Podcasting for Community Discussion

Over the last year, I’ve been working on a number of projects that have incorporated podcasting and radio programme making from a community media perspective. I’ve developed them as a form of public engagement, community development and personal empowerment, and while they serve different needs, they have a common thread that runs through them – which is that we shouldn’t leave a good conversation in the room, and that we should find ways to share what we are learning in our discussions so that we can contribute positively to our wider civic and social advancement.

The principles of civic deliberation on which these activities are based are summarised by explained by Donatella Porta and Alice Mattoni (Porta & Mattoni, 2013), and are defined as a dynamic integration between:

  • The transformation of preferences.
  • An orientation to the public good.
  • The use of arguments.
  • The development of consensus.

Looking back on the projects I’ve been organising, and considering how they have emerged, the focus on each one of these elements has been consistently present, through the extent to which this was consciously applied varies to a greater or lesser degree between them. Some projects might foreground these principles in a more explicit and up-front way than others, but the general expectation has been that personal and collective development is best achieved by undertaking reflexive discussion in a way that is publicly visibly and transparently.

This has meant ensuring that all the participants are aware that their contributions will be shared in the public domain, and will therefore be open to scrutiny, as other people can listen to and follow these journeys, as part of a shared and mutually supportive experience. The benefit in doing our thinking out in the open is that anyone who listens to the discussion might identify with the people involved and recognise that they may also be able to develop their confidence, and feel inspired to move forward with their lives.

One thing to consider, which goes against many of the ways that personal or community development is often conceived, is that these deliberative elements are not stages in a cycle; but form the stems from which the whole experience of reflexive development can be composed. We cannot easily divide them into separately designated instances, but must apprehend them, instead, as an integrated whole from which we take a holistic viewpoint.

What is required, then, is that we adopt a reflexive approach that anticipates transformation in a form that is emergent and developmental, which enables both individuals and groups to transcend beyond their established capability. I take the view that we are all capable of finding and absorbing shifts in our consciousness, where we take on new perspectives that increase the size and complexity of the field of our imagination. This means we can anticipate the needs of the future because we can imagine extended possibilities in the future.

Borne from the widening of perception and a willingness to seek increasing potential in our ideas and concerns, we can foster new activities that we didn’t think would be possible. Each project has been driven with these ideas in mind. First, to open the range of choices that are available, and to inspire the individuals involved to recognise their own expanding agency. Each person who takes part learns to be alive to the potential that they have to make meaningful choices related to the way that they represent themselves and interact with others.

Second, that in undertaking this kind of work, we can ensure that this articulation and capacity to speak is not simply of individual relevance, but is oriented towards the collective good, and the contribution that each person who participates can bring forward for mutual benefit. The wider the field of exchange of ideas that shape the concerns of the public good, then the more opportunity we have to distribute knowledge, and thereby reduce the monopoly that is too often held by narrow and dogmatic minded people, who feel entitled to exercise their concerns at the expense of others.

Third, the extension and laying out of different experiences and points of view is crafted as an exchange of ideas operating in the service of developmental argumentation. What is different about this approach is that it eschews conflict and the clash of ideas which often characterises a materialist or positivist outlook for human perception and cognition. The dialectical interaction of ideas does not need to be oppositional, as many have claimed, but can instead be recognised as a process of transcendence, in which intuitions, sensations, ideas, perceptions and experiences are synthesised into new modes of participation, borne from the tension of opposites rather than their annihilation.

Lastly, the development of concerns and further questions must reach a point at which balance is achieved, albeit temporarily. Consensus and agreement is not the sublimation of one set of ideas to another, but is instead a holding-point of balance between perspectives that has been temporarily achieved. This balance serves a purpose that is relevant to the moment, but should not be expected to be infinitely enduring. It would be wrong to suggest that consensus should be enduring and eternal. A simple instant of understanding can never be fixed, but only forms a moment of stability.

Self-reflexive examination, therefore, is neither fixed nor constant, but does illustrate that moments of mutual understanding and empathetic concern can be achieved, and that we are not doomed to play out endlessly conflicting roles in which we seek personal advantage and dominance over others. Dogmatism gives way to respect and mutual regard because we have listened and heard one another. This is the power of using podcasting and radio programme making. This is the power of working with audio as a listening tool for dialogue and discussion.

Evington Moot Podcast
Evington Moot Podcast

Evington Moots: I always enjoy introducing people to roundtable podcasts, especially when there is a common purpose to support community discussion and engagement. A moot is an Anglo-Saxon word for village meeting, which fits perfectly with the Evington Echo approach to community conversations.


Beta-X Podcast
Beta-X Podcast Recording

Beta-X Podcasts: Leicester’s pop-up hub for creative arts and design, Beta X has provided a much-needed space that is flexible and adaptable for different events and displays of work. We held a podcast discussion via Leicester Stories for Black History Month, considering how the experience of creative makers is shaped by their identity and what they have learnt from their time in Leicester.

Y-Heritage: Working with a group of young people, we visited museums and heritage sites in Norfolk to capture sounds and images that could be used to tell stories and reflect on the experience of being with a new group of people, in an unfamiliar place, while learning to capture sounds and images that can be used as a montage that shares the experience with other people.

Leicester Smart-City: Working with a group of community reporters regarding Leicester as a Smart City was enthralling. This project was supported by the Alan Turing Institute and Professor Edward Cartwright of De Montfort University. It raised many interesting questions about what the future holds as more layers of technology are integrated into community life in Leicester.


Community Media Discussion: Each Thursday we’ve been chatting about community media, and the kinds of issues that are not covered in a mainstream media approach to community engagement. We’ve tried to come up with a broad sense of what the role and purpose of community media is, and how we can encourage more participation in grassroots and DIY media. I’ve learnt leads from our discussion and the sharing of experiences and practices.

IN-CJ Podcasts: The worldwide reach of the International Network for Criminal Justice has been building with each podcast and discussion we’ve held. It’s been fascinating using video conferencing and social media to foster and host conversations about criminal justice, especially as international travel now has a premium. Bringing people into the conversation who wouldn’t normally take part has been a challenge, but applying the principles of community media has helped achieve greater participative equity.

Porta, D. D., & Mattoni, A. (2013). Cultures of Participation in Social Movements. In A. Delwiche & J. J. Henderson (Eds.), The Participatory Cultures Handbook (pp. 171-181). Routledge.


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