Introduction: The Audience is Listening

Podcasting is becoming increasingly common in classrooms and campuses as universities seek to capitalize on the fact that a majority of U.S. college students now own an iPod or similar MP3 player. In fact, a recent interview with podcasting impresario Rob Walch on NPR's Morning Edition revealed that the top four podcasts hosted by the very popular Liberation Syndication site all featured educational content. Educational podcasting has the potential to help students learn more efficiently and to help instructors disseminate information to students with a wider variety of learning styles. Because of this potential, the use of podcasting as a supplement to classroom practice is one of the more common topics surrounding this emerging technology. However, this approach is but one of many to using podcasting in composition studies, and it addresses but one of several discrete audiences in our discipline—students. We contend that by conceptualizing the world of composition studies as a network of several sites made up of distinct audiences, we can imagine more innovative uses for podcasting.

This article explores various uses of podcasting that effectively engage different audiences in three major sites of composition: the classroom, the writing center, and the professional composition conference. Podcasts give students a new way to receive and present information and can engage students in the material by allowing them to be active composers in an emerging technology. Assignments that require students to produce their own class podcasts not only actively engages them in synthesizing course content and exposes them to a new mode of composing but also provides a critical opportunity for them to reflect upon the needs and expectations of their audience and how to reach that audience via the rhetorical elements specific to the medium. Writing centers can use podcasts to disseminate information about writing to current and potential clients and to reach a wide audience of instructors and practitioners of writing. Finally, podcasts can expand our professional community in composition studies beyond the temporal and spatial constraints inherent in the age-old academic conference model. In each of these examples, podcasts are most effective only when they are instructionally sound and when they provide content that adequately addresses the intended audience.