When Mobile Podcasting Leads to Mobcasting

I've just posted a blog entry on my website that might be of interest. It's about mobcasting– the idea of combining mobile phone-enable podcasting with smart mob-like group action. The blog was inspired by a tutorial I wrote yesterday on how to podcast with only a smartphone.Here's a snippet from the blog:

What do I mean by mobcasting? Well, it's really a double entrendre, if you will: a play on both mobile podcasting and Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold's notion of viral-like social coordination enabled by information and communications technologies. Smart mobs got a lot of hype last year in the mainstream media, usually in the form of surrealistic group performance art initiated over the Internet. But smart mobs are much more powerful than just a group of college kids showing up in an art gallery at 12:15pm, standing on one foot and yelling “Tevye, get off the roof!” before dispersing without further comment. Like the case of SMS use during the anti-Estrada demonstrations in the Philippines, smart mobs can be any form of group social action enabled by ICTs.

A quick example: imagine a large protest at a political convention. During the protest, police overstep their authority and begin abusing protesters, sometimes brutally. A few journalists are covering the event, but not live. For the protestors and civil rights activists caught in the melee, the police abuses clearly need to be documented and publicized as quickly as possible. Rather than waiting for the handful of journalists to file a story on it, activists at the protest capture the event on their video phones — dozens of phones from dozens of angles. Thanks to the local 3G (or community wi-fi) network, the activists immediately podcast the footage on their blogs. The footage gets aggregated on a civil rights website thanks to the RSS feeds produced by the podcasters’ blogs. (Or perhaps they all podcast their footage directly to a centralized website, a la OneWorld TV but with an RSS twist.) This leads to coverage by bloggers throughout the blogosphere, which leads to coverage by the mainstream media, which leads to demands of accountability by the general public. That's mobcasting.

Here's the permalink:


Would love to hear your thoughts on the concept…. -andy


  • Fantastic idea, Andy. I’ve been talking with friends in Africa on the same topic. I’ve contended that talk radio serves the same social function in Ghana (the African nation I spend the most time in) as blogs do in the US. Most people in sub-Saharan Africa don’t have regular PC access, but many have cellphones. I’d love to set up a server in Ghana that allowed people to call in with a cellphone, make a comment or statement, and have those comments available as an RSS feed…It would go a long way towards building bridges between webby discussions and talk radio discussions…

  • Thanks, Ethan, I really appreciate it. It seems it would be possible to set up a server that would allow callers to have their own access code, so when they leave a message, it would get posted online as an audio file with their username associated with it. This, of course, assumes that people would want to ID themselves in the podcast, whereas I am sure there would be circumstances where anonymous postings would be appropriate for safety reasons, particularly in countries where free speech isn’t considered acceptable.

    If I could only figure out a way to get audlink.com voiceimail files to post to my website with an accompanying RSS feed. At the moment it just FTPs the voicemail as an mp3 file into my podcast directory. Sounds like I need to recruit a Movable Type developer to create a custom plugin. :-)


  • The audlink.com to RSS solution would be a nice hack, Andy, but I suspect the long-term solution involves putting together a box with asterisk on one side, and a RSS-sensitive webserver on the other side. That said, going to go sign up for audlink and see what I could learn about putting such a hack together…

  • Andy Carvin

    Okay, I’ve got an experiment in search of some guinea pigs. I’ve just created a quick-and-dirty blogger site called 17 January 2005, 17:27 pm

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