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On the wonders of radio and podcasts

May 8, 2008

Thanks to a strike by local Lorry drivers I had a fairly traffic free drive from Athens airport to Volos last night. Four and a half hours with some good scenery along the way but not much, so my journey was relieved by catching up on podcasts. In this case I had four hours of Melvyn Bragg covering a range of subjects from King Lear and the Greek Myths, to the Multiverse and Ada Loverlace’s links to Babbage and the foundation of computing. All 40 minute chat shows with major academic figures, getting into subjects in detail, but also in an understandable way. My journey back tomorrow should yet me through the Norman Yoke (we still suffer from that in Wales), The Dissolution of the Monasteries, Kierkegaard and Materialism. I should also manage Yeats and Irish Politics. If I get bored with the good Lord Bragg of Wigton, well I have the ABC’s podcasts on philosophy to catch up on, and fora satirical interlude the BBC’s Now Show.

Several things struck me as a drove north through the Greek landscape. Firstly radio remains one of the great mediums to communicate ideas and thinking. It is much more powerful than television. Secondly podcasts, and the willingness of broadcasters to make their material available is providing a wonderful new way to access this material. Thirdly, radio is the last refuge of the generalist and all round thinker, where intellectual is not a dirty word and you can avoid the soundbite culture of the trivial. Radio, combined with podcasts mean that I can listen to the latest on cognitive science as I walk between meetings in London and the wonderful Phil Adams whose views and passions I largely share, can keep me motivated through the most tedious of tube journeys. I just wish the BBC showed the same generosity as the ABC who make all of their material available on line, not just the most recent edition.

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