This guest blog comes from Ruth Salter, who is finishing the first year of her PhD in Celtic and Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Ruth researches the cultural-political position of the mid-twentieth century Scottish Folk Revival and its relationship with theories of cultural dominance. This blog looks at Ruth’s incorporation of listening to podcasts in her PhD research, why she sees podcasts as an optimal engagement medium, and details of an upcoming CDF-funded masterclass on producing academic podcasts for doctoral researchers interested in learning more. You can connect with Ruth on Twitter at @RuthSalter or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Travelling is a pretty standard part of many people’s PhDs. Whether it’s for research, meetings or conferences, the likelihood is we all spend more hours treading the pavements or crammed into train carriages than we’d ideally like. Although when I began my PhD the question of what to do when I wanted to be working but had to be walking played on my mind, over the past few months I’ve become happier with a new solution to filling this dead time. Now, when I can’t face poring over my reading while desperately trying to block out the sound of apple-crunching five seats back, I pop on my headphones and surround myself with someone else’s thoughts – through their podcast.
It seems that more and more people in academia are turning to podcasts as a means of sharing their research; through recommendations and my own searching I’ve started to build up a reasonably-sized bank of programmes to listen to. My research is in the area of cultural theory and folk music, but my number-one source for academic podcasts goes far beyond those fields. The New Books Network covers over eighty subjects through its consortium of channels, offering interviews with authors of new books in fields across the arts, humanities, and other disciplines. The network is a great resource for keeping up with new publications, and listening to episodes of New Books in Critical Theory or New Books in Folklore definitely makes me feel like I’m putting my commuting hours to good use. More focused in one research area, I’ve recently started listening to Carolyne Larrington and Faye Hield’s series on Modern Fairies. By the end of 2019, this project will be made up of two series looking at how older folk tales can be made to relate to the modern world. Outside of my own research interests, I’m a fan of Frank Cogliano and David Silkenat’s The Whiskey Rebellion, an American-history podcast which provides a historical and international perspective on (mostly) American current events. I’m really excited that Cogliano and Silkenat will be leading a session on producing academic podcasts at the masterclass event I talk about at the end of the blog!
Listening to these podcasts, on different themes, of different lengths, and published with different regularity, has made me realise how great podcasting can be for sharing academic research. Podcasts are adaptable to the goals of their creators: some projects produce a few episodes, others run indefinitely; they can last fifteen minutes or pass the hour mark. If my own listening habits are anything to go by, podcasts can reach across academic disciplines: though my library leans towards programmes in my field, I find the approachable style of many podcasters a welcoming door into other research in the arts and humanities. The ease of publishing episodes for free on the internet can also make podcasts available to a large public audience, although inequalities in accessing the internet do mean this isn’t a flawless distribution method. Podcasts come without the associated stuffiness of some other public engagement methods, like the public lecture, and for those with access to them they offer the practical benefit of being able to listen in your own time or on-the-go: I listen to podcasts on the road, but I have family who listen to them while cooking, friends who play them at the gym, and colleagues who dip into them on their lunchbreak. On top of these output advantages, the mechanics of podcast-production are also inviting: there’s limited associated costs for PhD researchers who are able to access basic equipment (a computer and microphone or smartphone) through their institutions. And, to top it off, podcasts can be made at a time and place that suits the recorder – one of the few methods for engagement that can be done in trackies in your living room!
Recognising the benefits of podcasting in academia and having the skills to produce engaging, quality episodes are two different things. PhDs are renowned for their unrelenting business and finding the time to make a reasonable go of a whole new side-project can be daunting, especially if you feel like you don’t know where to start. This problem was one that I got chatting with a small group of PhD researchers about a few months back – Janine Mitchell at the University of Stirling, Graham Stephen at the University of Aberdeen and I were all interested in podcasting parts of our PhDs, but didn’t feel we knew how to go about making good products. Flash forward to now, and we’ve been awarded SGSAH CDF funding to host a day-long masterclass on podcasting later this year called Podcast Your PhD!
On 9 September we’ll be running this intensive training event at the University of Stirling for PhD researchers from all of SGSAH’s institutions. Attendees will learn to create engaging content that distils their research for academic and public audiences, and become familiar with the technical knowledge and equipment needed to make and share their own podcasts. The masterclass is being led by established podcasters in academia and the music industry. Frank Cogliano and David Silkenat, who teach at the University of Edinburgh and host The Whiskey Rebellion, will explore the processes of structuring, writing, presenting and distributing academic podcasts. Halina Rifai, who runs the music blog and podcast podcart, will lead participants through the equipment needed to make podcasts, and the practicalities of recording, editing and publishing them. For more information check out the SGSAH event page, find us on Twitter @PhDPodcasting, or email us at email@example.com.
We’ll be sharing details of the masterclass with you here on the SGSAH blog after the event – until then, I recommend downloading a few academic podcasts for the next time your train is delayed!
We are always seeking new guest bloggers! If you have an idea for a blog post or would like to informally discuss writing for the SGSAH blog please get in touch with Lizzie via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect with the blog on Twitter