We surf the net with our eyes, ears and fingers. Eyes offer the largest conduit and while podcasting and audio books just use ears, the ears are best suited for hands-free operation. In addition -- a big plus -- we think better when active because more blood gets to our heads. Also, listening at faster speeds causes a listener to focus more intently on what's being said. Listening at normal speed is then like watching football played at a walking pace.
Podcast playback is a process that can be adjusted for speed and pitch correction to prevent the chipmonk effect. Many devices, including the iPhone, other smart phones, iPad, iRiver and some Samsung prodcuts, have settings or apps that speed up playback. The latest free device for the blind and handicapped provided by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) also does this. Of course you have to be qualified to get one.
You should know that automatic pitch control does exist, just not on portable players. The Windows Media Player is the gold standard in this area. A right click on a running file in the Media Player brings up a menu with Enhancements that opens another menu with speed control that does automatically correct and does this easily up to twice the normal speed. Some new flash players do this, too.
You can convert an audio file to play faster, with pitch correction, and to be smaller so more podcasts fit on a portable player. You can't transform a file using Windows Media Player, but Audacity can. How you do this, shown below, comes from kristarella.com. and Seymour Cat
“For this exercise I used the change speed, change pitch and amplify effects.
“To start, I opened the mp3 file in Audacity. In the above image I’ve already selected the part of the file that I wanted by dragging the mouse across it, and removed the rest with the trim outside selection button.
If you select "Effect > Change Tempo" instead of "Effect > Change Speed" you can speed the audio up without changing the pitch of the voices, saving yourself a second round of audio processing to fix the chipmunk element. In the example above setting the marker to get 105.883 produced a file that played twice as fast (half the time) with no chipmunking. Speakers and sound quality vary a great deal but are consistent from each source, so you'll have to test different settings of Change Tempo. A one-hour podcast takes a minute to load, thirty seconds to Change Tempo 100% (double playback speed) and a minute to export as a MP3, so each hour takes 2.5 mins to process.
“It can also be handy to use Effect > Amplify to make the file a bit louder; some lecturers are softly spoken.”
You can process single files using Audacity, but not batches. Right now only commercial batch processors are available to do this. If you download seventy or eighty files each week, a commercial batch processor may be your only convenient solution.
Why even do this? Well, it means you can listen to a sixteen-hour book in eight. If you commute twenty hours a week, you can listen to forty hours of lectures. Recorded radio programs can be shrunk in size and more quickly reviewed. Many audio files discuss the mountain of new knowledge created each year. In the biomedical field alone over 100,000 papers are produced annually in the United States. Some of these netcasts provide summaries while others include in-depth discussions by experts. The more you can process the more productive and informed you'll be. The concept was important enough that Brigham Young University considered producing videocasts of lectures that could be played back at higher speeds (http://www.enounce.com/docs/BYUPaper020319.pdf). That was some years back. Recently the same approach was used by the Linux Foundation in a free introductory course, LFS101x.
Speed listening may not appeal to some any more than speed reading does, yet speed listening is much easier to apply. You just need to focus more on what's said. In fact, speeding up speech can make a subject more interesting. We can easily listen to speech at 250 words a minute, but public speech is often quite slow, about 150 words a minute. Listening speeds up to 500 words a minute are possible, but audio quality, accents and clarity of speech (enunciation) make a difference as does the quality of processing.
If you lack sources, over 280 URL's for podcast feeds are listed below. To start with try listening to episode 22 of This Week in Parasitism, a topic with increasing importance as the climate warms. The Naked Scientists based in Britain offers a nice weekly collection of news with a British slant. The Australian Broadcasting Network offers podcasts about intriguing technology being developed there. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp and the BBC also offer podcasts which include new developments in many important areas. Futures in Biotech is discontinued, but still offers terrific interviews of use to students and educators. Netcasts from Mike Tech Show deals mostly with maintenance and troubleshooting computers and their systems. The Med School Hq produces podcasts about and for those interested in medical careers. Econtalk deals with economics and will change your belief that it's dry and boring with outstanding interviews about developments and history. Two other sources with outstanding products are Sound Investing and RadioLab. And, they are all free! A collection of over 8000 podcasts grouped by topic can be downloaded here, but you will be limited to a 4GB maximum per download, so twelve of those will be needed to get all files, which total over 45GB and will take awhile. The first entry of that collection is a text file listing all the titles for quick searches and researching. All these abstracts have also been assembled alphabetically in three free large volumes at this link and are updated quarterly. Even more diversity is possible using a podcast aggregator loaded with this opml file of 280 sources so even the discarded podcasts can be downloaded and you can make your own selected list.
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