Inorganic Experience with TAL

I’ve just finished listening to two episodes of the public radio broadcast, This American Life. Despite the fact that each episode’s content was interesting to listen to, I felt myself unable to fully focus on either The House on Loon Lake or 20 Acts in 60 Minutes. The broadcast about the abandoned Nason house fared slightly better against my attention span because even though I found myself drifting away at times to putter around my room or run to the kitchen for a glass of water, I knew I would have to listen to the end to see how the narrator resolved a mystery that plagued him for so many years.

However, I struggled to listen attentively to “20 Acts.” With no common theme — except for speed, it seems — connecting these 20 snippets of life, I experimented in how I listened to the broadcast. I listed to the first 30 minutes or so without pausing, fast forwarding or skipping an act. During this time if an act didn’t particularly interest me, I’d check my email, Twitter or this class blog to see if someone had posted a response yet. During the second half of “20 Acts” I skipped around a bit more. If a story didn’t immediately draw me in, I dragged the time marker to another story, hoping to be dropped in the middle of something entertaining. The bit about a man’s inverse ability to predict trends was a particularly good find (Internet, Madonna you say? Never!).

When I get in the car with my friends, we rarely turn on the radio. Someone grabs an iPod from their bag and cues up a playlist. We don’t dare risk exposing ourselves to commercials, boredom, or discontent that can come from listening to the unfettered whims of a radio broadcaster. But “This American Life” is unique and in a way perfect for driving — and driving only. Driving requires you to pay close attention to the road while still leaving just enough of your attention available to focus on audible elements. Speaking on a cell phone or constantly changing radio stations is distracting to drivers. Programs like “This American Life” provide enough entertainment to drivers due to the element of suspense present in each episode. These episodes are just intriguing enough to keep drivers tuned-in without causing sensory overload. I would choose to listen to “This American Life” while driving because I believe it might make me feel like I was driving with a purpose; all I had to do to hear the end of the story was reach my destination. With pausing and fast forwarding not an option with in-car standard radio, all there is left to do is listen and enjoy. Thus, I feel that by listening to these two episodes on on my computer, I did not have an organic experience with the broadcast. I was too prone to distraction and therefore likely missed many of the subtleties of the stories.

— Jen Hirsch


~ by survivingshanghai on January 30, 2011.

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