At the beginning of June in the town of Camogli, in Italy , a new festival was taking place : the festival of podcasts
This was the first of the kind, and an interesting concept. Why? Because podcasts are a relatively new thing that is taking off more and more: it is estimated that there are more than 700000 podcasts available! And weekly podcasts listeners spend an average of 6 hours and 37 minutes listening to podcasts per week. If I just calculate how many hours I do spend listening, I know that I probably up those statistics up!
Why are we listening to podcasts so much?
Podcasts seem to be a good fit around our lifestyles: you can listen as you are commuting, running errands, cleaning the house and even as you are exercising (it can be a nice distraction as you are gruelling through that long run. And now you can even get podcasts-supporting players to go out phoneless). For those living alone, a podcast can also be a form of company . I remember, back in the days, getting home from school and turning the radio on (Virgin radio Italy was my go to), while cooking my lunch. Now that I am less than a teenager rock head, and I am in need of interesting thought sparking ideas, I find podcasts to be a good way to make the environment less silent (much better than tv noise!). And there is more, you can find whatever you are in the mood for - whether is a silly conversation about fashion, or another perspective on the day news, whether is nature talks or history or literature. And if you are still a rock head you can also listen to how songs from your favourite artists were born! There are podcasts related to crafts, cooking, exercise, all sort of sports commentaries, interview with famous people... What I am trying to say is there is probably a podcast for any topic that you dare to imagine.
Of course, this poses some issues. With all of this content, regulation is hard. Anyone can publish anything, and if a new podcast is uploaded every 3 minutes (according to stats) then it will be impossible to try and regulate it. And then, attempts to regulate it will risk to breach the 'freedom to speech and expression'. But unfortunately not all content is right, not all content is necessarily scientifically sound and not all content will encourage towards good and sustainable behaviours. To think of some examples of bad/dangerous podcasts, i really had to squeeze my slightly naive brain and think hard. But then, a few examples came to mind. Example 1, we can get distracted with plenty of podcasts about ‘health and wellness’ which will give you all sort of advice. Some will be more appropriate than others. Some might even be dangerous, although believable, talking about drugs or treatments to follow, supplements to take, not to talk about diets or exercise routine to follow. Example 2: Some of us will listen to discussions about political matters (whether from the present or from the past) and that might influence how we will vote in the next elections.
There is plenty of content about different countries and different cultures and that has the potential to influence how we will regard the next-door neighbour/colleague/person sitting next to us on the subway. There can be content that influences aggressive behaviours towards women, can influence how we go about dating / treating the next person (I have recently heard an episode of ‘this american life’ about ghosting, and there were some quite unnerving examples there where it was made normal to treat another human being like garbage to be just ignored). Even worse it can encourage racism and all sorts of other terrible things that I might be too still too naive to think about.
And worse of all, you are targeted in a way once you start listening it is hard to break the vicious cycle 'recommended' - where your podcast provider will recommend things similar to what you have been listening, making your mind narrower and narrower thinking only of some small issues. Think about the power of technology! Of course all of the above is not just limited to podcasts but can be applied to all around the web. So I wanted to stop and think about what can be done to make this great resource just a little bit safer ? (And I guess the following advice is not only for podcasts but can apply to all other internet uncontrolled things like blogs, socials and video providers)
And the answer is simple:
Always switch your brain on
Double check: heard something that is entirely new to you? Try and find another source.
Make your own opinion, think critically, and try find a way of phrasing the concept in your own words. Does it fit in your context? Do you see it happening?
Remember that you are listening to someone else’s opinion. While they might not set out with the intention to lie , podcasts makers are just humans like you and me. They can make mistakes. And maybe they will even post a follow up correcting these, but you might miss the episode.
Listen widely. I do have my favourites but sometimes I cheat on them to see what else is around . Is good to hear other perspectives and by doing so you also refresh your feed which means suggested podcasts will change and you will not fall in the trap of getting overly targeted!
And if you are looking for podcasts suggestions here are two of my lists
Top on sustainabile life
Top on science
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