One of the things we’ve thought about with the Art On Call project is extending it beyond just cell phone use, especially for the artwork stops. Cell phones are great, most people have them, but not everyone wants to be on the phone and using thier minutes in the galleries. How else can we distribute this information? Enter podcasting.
Podcasting isn’t new, it’s been around for a bit and is moving ever more mainstream each day (in fact the new version of iTunes due out within 60 days will have podcasting built into it). You can think of Podcasting as blogging with audio. You set up an RSS feed, and embed links to MP3 files in it. You subscribe to these feeds just like you do to a blog, and when your news (podcast) reader checks for updates, it downloads any new podcasts it finds to your computer for you to listen to.
A lot of news organizations are starting to do this. It also allows anyone with a microphone and a computer the ability to comment and share their thoughts online. It’s like Tivo (time shifted) and Wayne’s World (average user created) radio. Since the files we use in Art On Call are simply MP3 streams, we can basically podcast tours online for users to download to thier iPods and bring to the Walker and listen to when standing in front of artwork.
One thing we’re also looking into is adding a docking station to our lobby Kiosks, that let people who bring their iPods with them to sync up and download the latest audio tour to it. There’s even talk about potentially doing a “remix” podcast and letting our Teen Arts Council comment are various artwork and using their interpretations of art as a different perspective for users to contemplate when touring the galleries. There are a lot of options here.
There are also a lot of questions. Today some iPods arrived at the Walker for us to start testing this out. I’ve already made a sample podcast on our dev server to test as well. There seem to be several technical limitations to the current way podcasting is done, given that it’s time sensitive and one show at a time, whereas our idea involves the potential for an entire playlist of audio, with perhaps multiple podcasts. There’s still a few things to work out and test, but the results should be pretty interesting, and will give visitors yet another way to experience our artwork. Updates on progress are sure to come soon.