New incentives for riding and driving

Tyler Cowen endorses this Interfluidity tweet: “iphones & public transit: i’ve found smartphones increase the opportunity cost of driving, tilt toward public trans. just me?”

I disagree: for me, the smartphone equivalent (an iPod Touch) has increased my productivity and happiness while using mass transit, but I still find using the Touch in a public environment uncomfortable. On the other hand, the ability to play podcasts, and to play them double speed, has dramatically improved my enjoyment of driving. Therefore, although the device has increased the quality of both experiences, the balance tilts more toward driving than it used to.

In both cases, I marvel at the increase in utility and enjoyment of what used to be wasted time.

I suppose the punch line is that I live five blocks from my office.

The Keynes-Hayek rap

If you follow the economics blogopodcastisphere at all, you have probably run into The Keynes-Hayek Rap, which, as the Planet Money podcast explains, emerged from a professional video producer’s response to economist Russ Roberts’s online presence. Pop superstar Ke$ha approves!

On the one hand, the video demonstrates the pedagogical potential of YouTube: even for teachers who resist its Hayekian slant, the video could prompt excellent conversation about Keynes, Hayek, and the video’s representation of their views. On the other hand, I doubt a mediocre version of the same video would be similarly useful; I hypothesize that the video’s pedagogical utility stems largely from its professionalism. Few of us have access to the resources of talent needed for such a project. To me, the video stands as a sign of YouTube’s potential as an academic medium and a reminder that we don’t realize that potential easily.

Time shift

I listen to podcasts. A lot of podcasts, mainly in literature, culture, sports, and humor.

Recently, while listening to something on my iPod Touch, I accidentally hit the “2x” button, which I had not previously noticed, and the podcast began to play twice as fast (without shifting pitch).

Now I listen to most of my podcasts at double speed: I except the ones whose pleasure lies in the cadences of performance. I feel I’m losing almost nothing by speeding up, and what’s not to love about more podcasts?

The experience reminds me of the commonplace idea that people needed some time to realize that the medium of film could do a lot more than simply recording theatrical performances. In this case, I was slow to realize that podcasts have freed me of live radio’s sense that I need to hear words at the same pace they are spoken.

I combine this with my sense that taping and distributing classroom lectures does not work well as a substitute for taking classes in person. Are we experiencing the film-as-taped-theater moment in the history of higher education?