Over the last several weeks I have been loving Eran’s series of interviews with scholars working on the early American history of race and racist ideas. Content aside – which has been excellent – I find the conversational and easy flow of interviews a deeply satisfying and engaging form of being introduced to a new argument, perspective, or discovery. I’ve also been listening on and off to the podcast The Viking Age, for no other reason than personal enjoyment. Podcasts, too, are a slightly more personalized form than many mediums designed to educate; even audio books are not quite the same, as they are written primarily to be read and not spoken aloud and, more often than not, are not read by the author themselves.
What is it about interviews and podcasts that make absorbing information so much more stimulating? Perhaps it is how they replicate the experience of a conversation, even when, in the case of podcasts, there is no immediate talking-back. Podcasters typically read from a script, but such scripts are often written as though the listener is a warm acquaintance and the setting is not a competitive space – there is no professor who will ultimately issue grades pacing before students in a large hall – but rather a cozy, semi-personal one; perhaps the inside of a car or a sunny table outside a coffee shop.