I was thinking recently, about how many audiobooks are consumed by people these days. I would guess that the main reason behind this consumption is convenience. Many people just don’t have the time, or don’t create the time, to really sit down and get their head in a book. But I understand that for many, it can also be due to personal preference, financial considerations, lack of space, being visually impaired, or learning difficulties.
If non of these issues are barriers, I would always encourage reading (and ideally taking notes), rather than simply listening. On balance, the evidence does suggest that good reading is a much more efficient way of retaining information than listening, on its own. In general, listening is a much more passive way of learning. Having said this, if (due to the various factors I mentioned), it’s a choice between not having any informational input, and taking in text material via audio, I would of course advocate for using material like audiobooks, podcasts, YouTube videos etc.
While thinking about this, it struck me as being quite strange that there’s nothing much out there in terms of ‘audiopapers’. We’ve all heard of audiobooks…but have you ever heard of an audiopaper? Especially of a scientific or philosophical nature. Well now you have!
Running with that thought, I picked up a paper that I happened to be studying, turned on my recording equipment, and tried reading the whole paper out loud. The paper I read was by philosopher of science, Dr. Del Ratzsch ‘Design: What Scientific Difference Does It Make?’ (2004). Being fairly pleased with the result, I posted it on the Design Disquisitions YouTube channel.
Ratzsch is a friendly critic of mainstream ID, although he proposes his own arguments for design in some of his writings. At the same time as being critical though, he provides some excellent responses to many criticisms of ID, from a philosophical standpoint. In this particular paper he argues against the in principle refusal to allow design into science.
Having done this first audio recording, I’m definitely planning on doing many more. I’ll be picking out some quite well known papers, specifically in the Intelligent Design field, (from both pro and anti-ID perspectives), as well as some lesser known, perhaps long forgotten ones. I hope to breath new life into them, if I feel they have noteworthy content. I’ll also be reading from some straight up biology papers as well as some from a philosophy of science approach.
I understand that these days there’s lots of software out there that one can use to turn text into audio, but in my opinion, robotic voices are a major turn off. Distracting even! I’ve no idea if this will be of benefit to anyone, and I haven’t got the best voice (I certainly won’t be taking up a job as an audiobook reader). But give it a try and let me know what you think. Feel free to download and use it in anyway you like. Pretend it’s a podcast. Even better than just listening, simultaneously reading and listening could increase concentration and absorption of information.
On my blog I’ll also be writing some posts reviewing the papers in question.
If you have any suggestions of papers you’d like to be turned into audio material, I’d appreciate any suggestions in the comments.
Audiopaper-Design: What Scientific Difference Could It Make? (Dr. Del Ratzsch/2004)
8 Replies to “The Intelligent Design Audiopaper Project”
“On balance, the evidence does suggest that good reading is a much more efficient way of retaining information than listening, on its own. In general, listening is a much more passive way of learning.”
I believe this to be true in my own case. I listen to audiobooks every night and when travelling, and it’s more for in the moment entertainment than retention of material. Books (papers) are a must for retention of material. With books (and papers), one can easily go back and read a paragraph or whatever again in the moment, even several times, if the stuff didn’t stick in your mind. And how often do we make sufficient quiet time for ourselves, unless we are trying to fall asleep?
Sounds like a good idea.
Andrew: that is why taking notes during lectures is important. As a student (rather longer ago than I care to say), I found writing down what I was hearing in my own words was very helpful for understanding and retention. And as I watched other students taking minimal or no notes, I wondered how they could study or remember.
“that is why taking notes during lectures is important”
You are so right. Back in school, I was an inconsistent note-taker, and my studies suffered for it. I have learned that having something to physically read again later *works*.
People learn in different ways. Some absorb more from reading, others with listening.
It’s possible to do both.
I have several audio books for when driving and walking. But if it’s a topic I want to understand better or be able to annotate, I get the Kindle version too.
Learning is best done when more than one sense is stimulated. I would often in college record the lecture and actually transcribe it. So I would hear it twice, and then write it down. Usually had no trouble remembering anything after that.
Relevant to the OP, podcasts are becoming very popular. Turning them into print would be a great way of understanding and learning as one reads while it is also being narrated.
They’re called talks. 🙂
Audio and written presentations will be consumed differently – the details are best written down, so that the reader can peruse them at their own pace. I was recently looking at a proof and spent 20 minutes or so trying to work out one step. This would e difficult with an audio presentation, but the audio would be better to get the overall picture (without getting stuck for 20 mins on one step!).
I guess my point is that you don’t need to stick to just reading a paper.
BTW, you should probably check the copyright situation. Whilst in practice this probably won’t be a problem, it’s best to check first. Plus, it’s a good excuse to contact the author (who might be happy to hear what you are doing).