Podcasting – A New Form of Storytelling, or Just a Genuine Return to Oral Tradition?
In a world where everyone is overwhelmed by images, the act of listening has become an increasingly demanding exercise. However, if we want to preserve our attention span and, most importantly, our imagination, listening should be taken more seriously. By listening, we create images in our head rather than finding them ready to be used on our devices, or even in the form of words in a book.
That’s why podcasts are so popular nowadays. People are realizing that the on-demand nature of this medium, its essential method of fruition based on just listening, and the richness of the stories that this medium can vehiculate might be the new frontier of media content, not to mention a great exercise to keep our brains well-trained.
While the concept of audio storytelling predates modern technology, podcasts have revolutionized the accessibility and popularity of this medium. Thus, let’s explore the main aspects that characterize this revolution in the world of content.
A Minimalist Approach to Storytelling
The Joe Rogan Experience, Serial, Crime Junkie, and This American Life ― just to name a few ― represent four macro-trends in this brand-new landscape of media content. As usual, what attracts most people are controversial personalities, debatable subject matters, and speculative theories that shape our culture and, at the same time, keep us entertained.
Production-wise, podcasts have democratized the creation and distribution of audio content, allowing anyone with a microphone and an internet connection to create their own show and find new ways for creative expression, enabling a diverse range of voices to be heard. Joe Rogan, for instance, built his podcast himself and, as a true stand-up comedian, he treated all his guests and the important personalities he hosted in a way that was weird, spontaneous, and revelatory.
As far as the audience is concerned, podcasts can be seen as a return to tradition because they tap into the long-standing human tradition of oral storytelling. Before the invention of writing, stories were handed down through generations via oral narratives ― and they stuck to memory like rock engravings. Podcasts have been great in terms of resurrecting this tradition. By demanding greater attention from the listener, they re-established a balance and an intimate connection between creators and their audience.
For example, if we lose track of what we are listening to on Serial, the investigative journalism podcast, and there are no images filling us in on complementary information, we might feel lost, and that’s good in terms of understanding our limits and how attention is important to fully appreciate content. In addition, this medium engages listeners’ imagination and creates an intimate connection with us by delivering content directly into our ears.
Getting back to the idea of preserving our attention span, podcasts have enhanced our interest in long-form storytelling, too. They provide a platform for in-depth conversations (The Joe Rogan Experience), serialized narratives (Serial), and exploration of complex topics (This American Life) that might not fit into traditional broadcast formats.
Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were asked to give your two cents on a specific scene in a film, or in a TV show, and you winded up mumbling something because you only had a vague idea of what you saw? We all tend to believe that we are multi-tasking, and so we watch content while doing, or thinking about something else. Images can easily stick to our minds like the afore-mentioned rock engravings, yes, and yet they might sit there as meaningless shapes.
Podcasts represent a win-win opportunity for both the creators and their audience, as they’re made and enjoyed to find meaningful responses in our head. Today, our capacity for discernment and critical thinking are under the attack of misinformation, breaking news, and so forth. In-depth, serialized conversations can be journeys into a more stimulating and imaginative environment, where we might take our mindfulness back simply by opening our ears.
In conclusion, podcasts represent a great convergence of new and old. They leverage modern technology to deliver audio content in an accessible and convenient fashion, while also drawing inspiration from the rich history of oral storytelling. Whether they are a new form of storytelling or a return to oral tradition, podcasts have undoubtedly transformed the way we consume and engage with narratives, providing a unique and valuable medium for creative expression and knowledge sharing.
CULTURE (counter, pop, and otherwise) and the people who shape it.