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Blog Post #2

Environmental issues and climate change does not face the same problems of exposure, media coverage, and issue recognition that many other issues encounter. By following the discussion on climate change and broad environmental issues it is clear that while environmental issues do get a plethora of media attention, it is not effective media attention that leads to activists or tangible, actionable plans or solutions. A study done by the New York Times on how Americans think about climate change lends some insight. * While a very significant majority of Americans think that climate change will harm Americans and that we should work towards solutions, not very many Americans think climate change will affect them specifically. This elucidates the disconnect between reading and hearing about the information, and rationalizing it in a way that individuals view it as their personal problem and not a societal problem.

Perhaps some of this disconnect can be traced back to the mediums by which Americans intake media. With the advent of the internet and rise of massive media empires, mainstream media is no longer personal. While newspapers and other news outlets used to be disseminators of local information to locals who had a stake in the issues, now it is used to cover global news and events that are much less tied to each individual person. The news that CNN, NBC, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, or any other mainstream media outlet publishes is no longer personal or gives rise to the same emotional response as an issue that is directly relevant to its listeners. Siobahn McHugh suggests that podcasting may be one way to combat this issue. Through talking with industry experts, she finds that podcasting is not “Audio-as-background, but a fully ‘authored’ creative work.” This renewed intimacy between the host and the audience may be the answer to how to get people to personally care about issues that have largely stagnated in mainstream media. This plays into Steph Ceraso’s notion of multimodal listening and bodily learning. She finds that people are too used to constant drones of sound that dull the senses. Instead she advocates for a much more involved listening in which the audience uses their sense of hearing along with their other senses to listen more deeply and emotionally to the audio. In this way, podcasting seems to encourage multimodal listening as podcasts engage more fully with the audience.

Furthermore, McHugh notes that “Low-cost ‘chumcasts’ are a growing format, with potential to cater to minority groups.” These “chumcasts” cater to niche audiences who are clearly interested in specific topics that might either be left out of typical mainstream coverage, or have not found a suitable medium which they enjoy. Podcasts are also usually characterized by smaller audiences. John Beiwen, an audio program director at Duke University says that “I would rather have a few thousand people hear a piece that I’m really proud of, that has room to breathe and unfold, than to have millions hear a three-minute piece cut down to a nub.” The smaller audience and flexibility to create a podcast that the producer wants gives air to a “genuineness” that Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd cover in their article “I tweet honestly, I tweet passionately: Twitter users, context collapse, and the imagined audience”. The more personal nature of podcasts may be one answer to facing the problem that the image of the solution to environmental is one that lies among others and not with oneself.


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