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My talk online

The Australian Broadcasting Commission, or ABC, radio show on science, Ockham’s Razor (named after some philosophy guy), has finally played my talk on species concept history and the death of essentialist stories. You can go listen to it here.

The recording process was fraught. I have reduced lung capacity due to decades of smoking (I stopped a while back, but lungs don’t regenerate), and so I kept swallowing the ends of the sentences, so the sound editor is to be congratulated for making it sound natural, as each sentence took several takes.


  1. Noetica Noetica

    Well done! Since you seem to invite it, I make an observation about technique. The talk came over very well, though just a little full-detailed and fast-spoken for easy absorption. When introducing a term of art it is best to pronounce it more clearly than absolutely necessary. I misheard typology as topology at first. Strange usage, I thought: but in the context it could be construed to make a novel sort of sense. And then I realised that typology was intended, and all was well. A mere distraction from the exposition.

    Your book Species looks great. I hope to get around to reading it once I’ve processed a whole lot more that concerns categorical cognition more generally, along with certain unsuspected applications in everyday life, in social policy, etc.

    By coincidence, I find you commenting recently at Language Log. I don’t comment there any more, finding the climate totalitarian and censorious. But I sometimes still take a look.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      Yes, that became obvious as I listened. I first misheard it as “topology” (I recorded this 14 months ago). Also I droned a bit.

      We live and learn… but I don’t really sound like that. I actually sound like Liam Neeson (in my head).

      • Ian H Spedding FCD Ian H Spedding FCD

        Actually, I heard it as “typology” first time but that may be because I’m used to reading your stuff here.

        I think I can detect a hint of Liam Neeson there but – drawing on my ‘vast’ experience of (amateur) radio work back in the day when I worked at the Beeb – here’s a couple of tips.

        Listen – don’t watch – listen to Alec Guinness as Obi-wan Kenobi in Star Wars. His performance is a master-class in how to take the most trite and banal dialogue and make it sound profound purely through skilled delivery. Not that your writing is trite or banal, of course, but Lucas can’t write dialogue to save his life. Second, listen to James Garner in something like The Rockford Files or the movie Support Your Local Sheriff. Note the almost exaggerated way he varies pitch, emphasis and rhythm. Guinness actually does much the same but he makes it sound more effortless and natural.

  2. I clicked on “Listen now” in firefox (on linux), and it told me that I needed to install a plugin for Windows media player.

    I tried the same on firefox in Windows. Same outcome.

    I tried IE8. It actually tried to install a plugin (I refused).

    I went back to my linux system, and clicked on the “Download audio”, intending to use the mp3 player software (akonadi). However, it immediately started playing.

    I’m posting this, in case others have similar problems.

    Good and interesting talk, by the way.

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      I had similar troubles, but it worked fine eventually on Chrome. Why the ABC, a public network, uses proprietary formats I cannot say.

      • Mike Haubrich Mike Haubrich

        Fortunately, there is an mp3 available for it. I was able to listen to it just fine.

  3. Chris G Chris G

    Crikey, I listen to Ockham’s Razor podcast as I go to sleep (somehow listening to interesting external voice lulls me to sleep, rather than my own internal monologue ranting about to do lists, an “the phd, oh god the phd” etc).

    …might be a bit too freaky to have your voice cameoing however…

    • John S. Wilkins John S. Wilkins

      No, I think that my talk might actually work better than the rest.

      • “Wilkins Patent Sleep Remedy” sends you off with a species in your ears.

  4. RBH RBH

    Hm. No mention of ‘no worries, mate” or ‘shrimp on the barbie.’ Can’t be Australian.

  5. Jeb Jeb

    You have a very good voice.

    Its the middle of sentences you are dropping down on which is causing the problem. Just need to work out where to stop and take a breath in places, which should help resolve it. Its a classic problem that even the most experianced pro actors have to watch for.

    The solution is to make sure you breath when needed and inflect the middle word slightly higher than you would in natural speech. It will stop you loosing the end as well. It is also possible to inflect the last word of a sentance much higher than any other, this is completly unnatural but it is the classic trick when speaking in the declamatory style used by British actors or preachers like Martin Luther King.

    Its the major way of keeping the interest of the listener.

    Youre voice sounds far more polished than the presenter at the start of the piece he suffers rather badly from over-sybilant S’s (over-hitting the letter s so it becomes sssssss.

    Its a problem that occurs when you are trying to project. The trick is to try and turn as many S’s into a Z as you can. So with a word like species you say speciez. No one will know and it gives you one less problem to have to think about.

    If the processes was fraught the end result is very professional.

  6. Mike Haubrich Mike Haubrich

    I think it is in the large part very well-spoken and clear, and had expected it to be anti-podean accent. One difference that you will discover on live radio is that your voice will modulate more, naturally, because it is more conversational than reading into a microphone.

    I am looking forward to you being on our show.

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