For the most part I tend to use technology, especially communication and social media technology, reasonably infrequently. Whilst I understand the value of its use as a tool, I would prefer to talk to someone I care about face to face than spend hours staring at a screen. Having said that, one communication platform which has added huge amounts of value to my life recently is podcasting.
Given that it is quite simple to find podcasts which are free and have limited (if any) advertising, for those who have yet to try one, I would liken the experience to listening to the host of your favourite radio channel exploring, in-depth, a topic which you are passionate about (for a sustained period of time). Unlike the hit-and-miss nature of radio, however, a podcast gives you the freedom to select only topics which interest you, making the whole experience much more relevant and fulfilling.
Podcasting has risen in popularity over the last couple of years, but it is still comparatively young. What it lacks in experience, however, it makes up for by networking with other platforms; podcasts, blogs, twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest etc. are increasingly interconnected, allowing users and designers to discover and reach out to larger and larger audiences.
I first engaged with this medium early last year when my best friend recommended a podcast she had listened to and thought I would like. Hosted by two American men, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, ‘The Minimalists’ is a call to arms against the pressures and constraints of consumer culture, and now has something of a cult following. At the time, though, I simply enjoyed having access to conversations hosted by intelligent people on topics which interested and challenged me. After that first episode I was hooked.
Podcasting is a medium which lends itself to the art of the interview, and once you have found a podcast you like, one of the best ways to branch out and find new podcasts is by listening to guests on your current ones. Guest speakers on podcasts are often only invited for one episode, but such one-off interviews nevertheless provide a great introduction to their work more broadly (which may include podcasts of their own). And of course it is much easier to embrace the unknown if it comes from the known; when you listen to a podcast constantly a level of trust and familiarity is established with the host, however superficial, and as a result it is much easier to accept what is essentially a recommendation by someone you ‘know’.
It was through one such recommendation that I found the podcast of blogger Colin Wright called ‘Let’s Know Things’. An American with a soft accent, Wright was invited to host an episode of ‘The Minimalists’ to introduce and share his own podcast with a new audience. ‘Let’s Know Things’ is an hour long podcast in which Wright explores one concept or topic in great depth, pulling what is clearly extensive research into an absorbing narrative (my favourite so far has been on the rise and fall of suburbia).
As could be expected, this sort of networking between podcast hosts with similar interests and values happens in person as well as via guest interviews, and once you have found an area or topic which interests you, it is possible to find new podcasts by searching within an established community on other forms of social or communication media. I had this experience when researching the film produced by The Minimalists called ‘Minimalism: A Film About The Important Things’. During my research I came across Jessica Lynn Williams, who was using her design background to help with PR and outreach for the film. She is part of the duo behind ‘The Mind Palace’, which has since become my favourite podcast.
Following the one hour format of many podcasts, ‘The Mind Palace’ has weekly episodes, with themes which explore the various facets of what it means to live a well-curated life. Hosted by American Jessica Lynn Williams and her British friend Melissa Cain, this podcast is certainly part of the broader minimalism community but has an additional authenticity and pragmatism I just love. When I listen to an episode, I feel like I am listening to conversations between old friends.
And if you are going to engage with any sort of online communication in our technology-obsessed world, I think a conversation with old friends is a pretty good reason to do so…