I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts, mainly in literature, culture, sports, and humor.

Recently, while listening to something on my iPod Touch, I accidentally hit the “2x” button, which I had not previously noticed, and the podcast began to play twice as fast (without shifting pitch).

Now I listen to most of my podcasts at double speed: I except the ones whose pleasure lies in the cadences of performance. I feel I’m losing almost nothing by speeding up, and what’s not to love about more podcasts?

The experience reminds me of the commonplace idea that people needed some time to realize that the medium of film could do a lot more than simply recording theatrical performances. In this case, I was slow to realize that podcasts have freed me of live radio’s sense that I need to hear words at the same pace they are spoken.

I combine this with my sense that taping and distributing classroom lectures does not work well as a substitute for taking classes in person. Are we experiencing the film-as-taped-theater moment in the history of higher education?


Kate Vaughn · December 18, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I went through a little bit of training as an audio recorder for the blind and dyslexic (making textbooks into audiobooks, more or less). Apparently the end users of the audio textbooks will listen to them at 2x or 3x the recorded speed – all the info, none of the waiting around. You’re in good company.

Michael Andersen · December 18, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I tried this with Bloggingheads when they offered it in their Web interface and quickly concluded that my pleasure lay in the cadences of performance. And I think my other three standbys, the Slate gabfests, On the Media and the Now Show are all just as performative. Am I disproportionately drawn to performance, or disproportionately appreciative of it?

Erik Simpson · December 18, 2009 at 10:26 pm

Michael, I have started listening to the Slate gabfests double-time, and I like it. Perhaps not as much as regular speed but definitely enough to think that two double-time versions are greater than one regular one. Contrary examples: I’m listening to This American Life and The Moth at regular speed.

Erin Daugherty · December 20, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Hey Professor Simpson,

Any podcast recs? A lot of the new stuff I’ve tried has been disappointing lately.

New incentives for riding and driving « Pages and Lights · March 31, 2010 at 6:19 pm

[…] public environment uncomfortable. On the other hand, the ability to play podcasts, and to play them double speed, has dramatically improved my enjoyment of driving. Therefore, although the device has increased […]

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