“Half the time you think your thinking you’re actually listening": podcasts help you seize your own mind
As a media form, the podcast has risen to prominence in recent years. The latest figures from Rajar suggest six million (11%) of us listen to a podcast each week, up from 3.8 million in 2016. This BBC article cites various factors - the default of the podcast app on our iPhones, the rise of extra media around reality television.
But - as great podcast fans, and beginning to dabble in the form ourselves - we have our own theories. We think disillusion with the mainstream media might well be a factor - people actively choosing their lenses and framings on reality; preferring longer-forms (30 mins to an hour) to short over-edited items; and actively shaping media around the rhythms of their own lives (podcasts work particularly well for those who program long walks in their lives, attending to their own wellbeing).
As a practice of taking back control of your mind and attention, we're very interested in podcast - both to hear, and to make. Our friends at Nesta are moving into the area, and they asked their staff to reveal their own favourites.
We'll open the comments below, and would welcome your own recommendations. (In the meantime, let us recommend a few: Open Source Radio, Expanding Minds, How Soon Is Now, Talking Politics, The Future Is Beautiful, Team Human, A Point of View).
"Upstream is a beautifully crafted podcast series of documentaries and interviews that are both informative and motivating. Although centred on new ideas for a more democratic, just and sustainable future economy, it also intersects history, politics, beer, and the fundamentals of human existence. It has challenged many of my pre-conceptions about how an economy should be organised to benefit society, and uplifted me with stories of change from around the world." --- George Richardson, Principal Researcher, Innovation Systems
"Radiolab is King of the podcasts, as their journalistic approach to a wide range of topics is heavily addictive for the naturally curious. The questions they ask follow a very natural flow taking you on a journey of discovery. Even if the topic doesn't seem too interesting at first glance, they prove to you time and time again that the world around us, our history and our biology is jam-packed with fascinating stuff. Their episode on the praying mantis (old but very very solid) is a good example, and Molly Webster's recent series on gonads and the process through which our bodies' genders' get determined are examples of things you think you know everything about that turn out to be much more interesting and complex than expected. Is it this journey that makes every Radiolab episode worthy of your time and attention." ---Caroline van den Berg, Project Delivery Manager, Explorations
"I think what I like most about this podcast is it hits the (difficult to find) sweet spot between informing you about foreign politics, assuming minimal existing knowledge, without speaking down to you. I certainly feel like it has given me a more nuanced view of the world, particularly through their deep-dives on global leaders" ---Eliza Easton, Principal Policy Researcher, Creative Economy and Data Analytics
"A panel of four people, with a moderator and live audience, debating issues spanning the removal of statues or memorials that are deemed inappropriate in the present day, or the return of controversially acquired items like the Parthenon Marbles or Benin Bronzes, to whether blockchain is a "quantum leap forward or digital snake oil". The panel is two pairs "for" and two pairs "against" and the debate is usually passionate, thoughtful, and forces me to question my own opinions and help me understand issues from other perspectives." ---Kimberley Ballantyne, Learning Services Manager, Creative Enterprise Programme - also recommended by Alice Casey, Head of New Operating Models
5. On the Media
"On the Media, is a New York Public Radio podcast that looks at how the media covers news topics as well as the role of the media more broadly. It also touches on politics and society more generally. On the Media isn't focused on just the big news of the week, it also looks at less expected topics with unexplored angles. They have excellent hosts and a good use of sound effects/bites, which makes for a good balance between talking heads discussing topics and actually reported, documentary-style investigations." ---Katja Bego, Data Scientist
"Not necessarily my favorite, but Revisionist History is excellently paced, balances detail and rigour with storytelling and turns big issues into listenable material. There's a three-parter about education in the United States which is really good - essentially about what the American philanthropy system gets wrong. I can imagine some people might find the presenter Malcolm Gladwell annoying but I think he works really well in this format" ---Sam Mitchell, Programme Manager, Digital Arts & Media
The BBC Radio 4 podcast The Reith Lectures is delivered by leading thinkers on topics from the future of medicine, the power of music and humanities relationship with war. It's informative, accessible and always interesting to listen to as they are delivered in an engaging way with great topics. Georgina Innes, Learning Services Manager
"Invisibilia is so amazing it frequently blows my mind. They've produced episodes that have changed the way I think and approach things. The subject matter falls under the category of 'the invisible things that control our thoughts, behaviours and assumptions' - their episodes about the networks of tree roots in forests exchanging information and people's individual 'frame of reference' that informs experiences are among my favourites. I often remember the stories they report on as part of their investigation. They really look at topics from a variety of different angles, and bring very fresh perspectives and topics to the table". ---Caroline van den Berg, Project Delivery Manager, Explorations
"People Fixing the World is from the BBC World Service. It investigates big global problems and the possible brilliant solutions on topics like how to address the gender pay gap, the affordable housing shortage, helping blind people see with apps, reducing the spread of HIV and STIs, Universal Basic Income and challenge prizes (featuring Nesta's Tris Dyson). What I enjoy most is its eternal optimism, even when the solutions fail (which they sometimes do), there is always a glimmer of hope. As you'd expect from the BBC the production standards are high, it is well researched with engaging presenters and with a 20 minute length, easily digestible". ---Helen Sadler, Communications Assistant