The podcast is dead

“But what have we become? We are now a crowd in search of a riot. We go from cause celebre to listicle to emotion-tugging video because that’s what gets us through another day of work, school, whatever. We want to be jacked up by the hits. We live in fear we’ll be found out. One moment of foolishness on Twitter and the angry mob turns on us. One disgruntled person posts one thing about us on Facebook and we’re a meme. Fear turns to paranoia. Anything to avoid that scarlet A. I wish, in 2014, we would work to end this addiction to the quick hit. Before we grab the pitchfork and torch, ask some questions: Is it worth it? What do I get if I “win?” Does it better society for us to battle?

“What if it was me the angry mob came for?” – Dylan Wilbanks

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The following is about some one moving your cheese.

A podcast was to appear in this space, but it, like cheese, got moved and got moved to a place where it cannot bother me anymore. After eight weeks of tinkering I could not rid the podcast of its cheese which was only relevant as the podcast was about the various people, myself included, who have are frustrated and upset as they found their cheese has been repeatedly moved.

And how does cheese get moved?

Chaos.

And what kind of chaos are we talking about?

Hang on – we’re talking the long way around the block.

Terrence McKenna, a native of Paonia, Colorado, spent the second half of the 20th Century frying his brain for a living. In a moment of lucidity c. 1985 he talked at length about why Marshall McLuahn remains almost impossible to understand. He began by explaining that McLuhan was educated in the Western canon as the canon existed prior to WWII. (Put in current context – when McLuhan graduated Sartre was a weatherman in the French Army and the postmodernists were all children.) The bulk of the works McLuhan eerily absorbed were the ones that those of us who came decades after the War only touched on here and there. McKenna said that not only did McLuhan have all that stored away in his head – he wrote in a way that assumed you too had all that stuff stashed in your head too. Therefore if McLuhan made some quick reference to Milton or Plutarch he never felt compelled to slow down and expand on what he just said. It was a given that you know that too in the same way that it’s a given that you know whether it’s day or night. But if we stick strictly to the pre-War canon and use it as a guide, there is something that explains where we are now.

We live in the chaos that comes when Hegelian thesis and antithesis collide.

Early on McLuhan talked about how a new medium irritates the existing media until the newcomer finds its place. A few years before he died he used the term “surrounded” which he used only in the past tense. Surrounded is what you had after media collided. His example was what happened to the film industry when television arrived. At first there was conflict, but over time the movie people made money off selling their old stock to tv and film, when shown again over and over on tv, went from being considered disposable to being an art form. Eventually the two found their own niches and prospered in their interactions. Implied in all that is a conventional Hegelian dialectic.

Currently we’re also living through such a conflict which is difficult for us to grasp because it is not longer academic. When Hegel talked of conflict he spoke of Romans and Greeks, he even touched on the Napoleonic wars that he had lived through as a young man. But those were all long ago and viewed from all that distance we wind up with only a general and very academic sense of what that must be like.

Well… until recently.

Chaos has crept into how the visual representation of the spoken word is distributed. (NOTE: I will not use the word ‘print’ here as it comes with too many connotations these days.) While the chaos crept in long, long ago it’s been five years since the chaos was noticed on a large scale. More specifically – we’re about two months away from marking the fifth anniversary of the death of the Rocky Mountain News, the print edition of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and at least a half dozen other papers. At this point I don’t see a clean ending point where we move to synthesis, but – even after all this time – I still find myself as the object of the anger that came from the seismic shift in the location of the cheese c. 2009.

Perhaps that’s a bit much. Perhaps it’s not anger, but people lashing out in frustration. The chaos has been hard for many to take and they lash out routinely, but not as stridently as Mr. Wilbank’s example of Kathy Sierra. Sometimes you can ignore it and other times it’s like a drippy faucet in the night. Then there’s the times when people you’ve never met claim that you’re little more than The Digital Manson Family.

And that’s just the old media people.

Never mind the annoyance that comes from the social media people who I believe will not be found some day to be the agent of calm, but merely a cul-de-sac in the resolution of this chaos. I say that as they moved my cheese when they discovered podcasting this year. Last summer – as I have to do now and then – I was asked to attend a function and feign interest. The function required me to sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut while about a dozen social media experts spoke. Those of you who have lived through this sort of buzzword Space Mountain know that very little of it is in any language any human speaks. That meeting only differed in that I heard the words “podcast” and “podcasting” fly past my head. I knew those words from long, long ago and after I left their use of those words irritated me. Long story short – their recent discovery of podcasting made this old silver crested ape want to fling his feces at the younger members of the pack.

It was most unbecoming.

And that’s why the podcast had to die. No matter how many times I played it back all you could hear was some old monkey flinging his poo.

So the podcast died because you deserve better than that.

Did any of that make sense?

Good! Then my work here is done.

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