I was very excited to read that ABC purchased the rights to adapt StartUp into a television show called Alex, Inc. I couldn’t wait to see the show both because I loved the podcast and because I wanted to see how a podcast could be adapted for television. However, the purpose of the show is to provide a spoof on both start-up culture and podcasters. You can’t properly spoof something unless you understand it.
What can the history of radio teach us about the present and future of podcasting? I've been contemplating this question for over two years. I think about it because podcasters like to think that what we do is new and novel. Yet none of what we claim as new, is new. It has all happened before in radio. The history of radio is relevant to the present and future of podcasting.
Essentially, sound is a pressure wave that causes vibrations as it displaces and moves the air around it, which our ear drums pick up and our brains interpret. The human brain gathers and infers a LOT of information through sound because sound waves carry a lot of clues about the physical properties or events that created them. For example, if someone drops an object on the floor, the sound waves that come from the object striking the floor tell our brains about the kind of surface the object hit as well as the physical properties of the object—its approximate size, weight, material, and shape.
I define a “native audio history” as a narrative work of scholarly history created and produced in audio. It is a work that considers and presents sounds that evoke the past as well as the sounds that produce history. When I hear this genre, I hear the archives and intellectual production of history as an integral part of the presentation. It’s a genre that answers the whys and hows of history.
Historians need to stop thinking about the tenure track as the only way and as the only measure of success within the profession. The profession would instantly help improve the job market for historians by improving its ability to help students at all levels of historical training recognize and discuss their unique and valuable skill set outside of the academy. It also needs to stop treating employment within the tenure track as the only “true” job market for historians and as the only measure of success.