as many people or get the recognition that you were able to get. But the context was right for it, and the scene was…the stage was set and everyone was primed. And there was…it wasn’t as far to go between just being some guy with a mike to being some guy that everybody is listening to. There was a lot more options and the ground work had been laid with everything that’s been happening with putting the tools of production back in everyone hands.
And that’s sort of thing has been going on for a long time. If you want to think of it in terms of, you know, in the 1970’s, electric guitars and cheap recording devices, you know, sprung up in every garage. And instead of being an artist or a performer, you know, with a $1,000,000 studio to back you up, you could play just as well as the Ramones of the Sex Pistols, you know. And today, with the powers of home studio production, you know, people can produce an album for $15,000, you know. And those tools are then going on to the next level of communication, the next level that we’re ready to go, you know, beyond music, into news, into video, into audio. And what this is all doing is it’s…and I really do think of it this way. We’re hard-wiring ourselves for a network, almost a neural network. If there’s a drive or an idea that exists in the kind of the podosphere, the online culture, it’s like a neural network, you know.
In the simplest form something like Oprah decides that she likes pagminas. And within a year, every woman between 35 and 55 owns a pagmina. You know, it was like a neuron fired and a muscle got pulled, you know, and there was a physical reaction. People ran out to stores, you know, and started buying these things, you know. If Mark Blevis says I recommend getting a particular model of solid state recorder, sales for that recorder will actually jump by 2 or 3 sales, you know. But there’s…but it’s…you actually can affect the world by saying something, having it encoded into an electronic file which is really just a bunch of ones and zeros. Someone else picks it up and they go and they take action. That blows my mind, you know. This is, you know, so we’re slowly kind of laying a network by which we can communicate, and ideas. And not even a single idea, but a movement, a bunch of people all with the same idea, can really affect change in the world. And this is laying a network for our collective unconscious, because we’re not always conscious of the effects that we’re creating. Sometimes it’s a general desire and the way that it manifests is different. I mean, there’s obviously been a desire for greater communication in an increasingly populous world. And podcasting has been the manifestation. The fact that people went out and developed the technology, developed the code, developed, you know, the tools, you know, to allow this to happen. That’s a manifestation of an unconscious need for a greater communication among a higher density of population. And so I really feel that we are participating in that hard-wiring of the collective unconscious globally.
And something that someone mentioned last night which it occurred to me was really the summation of everything that I’m talking about, because I’m talking about some kind of far out ideas. And maybe some structural concepts that you can lay over this revolution that we’re all experiencing. And the wildest one of all is Timothy Leary. And I didn’t even know this, but I’m familiar with some of his earlier work. But I didn’t know that…so this is actually unsubstantiated, someone told me this. So whoever it was, it’s their fault if it’s wrong, not mine. And he said that on his deathbed, he said that the internet for the next generation would be the LSD of his generation. Because he and Ken Casey would dose, and Ken Casey would be in San Francisco, Timothy Leary would be in New York. And they would be able to communicate telepathically, you know, on LSD, sharing streaming audio and video. And they did this in 1969. And today, every single kid in America is, instead of high on LSD, they are high on the internet. They have, you know, a 1,000,000 colours. And they can create and they imagine something and produce it, you know, within minutes with the tools lying around their bedroom. And they can alter audio and video, you know, to an amazing degree. And then share with other people and have one-on-one conversations, have group conversations. And this is an expansion of consciousness. This is turn on, tune in, drop out of reality into virtual reality. It’s better than any drug. And it’s not the opiate of the masses that television was, you know. This is something that’s really exciting, you know. And interactive and hot in terms of how McLuhan would describe it.
And that’s what I wanted to communicate is that like I’m really excited. I’m, you know, sometimes I feel like I’m hot, you know, when I’m listening to podcasts, you know. Sometimes I am hot when I’m listening to podcasts, you know. But it really creates an intense visceral experience, you know, that equates any, you know, other experience I might have had, you know, through use of non-internet technologies. There’s one guy in particular, just to…I’m going to wrap up in a second. I can see Todd’s been giving me…Mark’s been giving me the countdown. There’s one guy, Avalanche Radio done by Hector Herrera. And I always mention the guy. I don’t think a lot of other Canadian podcasters listen to him, but he’s out of Toronto. And he’s done a couple of shows where I hit “play” and I had a cup of coffee and I was doing something else. Maybe I’m playing online poker and reading a book and listening to a podcast all at once. And suddenly I have to stop everything because this guy, his voice comes on and I’m frozen. And I close the door and I unplug the phone. And it’s such an all encompassing experience. I listen to one of his shows that I have to close my eyes because it’s…I’m just being over stimulated by his show. And I haven’t had another form of media do that to me in a really long time. And that’s something that some guy in Toronto is producing out of his basement as an escape from his marriage, you know. He talks about that, it’s an intense show. But anyway, but that’s the sort of thing, I’ve never been moved by something and it’s really exciting to me that instead of just experiencing it, I can experience it really, wholly, by also becoming a part of it. And I wanted to invite you all to take that journey yourselves and don’t just produce podcasts, but really revel in the moment. And know that all of you are doing something really exciting and groundbreaking. And I want you all to congratulate yourselves for being a part of it. And next time you podcast and you’re about to hit the button to upload with your FTP, you know, and get it out there, just stop for a moment and think about how far we’ve come. Thank you.
Bob Goyetche: Thanks Art. We have a few minutes. Does anybody have questions for Art while we have him nailed to the podium? I didn’t realize you had a hand on each arm.
Audience: Hey Arthur, how are you?
Bob Goyetche: Who are you?
Julien Smith: I’m Julien Smith.
Bob Goyetche: From?
Julien Smith: In Over Your Head, never heard of it. I just want to say this is spectacular, everything that you’re saying right here, because this is everything that podcasting used to be about.
Arthur Masters: Exactly.
Julien Smith: Right, you remember Bob?
Bob Goyetche: Yeah.
Julien Smith: You remember. But it’s not very much like that anymore, but those…I mean, I don’t know, I still remember, right? So, and Bob still remembers, you know.
Bob Goyetche: What? I can’t hear you.
Julien Smith: Hello, hello. So anyway, next time that you have a conversation with Mark in Ottawa like this, call me. I’ll take a bus, I don’t give a damn. No, seriously, this is what it’s all about. And it’s like, we all need to return to what this is and how spectacular and how revolutionary all this was.
Arthur Masters: Year One, Year One was wild, like I remember listening with bated breath on the edge of my seat to Don and Drew. I don’t listen to Don and Drew anymore.
Julien Smith: But I mean, no, seriously, we’re listening to it and going wow, these people are just sitting on their couch talking for 45 minutes and I’m listening to them.
Arthur Masters: I have a virtual trophy, I have an e-mail that Drew Domkus sent me in response to me going,hey, nice show.
Julien Smith: Yeah, right, exactly. Like hold on, wait, a personal connection, wow. So anyway I just wanted to say, I mean this is a great way to open a thing, because this is why we’re all here. I mean that’s why I’m still here, you know what I mean?
Arthur Masters: Yeah.
Julien Smith: Cheers.
Arthur Masters: Thank you.
Bob Goyetche: Julien brings up a great point because my first exposure to Julien was because Julien and I, we both started in 2004. And my first exposure to Julien was listening to his show. He said, I mentioned you on my show. You have a show? There’s another show in Montreal? And, yeah, there’s these two old guys talk about music and stuff, they’re cool. And then he swore a couple of times. And that was, you know, that’s what it was. You just communicate, you know, and I’m listening for the first time to his show and I hear my show back because we were just grabbing each other’s audio and passing it back and forth. And that’s gone a bit and that’s too bad.
Julien Smith: Do you remember the first time that like…does anyone here remember the first time they heard someone else talk about their show? Yeah? And you get this like he, he, he. Yeah, I still get that sometimes. Should we pass the mike?
Bob Goyetche: Two minutes…
Julien Smith: Two minutes…
Bob Goyetche: Anybody? Well, thank you Art. Great talk, great start to the day.
This episode of Canadian Podcast Buffett featuring Podcasters Across Borders audio is brought to you in part by TD Canada Trust. When you switch your main checking account to TD by August 3rd, you will qualify for either a free Shuffle, iPod Nano or a 30 gig iPod. Visit www.tdswitch.com/pab for details.
Mark Blevis: Thanks to all of the PAB2007 Sponsors: Rogic Podcast Conglomerate, Third Storey Productions, TD Canada Trust, Thornley Fallis, StartCooking.com, Marion McDonald, Don Edwards, Freddie Litwiniuk, Bill Deys and Christopher Penn.
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Mark Blevis: Of course you’re welcome to join any and all of the Rogic forums including the Canadian Podcast Buffet forum, the Podcasters Across Borders forum, and there’s a link to that at www.rogic.com/forum on the Canadian Podcast Buffet website.
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