Pedagogic Podcasts

For the past two weeks, our class has been concerned with learning how to create an effective podcast. This learning was primarily exercised through listening to pedagogic podcasts. Whenever a medium is used to teach how to make an effective iteration of that same medium, or a work is used as a paradigm for that medium, I often find myself subjecting the work to more stringent criticism. I found myself noticing aspects of the didactic podcasts about how to make a podcast, that I wouldn’t have noticed in a different podcast genre, like an episodic narrative. This phenomenon is also partly due to the fact that I exercise most of my active thinking about podcasts within the framework of critiquing and creating them. My consumption of the podcasts became less about deriving the useful information, and more about analyzing and critiquing the elements that the podcasts were comprised of.

For instance, the first thing I noticed about Jessica Abel’s Out on the Wire Episode Four: Bare Bones, was the irritating music that played throughout. I found the music detracted from the audio clarity and undermined Abel’s efforts to effectively impart information, because it distracted from the substantive content. I found that the elevator music-esque backing track was part of a larger, multifarious problem with the presentation of audio. I found the audio transitions to be awkwardly implemented, and the editing as a whole to be a little chaotic: definitely not conducive to consuming Abel’s message. I also found that Abel’s voiceover work was not particularly engaging. I didn’t feel that she espoused the point touched on (ironically in an Out on the Wire selection) in a reading, about how effective self-performance on the air “requires [one] having to learn the craft of actually becoming an actor.” Unfortunately, I didn’t feel that Abel exercised this practice. I actually found the readings to be more effective at imparting the salient points on how to make a good podcast. The Out on the Wire reading was especially efficacious, because it was visually engaging (and thus avoided being too dry, like some of the other more textbook-like selections), while still containing information that was useful to my podcast. My podcast has a sort of narrative-like structure, so the points about editing in this reading were particularly salient.

In assessing my critical consumption of the podcasts for the last two weeks, I was forced to realize that some of my rebuke might be undue. This is most likely a product of my vague dislike of podcasts. I’ve never really been partial to audio-based forms of performance media. When listening to podcasts, audiobooks and even radio talk shows, I often have the strange impetus to fast forward, or skim through them. I’m not sure why I have this tendency, but hope that with greater exposure to the media will learn to espouse it and its inherent virtues, like the ability to foster a personal connection with the creator and the audience because of the inherent intimacy created by the vocal presentation.

Transgender Advocacy and Twitter

Since the inception of the LGBT rights movement at Stonewall in 1969, LGBT advocacy has resulted in profound advancements in the rights afforded to those within the community. However, one group that has largely been left out of the discourse is the number of trans individuals in America. Transgender people are among the most marginalized groups within American society. They are subject to pervasive and systemic discrimination, and even within the LGBT community, are largely relegated to the fringes. Trans issues do not register within the consciousness of collective social advocacy to nearly the same extent that other LGBT issues do. Though the impetus, and indeed, the imperative, for transgender rights advocacy exists, it has yet to manifest with the thrust that other similar activist movements have experienced.

The crux of contemporary transgender issues is in the ratification of transgender discrimination. Discriminatory legislation, masquerading under the pretense of a commitment to public safety, or to free religious exercise, is proliferating at an alarming rate, notably within the Southern states. The most common iteration of this legislation is the “bathroom bill,” which was ostensibly conceived to conduce public safety. In North Carolina, for instance, the legislature mandated that public agencies and school boards only allow people to use bathrooms that correspond to their biological sex. The inherent discrimination in this mandate has not prevented people from stridently supporting it. It was repealed at the end of March, in a bid by the state to attract organizations that had boycotted the state as a result of the discriminatory measure. This development occurred much to the chagrin of the conservative community. However, the new legislation lacks any provisions that would allow for recourse should an institution or entity reject transgender people.

Acknowledgement of fundamental human rights for trans individuals shouldn’t be an exercise in polemics. And yet, trans issues have created a schism within American society, with proponents of ratified discrimination legitimizing their position by predicating their bigotry on unsubstantiated concerns. Social media has become an important forum for the articulation of both support for trans issues, and their censure. A viral trans rights movement emerged in 2015, and is still prevalent within the Twitterverse. The hashtag #wejustneedtopee was conceived to address the argument that breaking down the binary classification of washrooms would create a predatory environment. The hashtag is usually accompanied by a washroom selfie. The campaign undermines the notion that transgender people pose a danger to public safety by addressing their humanity in a semi-sardonic manner. The hashtag has been espoused by such prominent transgender activists as Orange is the New Black actress Laverne Cox. It is a part of the larger transgender activism movement on Twitter, that has been demonstrably effective.

Following the North Carolina bathroom mandate, the backlash spurred several prominent organizations to withdraw their enterprises from the state. This move was in part a product of the transparency that social media has introduced into society. The efficacy of social media activism, as demonstrated by the North Carolina boycott, stands in opposition to the arguments advanced by Gladwell in his piece “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted.” Gladwell is concerned with traditional forms of direct activism, like marches and in-person protests. However, he fails to acknowledge how social media has both facilitated the spread of information, and created a culture of greater accountability and visibility. This idea is espoused by Mirani in his rebuke of Gladwell. Social media facilitated the spread of information pertaining to the North Carolina bathroom bill. Following its imposition, it was a trending topic on such social media behemoths as Facebook and Twitter for several weeks.

Social media made people aware of the discriminatory legislation that they would otherwise not be cognizant of. Fundamentally intertwined with this heightened awareness is social media’s function as a platform for discourse. Opposition to the legislation on social media was vociferous. People were made aware of the mandate, and those that opposed it were able to articulate their dissent to a broad audience. This widespread rebuke manifested in a viral movement. Businesses and entities like the NCAA were then incited to respond, in the interest of maintaining a positive and progressive image that characterizes successful businesses and organizations. This relationship between the spread of information, the creation of viral movements, and responses by large institutions forms the foundation of the virtue of social media activism.