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Monday, December 8, 2008

International Listening Year [I.L.Y.]


I wanted to share with you an idea I came up with today, called "The
International Listening Year
."

My first inspiration for the idea came from something called "the National
Day of Listening
," a project of the StoryCorps. StoryCorps is an
organization, connected (somehow) with NPR, that conducts an oral history
project. They've been travelling around the country for several years,
recording one-hour interviews with people from many walks of life --
usually older folks -- burning CDs of the interview, giving one copy to
the interviewee, and filing a copy with the Library of Congress.

I think this is a wonderful idea, and I recently subscribed to their
podcast to check it out.

They recently presented the National Day of Listening, on November 28.
This project was intended to inspire people across the country to do their
own one-hour recordings with their own families and significant other folk
with stories. Another excellent idea. They announced recently they've
extended the NDL through the Holiday Season, to encourage more
participation. I encourage interested parties to look into the NDL.

My first thought was, "Gee, any podcaster has hardware to do that, and a
portable like mine would be nearly ideal." StoryCorps does offer to rent
out hardware for the process, for $150. That'd just about buy one of
these Samson Zoom H2 Handy Recorders like I use.

My second thought, "No reason a podcaster couldn't do something similar,
and without rushing to participate in the NDL." So, what would be the
best way to do such?

Interviews are hard, harder than just saying your own stuff. They're
particularly hard for me, for reasons you may know. Beyond that, doing an
interview for a whole hour? As a one-off, an hour is almost easier to
record -- you don't have to think about what to include or throw out. But
if you want a good interview, you want to keep it shorter. And most
folks, I think, would be uncomfortable with trying to talk for a whole
hour, anyway.

But wait, five minutes? Everybody's got five minutes or so, don't they?
Lots of people have more. Not everybody has the hardware/software/skills
to make the recording, but We Could Fix That. If you record a half-hour
or an hour, you should be able to distill that down to at least a solid
five minutes, no?

So, recorded, five-minute interviews, with a similar set of interviewees,
and a similar content. But an independent project, produced by
independent podcasters with the will, the skills, and the hardware...

Now, one problem with the NDL is the limited audience. The interviews
StoryCorps records themselves get into the Library of Congress. The
recordings of everybody else don't. The recorder is expected to file the
recording away for future generations on their own. Which is fine, such
as it is.

StoryCorps, as I mentioned, does a Podcast with some of, "the best of,"
their own recordings. As far as I know, they don't use the NDL recordings
for that. They do post a minimal number to their website, but relatively
few. So much is lost, and so much more could be done.

Keep in mind I was thinking about this after finishing National Podcast
Post Month, and starting National Blog Post Month. I already was familiar
with the Social Network idea, and what others have done with Ning to
handle such event-based networks. And that suggested the idea of creating
a Social Network to produce these five-minute interviews.

A "National Month of Listening?" Thirty interviews in a month? Not
bloody likely. Maybe a "National Year of Listening?" Not every day, say
one per month, or perhaps just twelve within the year. Plenty of time to
find twelve really good interviews -- not with the celebrities that get
interviewed all the time, but with folks that might otherwise never get to
tell their story.

Hated the name. Thought back to the Donald Fagen song, reoorded by Steely
Dan, "IGY." The International Geophysical Year. The year I was born, a
scientific event better described elsewhere -- but also a celebration of a
more hopeful view of the future than we've had since. And a favorite song
of mine. I want my Spandex jacket and flying car!

Thus:

The "International Listening Year" is a social-network and Podcasting
challenge. Starting in January 2009, participants commit to record at
least twelve, five-minute interviews, with twelve different people
(probably) who don't normally get asked for their stories, and to offer
those five-minute interviews as podcasts.

As I mentioned, I created a Social Network on Ning,
http://ilyear.ning.com. Also, as I did for NaPodPoMo (sort of) and
NaBloPoMo, I created the mechanisms for a collective podcast feed for all
ILY participants. Should work quite simply, I think. (I've made
something similar work before.)

If you are currently a podcaster, this should be quite doable -- you'll
have a whole year. If you can do more than twelve, that'll probably be
fine. But what I'm hoping for is that each five-minute recording is the
best you can make it, worthy of the trust of your subjects, and
demonstrating your respect. The "traditional" first six, after all, would
be Grandma and Grandpa on both sides of the family, and maybe Mom and Dad.

Or make your own list. "This is Liberty Hall; you can spit on the mat,
and call the cat a Bastard." But if this thing "has legs," you might wish
later you'd given it your absolute best. And the standard five-minute
length makes sense to me; one problem we had with keeping up listening to
the NaPodPoMo shows was, some shows could be an hour, or even two hours
long. Don't tire out Grandma.

The collective feed will be a limited aggregate feed of participant's
regular RSS feeds (through Yahoo Pipes and Feedburner), including no more
than X of your most recent ILY recordings, each simply marked for the
aggregator to find (explained later) -- so your content stays on your site
and in your feed. With sufficient participation, the collective feed
might have to be cut back to only your most recent recording, just to keep
Feedburner from choking on the size of the thing.

Since it's the International Listening Year, that means anyone in the
world could (potentially) participate. (Languages? Hmmm...) And the
year starts, naturally, on January 1, 2009. So does the project.

Wonder how you get stuff into the Library of Congress? Or Archive.org?

Comments can go to my blogpage, my Podcast's page, or via email. I look
forward to your interest in taking up the challenge. The Ning group is up
and more-or-less ready for business. Anybody else like this idea?
Suggestions? Refinements?

Griz

1 comment:

  1. Hey, Griz!

    This is interesting. It's funny, we did something like this several years back with my husband grandmother (about a year before she died). It was awesome. We all got together and and turned on the video tape and she just told us stories and memories about her life -- from childhood, to meeting her husband, to raising a family, what-have-you. We asked different questions as the struck us, which led to more stories, etc. It is a fabulous family treasure. My son was just a baby at the time and my daughter not even born yet...but now they have their great grandma on tape tell them of her life. It's AMAZING!

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