Podcasting as Meaning Exchange

Originally published at: https://decentered.co.uk/podcasting-as-meaning-exchange/

I had a good day at Leicestershire Cares yesterday, running a podcasting training session. It was the first time in ages that I’ve run a session in person by myself, though I needn’t have worried, as I was made to feel very welcome by the team of Leicestershire Cares staff.

We talked a lot about inspiring young people to discuss their experiences in a way that they would be confident can be turned into a podcast. The idea of using podcasting as not just an information or entertainment product, but as a personal and community development tool is something I’ve been exploring in my work for many years.

Podcasting for personal growth and social development probably isn’t what most people think would be a benefit of sitting chatting and recording, then sharing, that conversation. However, there are many benefits to this process, and it was great to be able to explore them with people who work in similar ways.

The adage that community media is ten percent media, and ninety percent community, means that the skills and experience of the team at Leicestershire Cares was an easy fit with the approach. If the process is handled correctly, I think podcasting can become a very effective reflexive tool for personal growth and development, particularly for people who don’t see themselves as having a place in our mainstream media.

We noted that there are two groups of people that we need to think about in different ways. The first need to build their confidence and be reassured that there is an underpinning to their lives and social experience. They need a floor on which to stand that is certain and offers them security. Alternatively, once that security is established and is stable, then there is no ceiling to limit their potential, but they have a strong sense of what their imagination and creativity might lift them up to.

As well as offering practical advice about making podcasts, I wanted to get across the idea that podcasting can be an effective development tool that fosters reflexivity and self-awareness. Given the stage of development that most young people will be at, and their pathway along which they have travelled, then reflection and introspection may not be a well-developed skill (and nor should it).

Podcasting, however, if done sensitively, has the potential to provide a mediated object from which participants in the process of discussion can hear themselves, maybe for the first time. At first, contributors may be short and sporadic in their musings, but with time they may become more confident and offer longer and deeper reflections. As participants learn to draw out from both their experiences and their thoughts and feelings, they hold their ground for longer.

We tend to think of media as a performative activity, in which participants adopt a persona that they act out. This approach is different because it is contemplative. It operates more in a therapeutic mode, where there is a search to understand those experiences in the context of the thoughts and feelings that go with them.

At the early stages of our development, we often learn through imitation, copying the actions and the style of others. We can see this in the social media influences phenomenon, where many people learn how to produce media by copying and re-articulating what they have seen other people do. This can only take us so far, however, and at some point we would hope to see a more individuated character start to emerge in relation to the way we present and deport ourselves.

As some point, we have to learn to be us. We have to learn to express ourselves in a way that is true to our character. Some see this as a mode of authenticity, though it’s not to be confused with the simulation of authenticity, but is something that comes from our inner-genius which is tied with our character, our values and our cognitive functioning.

Each of us is unique, so each of us has a path that we are destined to follow across a lifetime. How do we respond to the challenges of life? Do we go against or with the grain of our character? What I like about podcasting is that in the verbal exchange of ideas and experiences, we get to make sense of our character and how others interact with us because podcasting has the potential to be a powerful tool for self-reflection.

By pursuing this more contemplative mode of communication, I believe we can take the pressure off people to have to define themselves by other people expectations and standards. Podcasting isn’t an answer to all of our development needs, but it is a powerful tool that opens up the way of extended critical and reflexive thinking, much in the way that writing achieves extended thinking.

The simplicity of the process of a meaningful conversation has many benefits. By allowing us to explore ideas and concepts thoroughly, within the framework of an ongoing structured process of thinking both alleviates the anxiety that comes with modern life, and the preponderance of persona and personality, while also creating space for mutual position-taking and intercultural learning.

Conversations come in many forms. Facilitating dialogue through the dialectical method isn’t simply about the clash of ideas and principles, rather, it is a process of pulling into consciousness those thoughts, feelings and experiences that we know are lurking at the edges of our consciousness, in the shadows of our awareness, but have not yet had the temerity to bring them to the centre of our attention. We can do this through dialogue, and this dialogue can include many different types of people at different stages of their development, not just those who are confident that they are sure-footed and can speak confidently.