C&W Session E4: Wondering Aloud: Can (How Can) Podcasts Actually Be Understood as Scholarly Work?


Ryan Trauman, Columbia College-Chicago
Steven Hopkins, Arizona State University
Ames Hawkins, Columbia College-Chicago

Listening to podcasts always reminds of my most favorite method of learning. Sitting attentively as elders talked, conversations varied from political events to family gossip. Never daring to speak but that was never an issue. Being the audience to a conversation pushes us to listen carefully, it insists that we privilege the speakers and their thought before we respond. When I read text on a page, I find myself scribbling notes or leaving marginalia that interrupts the flow. The sonic experience of podcasts doesn’t allow for that kind of interaction. Furthermore, the mobility of a podcast gives us the space to make them apart of other every day activities, which in my experience helps elevate my ability to engage.

In session E4, Trauman, Hopkins, and Hawkins discussed the current state of podcasts and podcasting in Rhetoric and Composition. Steve Hopkins, host of his own Rhet/Comp themed podcast Writing Questions, started the panel off by providing a synopsis of the current status of podcasts in the discipline as well as a taxonomy for determining an Academic Podcast. For Hopkins, a working definition of a Podcast is series of episodes that is updated regularly and available for download on mobile devices. Consistency and accessibility is important to Hopkins because it allows for a podcaster to develop and sustain a connection to their audience that is distinctly formed in this audio medium. Through data collection and coding, Hopkins offers three consistent themes for determining an Academic Podcast: an affiliation or sponsorship from a University, the host identifies as an academic, and the subject matter is of interest to academics. While not every podcast considered to be an Academic Podcast by Hopkins hits all three requirements, these criteria set up a loose taxonomy to help carve out space within the vast world of publicly available podcasts. It also allows academics to pursue podcasts outside of their academic interests and non-academics to engage in academic discussions.

Hopkins’ findings help shape a conversation for thinking more seriously about how podcasting might be understood as a form of publishing for academics. This is where Ames Hawkins’ presentation really pushed the conversation by first discussing how podcasts allow for an understanding of a creative-critical practice and then discussing how we might want to re-orient our philosophies of promotion to make space for more creative forms of publication. Hawkins and Trauman host a podcast titled Master of Text, that is done in the style of Vox Populi.  Unfortunately, Trauman was unable to attend the conference but this allowed Hawkins to dig further into the idea of podcasts as a space for creative scholarship and how this might impact promotion. Hawkins recently became an Associate Dean of Promotion at Columbia College-Chicago and has been thinking about the relationships that humanities has made for valuing their work. Hawkins asks why we have chosen to align ourselves with the sciences when we have more in common with the arts, stating “People in the Arts get tenure too.”

Hawkins use of Vox Pop as a style of podcasting, asked her to reflect on the practices that went into producing the episodes as a final product. Using Hindenburg as her main editing software, the strategic placement of sound clips reminded Hawkins of how good art makes the materials secondary. When art is done well, you are drawn to the overall message first and then move on to the medium or technique. By working in a multimodal medium, Hawkins asks us to consider how we might think of other ways to not only create alternative scholarship but seek alternative modes of evaluating our work as humanities scholars. Furthermore, as a underlying theme throughout the panel, how do we push for imagining scholarship that would better align our goals of critical inquiry with what Hopkins identifies as the more “squishy, human” side of ourselves.

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Victor Del Hierro

Victor Del Hierro recently accepted a tenure track position at the University of Texas at El Paso where he will research and teach about Hip Hop, Technical Communication and Cultural Rhetorics.

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