Podcast for Parks = ParkCast

ParkCast.comIf you've got any interest at all in multimedia and its application to the National Parks, there is a website you should keep your eyes on. First things first, a podcast for those that don't know is an audio/video technology which allows you to download content over the web to your computer or portable music device (like an Apple iPod). A parkcast as defined on the site called ParkCast.com is a podcast with content specific to parks. The goal of that website is to become a clearinghouse of sorts for these parkcasts. This includes podcast content created by the National Park Service, but it also includes podcasts created by park visitors out there that wish to make their own park podcast content to share with others.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must tell you that I know the fellow that has created the ParkCast.com website. Like me, he is a former seasonal NPS Ranger who worked in interpretation. The website is just getting started, it had it's official launch just last week. Currently there is a nice article on the site which describes why podcasts might be a good fit as an interpretive outreach tool. I know that there are folks out there that get very anxious at the idea of having park visitors carrying around iPods as they cruise the trails in the parks. I'm one of those guys actually. But I think there is room here for this technology to help with the conservation mission of the parks without creating a negative impact on the parks (as in teenage zombies walking around the campgrounds with little white earbuds hanging from their heads, dialed into their iPods and not to their fellow campers or camping experience). As the article on the website explains, 80% of podcast content is consumed while working at a computer, and not downloaded to iPod devices.

I am a strong advocate for interpretive outreach. There are a lot of tools for outreach. As an example, I happen to think that photography is an incredibly strong interpretive outreach tool. Anyone who has seen Ansel Adams amazing collection of Yosemite photos can tell you the story contained in his prints. I'll never forget my first trip to Yosemite. The opportunity to see Half Dome and El Capitan the first time was so much more awe inspiring because I had seen these places in print so many times before. Podcasts may just be a modern day equivalent to this type of classic story telling. Like photos, not all podcasts are created equal. Some are great, some are not.

The last thing I want to see are NPS interpreters replaced by hand held portable media devices, although I'm sure groups like the American Recreation Coalition would disagree with me about that. Nothing beats a live, knowledgeable, skilled interpreter for telling the story of the parks. NOTHING! (all CAPS and an explanation point to let you know that I am serious about this). I have seen the proof of this time and time again. However, I do think there is room for these park podcasts to extend the reach and mission of the National Park Service beyond the boundaries of the parks and into your headphones.