Podcast as Life Writing

Kellie Chouinard and I created a podcast about podcasts for our Spring 2022 class ENGL 788 – Literature as Equipment for Living. Grounded in Kellie’s Ph.D. research in digital life writing, we thought about how podcasts are a type of digital literature, equipment for living, and an effective medium for life writing. Listen to our podcast on Soundcloud.

In the recording studio: Kellie, Aimée and Lisa (L-R)

Show Notes – Podcast as Life Writing

Join us, Kellie Chouinard and Lisa Brackenridge, as we discuss podcasts as a tool for life writing. Kellie is a PhD student at the University of Waterloo and a digital life writing scholar. Lisa is a master’s student at Waterloo in experiential digital media. This podcast is our final term project for English 788 – Literature as Equipment for Living with Dr. R.A. Harris. 

In our podcast, we talk with Dr. Aimée Morrison, a professor and digital life writing scholar at the University of Waterloo. Aimée’s research explores social media as a platform for auto/biography and activism. She also co-hosts her own podcast called All the Things ADHD with Lee Skallerup Bessette about navigating life as professional women diagnosed with ADHD in their 40s.

            In our chat with Aimée, we talk about the value of life writing and touch on several aspects of podcasts that make them ideal spaces for life writing, including: 

  1. podcasts as a type of inter and intra-digital social medium, 
  2. podcasts reliance on audio (and sometimes video) and sonic rhetoric, and 
  3. the conversation aspects of podcasts as an opportunity for authentic connection. 

We also get into the importance of voice and personal storytelling in podcasts as a medium for life writing. Special thanks to Dr. Morrison for her time and insight and to Dr. Kišiček for her insight on sonic rhetoric.

Here are notes and links to some of the scholars, podcasts and digital media that we reference in our podcast:

  • (7:53) We mention Hannah McGregor’s podcast, “Witch, please”. McGregor is an author, researcher, podcaster and assistant professor at Simon Fraser University. Our own podcast follows the emerging genre of scholarly podcasting, exemplified by McGregor’s Secret Feminist Agenda podcast, WLU Press, and Amplify podcast network. These scholarly podcasts and networks seek to expand the realm of academic writing to encompass other means of sharing information across different spaces and platforms (About). Aimée makes the case that podcasts can be both life writing and scholarly.
  • (10:45) Aimée references Joe Rogan, referring to The Joe Rogan Experience — a long-form conversation-based podcast he hosts. The Joe Rogan Experience is exclusive to Spotify and often the top-ranking podcast in North America. He releases several episodes each week, with each episode running between two and four hours long. Joe Rogan is frequently in the media for his controversial content (e.g., violent remarks about homeless people, spreading COVID-19 misinformation). 
  • (11:37) Aimée references The Ezra Klein show, a podcast from the New York Times.
  • (21:12) Aimée mentions the New York Times podcast, Still Processing, hosted by Wesley Morris and J Wortham.        
  • (21:59) Aimée mentions the blog Hook & Eye about the realities of being women working in the Canadian university system. Aimée was a co-founder, editor, and contributor to the blog.
  • (22:39) Aimée talks about Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness’s perspective on greater identity awareness. In an interview in 2019, Van Ness is quoted as saying, “I didn’t think I was allowed to be nonconforming or genderqueer or nonbinary — I was just always like ‘a gay man’ because that’s just the label I thought I had to be” (Schmidt).
  • (27:59) We play a clip of Aimée’s podcast All The Things ADHD. As Kellie says, the clip is from Season 4, Episode 23: Crazy Advice for Neurotypical People. The clip runs from 25:40 to about 26:00, and we hear Aimée say, “In fact, my husband and I had a fight about this because we were talking about my insomnia, which is a common topic of conversation recently <whispers> because I’m not sleeping. And it takes over my life. I look like a functioning human being, but I’m not.”
  • (30:02) Aimée mentions how she changes the tone of her voice for parenting versus appearing on the radio. She mentions Spark, a CBC radio show about how technology, innovation, and design affect our lives, on which she has appeared as an expert guest.
  • (32:24) We reference Dax Shepard’s Podcast, Armchair Expert, in the context of Kišiček’s discussion of how prosodic elements “rely on stereotypes and frequently work on a subconscious level” (Kišiček, 20). Aimée mentions Shepard’s co-host and producer/actor Monica Padman.
  • (38:10) Lisa miscredits Smith and Watson when referring to Philippe Lejeune’s writing about the autobiographical pact (Lejeune).
  • (39:05) Aimée mentions BeReal, a social media app that asks users to share photos at certain times each day using the back and front camera and no filters.
  • (40:15) Lisa mentions Educated, a memoir by Tara Westover. Westover’s family followed the tenets of the Mormon Church and led an isolationist lifestyle.
  • (45:13) Kellie mentions the “Morrison Method”, a framework for researching and evaluating social media-based life writing, from Aimée’s chapter, “Social, Media, Life Writing : Online Lives at Scale, Up Close, and In Context,” in the book, Research Methodologies for Auto/Biography Studies.
  • (47:11) Kellie mentions a podcast about dating where a follow-up episode was composed of voice messages from listeners. The series, “Love Hurts,” was part of Lea Thau’s podcast, Strangers. Siobhán McHugh writes about this series in her chapter, “Memoir for Your Ears” in the book, Mediating Memory.
  • (47:50) Aimée mentions podcasts with detailed show notes with references including On the Media from WNYC studios.
  • (53:07) Aimée references Garrison Keillor’s “The News from Lake Wobegon”, a segment from A Prairie Home Companion – a two-hour, live, weekly variety program. In 2007, American Public Media began offering it as a podcast. She also mentions David Sedaris, an American author and radio contributor whose stories are often featured on This American Life podcast.
  • (53:25) Aimée mentions Thomas King’s Dead Dog Cafe — a spoken-word short-form comedy show with an indigenous perspective.

This episode uses the musical track, “80s loop #7,” created by Daniel Lucas (danlucaz) for FreeSound.com (2020).

Works Cited and Further Reading

Abel, Jessica. Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. First edition., B/D/W/Y/Broadway Books, 2015.

Bottomley, Andrew J. “Symposium – Podcasting: A Decade in the Life of a New Audio Medium – Introduction.” Journal of Radio & Audio Media, vol. 22, no. 2, 2015, pp. 164–69.

Detweiler, Eric. “Sounding Out the Progymnasmata.” Rhetoric Review, vol. 38, no. 2, 2019, pp. 205–18. Scholars Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1080/07350198.2019.1588567.

Dowling, David O., and Kyle J. Miller. “Immersive Audio Storytelling: Podcasting and Serial Documentary in the Digital Publishing Industry.” Journal of Radio & Audio Media, vol. 26, no. 1, 2019, pp. 167–84. Scholars Portal Journals, https://doi.org/10.1080/19376529.2018.1509218.

Felski, Rita. “On Confession” in  Women, Autobiography, Theory: A Reader, edited by Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson. University of Wisconsin Press, 1998, pp. 83-95.

Geoghegan, Michael W., and Dan Klass. Podcast Solutions: The Complete Guide to Podcasting. Apress, 2005. 

Kišiček, Gabrijela. “Sonic Rhetoric: The Persuasive Power of Spoken Language.” To be published in Routledge Handbook of Language and Persuasion, edited by J Fahnestock and RA Harris, Routledge, 2022.

McHugh, Siobhán. “Memoir for Your Ears: The Podcast Life.” Mediating Memory, Routledge, 2017.

McLuhan, Marshall. Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. Critical ed., Gingko Press, 2003.

Morrison, Aimée. “Social, Media, Life Writing : Online Lives at Scale, Up Close, and In Context.” Research Methodologies for Auto/Biography Studies, edited by Kate Douglas and Ashley Barnwell, Routledge, 2019, pp. 41–48. 

Schmidt, Samantha. “Jonathan Van Ness of ‘Queer Eye’ Comes out as Non-Binary.” Washington Post, 11 June 2019. http://www.washingtonpost.com

Smith, Sidonie, and Julia Watson. Reading Autobiography: A Guide for Interpreting Life Narratives. 2nd ed., University of Minnesota Press, 2010.

Tannen, Deborah. Talking Voices: Repetition, Dialogue, and Imagery in Conversational Discourse. 2nd Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007. 

van Driel, Martine. “Genre Expectations and Discourse Community Membership in Listener Reviews of True Crime-Comedy Podcast My Favorite Murder.” Language and Literature: International Journal of Stylistics, Apr. 2022.

Westover, Tara. Educated: A Memoir. First Canadian edition., HarperCollins Publishers Ltd., 2018.

Wrather, Kyle. “Making ‘Maximum Fun’ for Fans: Examining Podcast Listener Participation Online.” Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media, vol. 14, no. 1, Apr. 2016, pp. 43–63.

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