Monday, 9 August 2010

Thing 21: "I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again"

With a Radio 4 habit like mine, and even without an mp3 player, you bet that I can do podcasts! Life would be unthinkable without being able to listen (again) to The Now Show, Test Match Special summaries (not to be missed just for Aggers and Boycott laying into each other), or last year's superlative Life Stories by David Attenborough (podcasts sadly no longer available, though you can buy the CD or book).

Venturing outside the Radio 4 enclave, I recently discovered the University's Streaming Media Service, after a College Fellow mentioned to the Librarian that Prof. Schaffer had mentioned our Library (favorably) in this year's Tarner Lectures, and I was tasked with checking this out.  The SMS hosts audio and video from Departments and Colleges, and you can register for an account online if you think you'll want to upload some content of your own.  I have plans to use this service to make publicly available talks given in the future as part of outreach events here at St John's, subject to the agreement of the speakers and to obtaining decent recordings.

Stepping even further afield, there are podcasts available to suit all tastes.  No-one's day, I feel, can be remain uncheered when it contains a snippet from The Naked* Scientists**.  They produce a podcast of their weekly radio show, as well as videos to illustrate their Kitchen Science (try at home) experiments, and also have a YouTube channel featuring (I kid you not) Science from the Sporran.

Coming to YouTube, I'm sure that we've all searched it for TV programmes we half-remember from our childhoods, haven't we?  Today's miscellany of disturbing mid-80s cartoon and live-action is brought to you by Jimbo, King Rollo, Fingermouse and Pob.

But none of this yet directly impinges on libraries.  Never fear, there's a viral video for every occasion, and today's occasion is Masters of Library Science Croquet (via almost everyone on Twitter).

Still not what I'm supposed to be doing?  OK.  *stomps off to find headphones and time*

I've now had a listen to a few of the Cam23 suggested podcasts.  I started at the British Library, first browsing by type and finding a public lecture about the future of taxonomy and then browsing by exhibition, and finding a short information piece by curator Vrej Nersessian on the Awag Vank' Gospels and the history of Christianity in Armenia.When I took off snuffling round the BL website to find the online version of the Sacred exhibition in order to see a picture of these gospels (BL Or. MS 13654), I was very pleased to find that the podcast in available there too, and with a transcription, to boot.  This level of integration is what really makes for a good website visit.  The taxonomy lecture was also interesting (in a Radio 4 sort of way), and although it did lack something for not having the presenter's slides visible, I think it was still worthwhile for the BL to have made it available.  I have plans to upload a podcast of a forthcoming library event, hopefully with accompanying gallery of pictures, and these two examples have been useful in directing my thinking about that.

Next up I had a look at the CILIP and JISC podcast pages.  I must confess to not having listened to anything from either of them, and I'm blaming that on them.  With the CILIP page I'm just not sure what I'm getting - it looks disordered, and there's also not much to choose from.  JISC has much more choice, but no summaries.  The topics aren't really my favourites, and with no extra information (date, length, or content) on the main page, I don't feel tempted to click through.

User-education wise I looked at the Goldsmiths Library tour podcasts.  I kinda like the idea of a tour round the library, though I'm not sure how many people would actually use the audio tour in situ.  But I could imagine myself printing off the scripts as a guide to the building, so there's definitely some merit there.

Overall I'm ambivalent about library podcasts.  The thing is that I like listening to things for pleasure, but for work I'd rather read.  If I had a commute to work (and an ipod) maybe it would be different then I'd probably would listen to JISC-style professional interest podcasts as well as the best of Radio 4.  And if there's a video of how to do something, then I will watch that if I can't find written instructions, although I'll almost always watch with the sound off, so it had better have on-screen text! But otherwise, I'm likely only to watch or listen for fun.

But because I'm me, I leave you with this little link to the BBC Archive.  It's a series of six ten-minute programmes in which genius of twentieth-century physics Richard Feynman sits in a old blue armchair and talks to camera about science.  If you know nothing about atoms or quantum mechanics you'll love it.  If you have a PhD in physics and now work at CERN you'll probably love it.

*No nudity actually involved.

**Conflict of interest disclaimer: one of my housemates is a Naked Scientist, and pretty much all of the house, its contents, and inhabitants have featured in Naked Scientist content one way or another. Yes, that is my cello, our tea set, our garden and our very own gherkinator. If we ever invite you to a party do come, because there is likely to be fire.


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