Podcasting as Therapy 01

We live in an age of social anxiety, in which we are more easily able to say what we care about, than what we care for. We are dominated by the lure of social status, the drive towards power, wealth and moral certainty. However, we are paying the price for this myopia in record levels of recorded loneliness, depression, social anxiety, exclusion, stress and the feeling of the breakdown of social cohesion.

According to Nel Noddings, the function of caring goes beyond obligations and functional reciprocity. Caring is instead, according to Noddings, founded on processes of capability building in which care is recognised as pragmatic and visceral set of actions and behaviours, rather than abstract laws or imperatives. Nodding’s says that the strength to care comes from the feminine social role, with its ability to move past patriarchal logical and social categories. Offering, instead, forms of caring that are nurturing, developmental and holistic (Noddings, 2013).

Okay, why do I think that this is important? I’ve recently been thinking about how I approach podcasting, and what the different expectations are that I draw on when I am using podcasts as a tool for learning. I like creating and producing different types of podcasts, but the type I find most enriching is the conversational style of podcast, where a group of people come together, sit around some microphones, put headphones on, and have a good chat about things they are concerned about. They usually last about an hour. Time for a good mug of tea.

What I want to write about here, is not just how these podcasts work and what role they play, but what is got from them by participating in them. Along with some of the regular contributors we usually end up by saying that we feel better for having spent the hour talking. Its as if recording the podcast is like a therapy session.

Indeed, what I want to develop across a set of blogs here, are some comments and thoughts that podcasting can be just like a therapy session, and that this realisation has the potential to point us in a new direction when we consider the teaching, development and practice of media engagement.

Podcasting as therapy is one way of describing this, though the word therapy has heavy connotations. Podcasting as healing might be better, though I’ve never considered my role in training and helping people to use media to be that of a healer?

Perhaps where this points to, is a recognition of the role of self-produced, open-form, conversation style podcasts, is the opportunity for people to get together, share their ideas, form and test those thoughts and ideas, appreciate that other people also engage in the same process, and then what we realise when we start to listen back to our voices?

So, I have a couple of questions that I want to consider, and a couple of schools of thought that I want to look at them in the context of. Firstly, what do we mean by thinking? William James calls thinking a gesture, by which he meant that thinking involves an active process of enunciation. The act of putting things into words is only part of what we comprehend as thinking.

Secondly, Carl Jung argues that we can’t achieve individuation, a sense of reconciliation and wholeness, unless we are able to understand the conscious and the subconscious parts of our sense of being. Jung was an advocate of the talking cure, what we call psychotherapy.

Thirdly, in media studies terms, it is usual to try to identify the categories of operation, structure, relationships and forms and practices, that have given form to the different expectations around media. Podcasting is a great example of how the conventions of broadcasting are being tested and challenged (thankfully), and a new set of practices are beginning to emerge.

It would be a problem for me, however, if we just applied the methods of the past to examine what is emerging, rather than looking to see what is driving these changes.

Usually, this kind of study is based on carefully observed objective collection of information, and part of what I will do will involve that. However, our own personal, subjective and partial experience is seldom accounted for. So, I want to use this as a way of keeping a journal of observations about the process of developing some podcasts, and spend some time reflecting on what I get out of it, and what other people tell me that they get out of it.

It’s not common to use direct and first-hand experience to relate a systematic and empirically defined model of media engagement, but in this instance, if I’m suggesting that podcasting has therapeutic potential, then I’d better get myself ready to think about that and share my thoughts on what I experience.

So, future blogs will look at: how the mass media transactional model is overdue for revision; how therapists themselves use podcasting as a way of promoting or facilitating their practices; how changes in the technical capacity of audio recording devices, distribution platforms and the alternative voices that social media allows space for, means that podcasts have the potential to provide a rich and diverse field of social engagement?

Finally, how does this fit with the need for change in society, so that we are able to address issues of social isolation, breakdowns in community cohesion, a restructuring of social hierarchies that lead to stress, and a feeling that we don’t have the ability to meaningfully contribute?

I have absolutely no interest in knowing the numbers of people who listen to my podcasts. That’s not the reason that I make them. I produce them because I feel better once I’ve done it. Explaining this process, and seeing of others feel the same, seems to be a useful thing to think about right now.