Podcasts…they are a very different way of looking at history in the digital age, but it is a major way to explore and examine what is going on in the world of history in under 60 minutes. With that said, what ways are podcasts pushing the limits and succeeding in ways that history websites are not? Websites have to deal with issues of gaining an audience, keeping an audience, and growing interest in a particular subject while also educating. We have seen websites that are great sources to their target audience, Phillaplace, Valley of the Shadow, even Cohen and Rosenzweig’s book website is a great example of these types of websites. They bring something new and different to their field of study and the ways that people engage the material. Yet they involved reading, or physically being on the website to engage the material that is presented. The strength of a podcast is that it does not take over 45 minutes. One can listen to it and not do anything else, or they can go about their day, working, cleaning house, or completing other projects and papers for various classes. The listener is still engaged with the material, just not as completely as other digital Medias demand. This is both a positive and a negative of the podcast; it is also a negative in that while working on other things while listening, one is not listening as closely as they could to fully retain the material that is being projected over the sound waves. A podcast also, does not allow for interaction, as other medias have shown to do, sites that allow you to add to them like the NY Historic Places/Walking Tour site or Phillaplace. With these kinds of sites, or even ones that allow the visitor to ask a question or play a game/take a quiz, force the individual to not only engage the material mentally, but on a physical level as well. A podcast does not allow the listener to do anything but listen. Yet a positive of the podcast is that target listeners will return, constantly, to a website that is producing a podcast. Podcasts can be updated monthly, like the Journal of American History, weekly, or even daily. Those sites will have visitors returning, where other sites may only have one-time visitors to a website, with little to no return.
As to the material that these sites are communicating to their viewers and listeners, the same knowledge is being spread around he webosphere. A website can display the same knowledge as a scholar calling into a Journal’s monthly podcast to discuss his work that is being published for that month (Journal of American History). It comes down to the user, viewer, and listener to fully engage the material to the best of their ability to understand and retain the information presented to them, they have the tools, they just have to use them. Yet one might be more willing to listen to a history podcast while at work, instead of taking those 45 minutes to examine all the interactive possibilities of website. If found listening to a podcast by his or her “higher-ups” would likely be more respectable than paroling a website and not even attempting to accomplish any other work, but this is just one example. Another positive for the podcast is the interaction of having more than one historian reporting on their research, like the BBC podcast on Judas Maccabeus. The interaction between three historians who clearly do not always agree on their topic, displays to the listener that historians are able to study the same thing and take away a completely different view on the same sources that everyone is using, in this case it was using the book of Maccabeus as a source. Though with this came issue, the historians could not go into a full debate on the topic because of the time restraint, they had to fit in the radio broadcast in a certain about of time (43 minutes) and the moderator forced the scholars to stay on topic with the questions that he had created to drive the discussion. While others just allow a single scholar to go on about their work, as the Journal of American History does and hearing that for an extended period of time causes the listener to zone out or fast forward to more interesting content. The boring stuff is skipped over though, when engaging other forms of digital media.
As far as podcasts go, I am a fan. I enjoyed being able to listen to these while also working on my website for this class. I felt like I was accomplishing a lot in a minimal amount of time. I listen to other podcasts while at work, it may be superficial, but it feels more scholarly to listen to a podcast than something on Pandora. But in the end I am still going to listen to more music than podcasts, while at work. Podcasts have their pros and cons, they do things differently than a website, but in the end, it is just another way to engage history on a digital landscape.