It’s a common warning that we need to be carefult to not “go too far down the rabbit hole” – that is, we don’t want to get too caught up debating the specifics of some particular definition, or want to avoid going too far off on some tangent. And in almost all cases, this is certainly great advice.
But I also think we don’t want to lose sight of the rabbit hole entirely. If the definition of something has such a contested meaning, it must be pretty important. Or at the very least it’s a sign that something interesting is going on.
In each season of the Beside the Rabbit Hole podcast, I pick a topic that has the potential to go down a definitional rabbit hole, and I walk us right up to the edge. But instead of diving in, we explore that surrounding area and see what issues are at stake and to understand why there’s a rabbit hole to possibly fall into in the first place.
Podcasts are everywhere these days! There’s countless podcasts representing countless subjects and providing something to serve countless interests. And with this ubiquity of podcasting, there is also an unspoken assumption that we all know what podcasts are and how we consume them—that is, we all know that podcasts are things we listen to, right?
But it doesn’t necessarily have to be like this! Audio podcasts just happen to be the most popular form of the medium, but there are other possible formats as well. In fact, in the mid- to late-2000s there was the possibility that the “future of podcasting” would arrive in the form of video podcasts. Apple promoted video podcast capabilities on their newly video capable iPods, the new iPhone, and as the natural extension of their recently revamped iTunes Music Store – now just the iTunes Store.
But video podcasts never really took off. Though we have an astounding amount of video content available in today’s internet, podcasting remains wholly separate. Why is that? What were video podcasts? What could they have become? And why did they ultimately fail? Over the next few episodes—most audio, but some video, and maybe even some in other experimental formats—I’ll dig into those questions, and more. I’ll look through promotional materials from the time to see how video podcasts were described. And then I’ll try and recreate the experience of mid-2000s video podcasts with what I’m calling a “technological reenactment.”
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