The Listener’s Role in Podcasts

Remember taking those tests in elementary school that were supposed to access your habits and determine what kind of learner you are? I do, and I’ve always been told that I’m an auditory learner. I can listen to something once and usually remember it without having to put much effort into it (lucky me!)

I always thought I was a pretty good listener, and it wasn’t until listening to these podcasts that I realized that saying you’re a good listener is a pretty general statement. I can usually sit through a lecture, for example, and pay attention pretty well. But sometimes I’ll leave a class and honestly not be able to tell you one thing the professor said. Likewise, the 2 podcasts for this assignment produced different reactions in me as a listener.

I started thinking about why that was. I loved “20 Acts in 60 Minutes,” and had no trouble focusing during the entire podcast. During “House on Loon Lake,” though, I struggled to keep focus and had a hard time retaining details about the story after it was done.

I think that everyone can be a “good listener” if they think about their own skills and the factors that go into listening to something like a podcast. I’m no expert, but I think the following 2 factors have a big impact on the listener’s overall experience:

Narrative Structure
I have a really short attention span…really, really short. So the narrative structures of the 2 podcasts had a huge effect on how I listened to them. It’s kind of like a class. I always notice that a class seems to fly by when we vary the things we do. If it’s a literature course and we spend some time doing a group project, some time doing something else as a class, and then take a quiz, I have no problem paying attention throughout the entire class period. If it’s a philosophy lecture and the professor spends the entire time talking about one thing, that’s  a different story.

The structure of the narratives in “20 Acts in 60 Minutes,” was a big reason why I had no trouble focusing. The stories were very short, which made it easier for me to pay attention. “House on Loon Lake,” was a much longer, single narrative, and because of the length I found myself pausing it frequently, going back to catch something I missed, or at times fighting the urge to fall asleep.

Some environments are just more conducive to focusing, I think. My bedroom is definitely not one of them. I listened to “20 Acts” in the library, at my favorite spot where I always seem to get work done. There weren’t as many distractions, and I’m usually good at blocking other things out when I’m trying to focus on something.

“House on Loon Lake” was a different story. I was in my room, and it was messy. Listening to a story is different in reading in that you’re not restricted to having to have a book in front of you. You can listen to a podcast while doing anything – driving, running, or in my case, folding clothes. I’m not the best multi-tasker, so the fact that I was trying to do a few things at once probably contributed to my lack of focus while listening to “House on Loon Lake.”

Being a good listener is kind of like perfecting a formula. You can’t change the length or subject matter of a podcast, but there are other factors that you can change to enhance your listening experience. In my case, if I can eliminate distractions and put myself in the right setting, I focus much better and will probably have a better overall listening experience regardless of what I’m actually listening to.

-Julie Howell


~ by juliehowell on January 31, 2011.

%d bloggers like this: