Podcasting the future of public/history: A project and reflection

This project—a history podcast dedicated to providing an adaptable platform for scholars and scholars-in-training to connect with each other and wider audiences—has gone through several conceptual and practical revisions in the last two months. From a audio-visual concept for remastering academic journal articles to an audiobook-style repository of downloadable journal articles to an article-heavy podcast, this process has proved to be both enriching and exhausting. And still I want to continue working on the project. I’ve grown deeply attached to the idea and had great fun working on selecting the articles I know to contain good stories to share with audiences and that graduate students may gain equal use of.

The most strenuous part of the entire process was the most tedious… making files of my reading sections of journal articles. Though I stayed hydrated and tried to enunciate like my actor friends, I grew tired quickly and got a slightly sore throat. In addition, text written in different languages proved to be a significant hurdle. Lasting, I spent a considerable amount of time speaking into the microphone, only to find out, on a number of occasions, that the memory card was full or that I had forgotten to press the “record” button. Oops! But it comes with the territory. Given those challenges as well as time constraints, varied the length of time I spent recording. I found it easiest to produce the recording according to the sections marked in the articles themselves. I produced recordings from three articles, listed below. The sections tended to last between 10 or 15 minutes, making the full recording around one hour in length.

Such a file can be listened to in the time it takes most people to commute to work, to campus, or even while doing chores or relaxing. I know, I know. Listening to an academic journal article while relaxing? It’s possible. And doable. It is all just a matter of convincing potential listeners that the article is worth a listen. Here are the other two articles that I selected and worked on recordings for:

  1. Katherine Smoak, “The Weight of Necessity: Counterfeit Coins and the British Atlantic World, circa 1760-1800,” The William and Mary Quarterly 74, no. 3 (July 2017): 467-502.
  2. Joan Wallach Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category for Historical Analysis,” The American Historical Review 91, no. 5 (December 1986): 1053-1075.
  3. Hugh Rockoff, “The “Wizard of Oz” as a Monetary Allegory,” The Journal of Political Economy 98, no. 4 (August 1990): 739-760.

The latter two articles are accessible as PDFs without institutional access to JSTOR or ProQuest, and so can be accessed by anyone who listens to podcasts featuring these articles and who wants to download the full text version. Smoak’s article is not, but it contains a fascinating story and raises questions that may resonate with anyone who has ever had a coin-collecting relative or who has ever found an interesting coin in their change. (Articles with such restrictions as Smoak’s means that a future version of this project will have to involve a partnership with ITHAKA.)

So why should anyone be interested in listening to a podcast episode on one of these articles? Because everyone has an implicit vested interest in, or at least a connection to the content and themes; all three articles address subjects of particular relevance to just about everyone… the trustworthiness of money and of governments to generate it, gender and the ways it is used for methods of interpreting information, and The Wizard of Oz, a familiar story to many and a milestone in American popular culture.

I have also uploaded my working NEH Level 1 Grant Proposal, which is the part that I would like to continue work on. This involves reaching out to potential project participants, gathering data to continue work on the budget, and even trying out developing and producing a single podcast episode on my own. I received significant feedback during the poster session—I’ve also re-posted my poster here—that I have not had time to incorporate. However, this project is looking to be more and more of a reality.

This is the most fun I have had working on a digital project. I look forward to continuing work on it once I am ABD.

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