“I have let far too many eggs crack before they even hatched!”, I muttered in disappointment as I was thinking of numerous ideas that did not see the light of the day. I was referring to my ideas as “eggs”. With the world going into a lock-down due to the virus, I have been laying a LOT of these metaphorical eggs – or ideas!
After my disappointed mutter, my trusted friend, Akash – came to the rescue! Who says modern damsels don’t like to reinforce the savior archetype once in a long while!? And so, the metaphorical egg of creating a podcast slowly started incubating. Ouch, I think I will get back to talking straight, and give up the egg metaphors (eggzactly!).
Akash is my colleague from my Bachelors’ days at Fergusson College, Pune. It has been many years of our friendship, and he continues to be my archaeology helpline 101. I was mulling over the idea of creating a podcast for South Asian archaeology and anthropology, and I could not think of anyone better than Akash to team up with! He is also a PhD candidate like myself and he researches the prehistory of South Asia. Instead of my interpretation of his project, it is best to let him talk about his expertise and his project when to get to it in the podcast!
Our podcast, titled “Chippin’ Away” is a journey into South-Asian Archaeology and Anthropology. We will chip away at the various aspects of the ancient world one episode at a time. The name is inspired from the fashioning of stone tools and other artefacts from the archaeological data.
We will be dropping the first episode of “Chippin’ Away” on April 1st, 2020 (9am IST)! Just two days to go!! The podcast will be accessible on iTunes, on kalemighty.com (this site) and will be hosted on Spotify by mid-April 2020. The podcast will be open-sourced, licensed with Creative Commons, and we encourage you to give it a listen, share and share more 🙂
But before I plunge into talking more about our podcast, I want to talk about the process! (Oh yes, I cannot get enough of thinking about processes – as you may have gathered by now)
In addition to the academic reading and writing, I always hoped for a wider interaction with the community. And since I know mainly about South Asian history, archaeology and anthropology, it is my “go to” trove for pulling out topics for discussion (what a nerd, I am). I am exploring options to contribute for popular media such as newspapers and magazines. In the meantime, I want to work on my skills of communication via other media. The rising popularity of podcasts caught my attention as an avenue to build on my goal to connect with the non-specialist audience. I will further venture into the world of YouTube videos after polishing some rough edges in terms of technological expertise.
Podcast are gradually dominating the media scene due to its versatility. You can listen to a podcast while in transit, or while cleaning your house, or also as a background noise as you lull yourself to sleep. The active visual interaction for the podcasts is close to none (except from selecting the podcast based on the cover-art, etc). Podcast is mainly a fuel to the ears and ultimately for the mind! Funny, serious, fact-based, fictional material, biographic, travelogues, journal-like… you name it, podcasts cover it!
I looked for podcasts on South-Asian archaeology, and found close to nothing! There are some podcasts on history of India, cuisines from Pakistan, books from South Asia and so on, but none tackling the material culture of the sub-continent. And so here I was – wondering to myself, why not start one, myself?
Was the big question. I have zero experience of podcasting, except some secondary exposure of talking to people who have done it in the past. I started exploring options to put together a team for the podcast.
One narrator vis-a–vis dialogue
I was listening to a number of podcasts as I went about my day. And I realized the vital role of soundscapes in a podcast that hold your attention. With one narrator, I often found myself drift away with my own thoughts and lose the track of the material in the podcast. Lengthy podcasts did that too me as well. I think I have a very limited attention span! So what I learnt from my own experience is to have succinct narration, preferably multi-vocal! And then my quest for a co-host for the podcast began, that finally ceased with Akash coming on board!
Multi-vocality, for me, lends a dailogical character to the podcast that opens up further avenues of exploration of a topic. One person makes a statement, that can be supplemented by the other and so on. One can reiterating the points through both the speakers on the podcast that you would want to stick with the listeners. Our first episode, for instance, closes with the echoing of “Stay home, stay safe” issued by almost all the governments across the globe. That said, monologue may be a preference for some.
Treatment of the topic
The podcasts that I listened to, so far, follow some approach to discuss the selected topic. Some podcasts treat the topics with an air of casual approach, while some dive in deep to make an academic discussion. I want our podcast to draw from the academic sources while making it palatable and approachable for any one who decides to give it a listen. Although the episodes in a podcast are strung together with a thread of a common theme, each episode needs some individual preparation in its own right. The treatment of the topic in an episode further influences the time spent in discussion each facet of the selected topic. We intend to keep a casual discussion with a short episode.
Soundscapes and greeting
Punctuating the dialogue on the podcast with sound effects makes for an interesting soundscape that holds the attention. Similarly, the opening and closing pieces of some tune work well for most of the podcasts. In addition to the sound-effects, an enthusiastic greeting and a short note to orient the listener is recommended on the leading podcast help websites. The “hook” for the podcast lies in these opening seconds right after the host welcomes the listener. What counts as an appropriate greeting, is open to interpretation. It is a no-brainer, but if the overall tone is serious, maybe “hi, Howdy” greeting will not sit well. On the other hand, I would steer away from greetings that associate with certain sects, religions, nationalities – unless your podcast targets such an audience or deals with specific material. With all this summary, I must admit that we are still struggling to find a “perfect” starting and closing for the episode… After all, “perfect” is just a mental construct 😉
And while we chip away and polish the first episode, stay tuned for more updates and the podcast uploads!