My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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why podcasts need DJs (kudos to Fake Science)

When i went to see War of the Worlds, i spent most of the film trying to crawl into my mothers’ lap because i *hate* scary movies. As i tried to calm myself in the theatre, my conscious mind told my reactive mind that it’s just the music and if it weren’t for the scary music, you’d just think that watching Tom Cruise was as fun as watching fratboys. Try watching the opening scene of Apocalypse Now without the audio – it’s an entirely different movie. Music matters and movie folks know it.

Film is not the only place where music is put to use to help tell a story. For example, NPR uses sound for many of its pieces. As much as the music between the segments on NPR can annoy me (because they have dreadful taste), they also help the transition and place the listener into the mood to hear the story. There’s an art to putting together an audio production and it’s not the same as just talking talking talking.

When i realized that a DJ friend of mine put together a podcast, i was curious enough to actually revisit my ban on podcasts. I was floored. Fake Science’s The Lab Report weaves interviews and music. They pay attention to the entire sound of the podcast, focusing on transition and creating breaks in the speaking by reviewing different music. !Plus! they have brilliant music taste so each transition includes some heavenly dub, downtempo or ambient music.

In listening to their podcast, i realized that podcasts really need DJs, or at least people who really understand the flow of sound. There is an art to sound design. While we all learn how to write in school (and some of us enjoy it more than others), we’re dreadfully ill-equipped to produce persistent, asynchronous audio without conversational feedback. Far fewer of us know how to turn audio (or video) into an art that really communicates what we’re trying to convey. And listening to someone’s awkward speech is worse than reading someone’s arbitrarily vomited words.

While Fake Science definitely is focused on the topic of music, i would strongly encouraged everyone interested in podcasting to really think about how they’re transitioning their thoughts. Talk to a DJ or sound designer, add some sound bits in an intelligent manner. I don’t really care about the music industry but i can listen to an hour of Fake Science, unlike most podcasts. And the reason is simple – they make the transitions palatable, they pay attention to how the entire podcast sounds.

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2 comments to why podcasts need DJs (kudos to Fake Science)

  • Interesting Weblog Links Regarding SOSO/MOSOSO and LBS

    http://www.socialnetworking-weblog.com – This particular blog features categories such as enterprise SOSO, future of SOSO, and using SOSO (to name a few). There is a collection of archives dating back to December 2004 and links to merging technologies….

  • I agree with what you are saying, and I’m glad you dropped the ban. It takes a while for a podcaster to fidure out how to better their sound. I know I’m still trying, my podcast is Most People Are DJs (www.mostpeoplearedjs.com). In addition to improving sound transitions, it would also be nice if the podcaster had some type of working agenda, unless you happen to be really good at speaking off the cuff, which I am not.