Podcast use on the rise at Texas State

By Marc Speir
University News Service
April 6, 2007

After publishing three essays based on the wild spirit of Jack Kerouac’s “beat movement,” Texas State University-San Marcos professor Steve Wilson contributed to a podcast series celebrating the internationally heralded author on April 2. The interview illustrated how the medium of podcasting continues to grow nationally and in it’s use on the Texas State campus.

A marriage between the words ipod and broadcasting created the term, but podcasting is really a method of publishing audio files to the Internet. It allows mp3 users to subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically by subscription, usually at no cost. It first became popular in late 2004, and has since grown to offer tens of thousands of original contributions.

Wilson is using the medium to discuss the issue of race in Kerouac’s most popular novel, On the Road. The novel chronicles a free spirited journey of two midlife travelers through a 4,000-mile adventure filled with reflection, contemplation and warring philosophies.

The podcast Wilson is involved with is one in a collection compiled by audio producer David Berner in an ongoing series titled, Finding My Kerouac.

It can be subscribed to by visiting www.findingmykerouac.com or www.itunes.com.

During the making of the documentary, Berner produced 
regular podcasts of a trip through the United States he took following a 2006 multi-city touring exhibition of the original first draft of On the Road. The original draft was wholly written on a continuous 120-foot scroll of Chinese paper so Kerouac wouldn’t have to slow his energy down by reinserting paper into a typewriter.

In the series, Kerouac’s ideals of finding one’s self through the “beat movement” and counter culture are compared to that of present-day society, 
pop-culture and the marketplace. Berner takes to the highways interviewing 
fans, commentators and scholars such as Wilson, and taking listeners on audio road trips to 
places where the scroll is displayed.

The 2007 continuation of Finding My Kerouac facilitates further study of Kerouac and On the Road. The experiences Berner describes through the podcasts help make sense of the influence, impact and legacy the novel has had leading up to the 50th anniversary of its publication this year.

Wilson says the podcasts are used effectively as another means to dissipate information conveniently.

“The Internet and radio technologies are evolving,” Wilson said. “Everything is becoming more user friendly and accessible.”

Podcasting is becoming a media fixture and expected to grow in areas such as higher education. The itunes website offers a podcast link for educational purposes, providing everything from sex education to ski lessons and college lectures.

“It’s information on the go,” said Judy Oskam, associate professor and associate director for the Round Rock School of Journalism and Mass Communication program. “All students have some kind of mp3 player or computer now and this acts as a great supplement to their education.”

Oskam uses a number of podcasts on her website at www.judyoskam.com to highlight speakers, interviews and special lectures. She says it is beneficial because of its access and likened it to taking a field trip to hear a person of merit without actually leaving.

University classrooms are likely to feed the trend by adding “smart rooms,” classrooms providing additions for microphones and multimedia activities with the ability to streamline audio and video.

“It opens up another source of media in an ongoing saturation of communication,” said international business senior and podcast subscriber Eduardo Garza. “I like that I can listen to shows, interviews and news when I want and while I’m out.”

Some educators say they are worried podcasts may provide too easy an alternative to class.

“There is a need for synergy and discussion,” said Lori Bergen, professor and director of the School of Mass Communication and Journalism. “Podcasts are great as long as they’re used responsibly. Nothing should replace the on campus experience.”

The future of podcasts appear as if they will evolve with the rest of technology, adding visual aspects to the audio and calling on editors to cut information for greater focus.

“There is a move to provide more content that is to the point and concise,” said Oskam. “A three hour lecture may not be listened to until it gets…cut down and organized.”

Podcast workshops and other media use training for faculty and staff can be found at the instructional technologies support page at: www.its.txstate.edu.