Talking structure and wooing participants.

Denver. Finally off the West Coast and into a land of forest fires, urban redevelopment, and suburban sprawl. There are a lot of conversations that I could have here but, unfortunately, I only have a few days. And, dear lord, I have a lot of editing to do.

We’re two and a half months into The Conversation. At the moment, I’ve got five unedited conversations–some of them very long–glaring at me from my desktop. When I first began scheduling this project, I radically underestimated the amount of editing I would need to do. Even though I’ve spent half of my life editing and have a fair appreciation for how time-consuming it can be, I wanted to try posting raw conversations because that seemed less radio-y and truer to the project’s spirit.

That was a terrible idea.

We have a level of patience for our own in-person conversations that does not extend to other people’s conversations or recorded conversations and, when combined, other people’s recorded conversations can be brutally dull. I don’t think anyone is immune to this, the most brilliant minds still wander occasionally and the most charismatic speakers have verbal tics that only become pronounced when listening to a recording. After auditioning the first few minutes of raw audio on the first conversation, it became clear that nobody would stay awake through The Conversation unless I did a lot of editing. And, with that, my workflow went to hell.

It is fascinating to see how projects evolve. The original intention of The Conversation had been to post one conversation before the next happened so that the audio would more closely follow my travels and respond, very immediately, to online discussion. That would have been a far more interesting project format and would have been closer to the online/offline conversation Micah and I had envisioned, but it has been hard to wrench The Conversation away from being a passively-consumed radio series. Though online discussion has been slowly picking up (thank you!), it’s still fairly quiet and has been hard to carry ideas from the digital world into the conversations I am recording.

How do we break away from this? Biology leaves our minds working from patterns, categories, and shortcuts. We have spent our lives considering audio as a passive medium–unless it’s a call-in show but, let’s be honest, many of us turn those things off because a few deranged callers poison the well and make us swear that we’ll never call in and “become one of those people.” Sorry, Neal Conan. Conversation is a hard thing to artificially create when we know the drill, and it’s even harder to spark when dealing with a new media type. Will The Conversation ultimately be just another radio series? What can I do to lure you into clicking on the “feedback” link and engaging with future interviewees?

My biggest question is: do you think the slow turnaround time for the episodes is making it harder to engage in the project-as-conversation? Lowering the total number of conversations may be the only way to make this happen, but it may have to happen anyway if the conversations keep piling up at this rate… which makes me think it is about time to get back to editing Cameron Whitten’s conversation.

Vaya con disco,