PhD Journal Entry 5: Virtual Coffee with a Media Ecologist

In what seems to be a bit of a habit for me, I’ve changed the title format for entries in this PhD study journal; I did the same thing for my ‘ruminations’ on Lounge Ruminator. After a while, I start to find the titles either boring or non-specific.

After joining the Media Ecology Association (MEA) to support my research, I discovered that you can have a ‘virtual coffee’ with a media ecologist over FaceTime or Skype. This is a new service that the MEA offers, helping students, early-career scholars and even experienced researchers to engage with media ecologists and enhance their understanding of the field.

After a bit of to and fro with emails, I managed to organise a FaceTime call with MEA co-founder Lance Strate, who is an accomplished researcher, author of numerous articles and books and also a former student of Neil Postman. It was a fantastic opportunity to put a face to the name and hear directly from an influential media ecologist. He was extraordinarily helpful in prompting me to think about the history of audio and the devices that we have used to listen to it over time.

As I’m relatively new to the field of media ecology, I have much to consider in how I approach my research about podcasting as not just content, but also as a medium/platform/art form that influences, shapes and determines a very particular style and tone of content. As Postman said in 1998, ‘Technology giveth and technology taketh away’—in other words, there is always a trade-off with every medium or technology. What do podcasts offer that radio, blogging or video-streaming do not? What is it missing that these other media provide?

Making connections with researchers in a field—beyond just reading their content—gives greater context and confidence. Humans are social animals and we thrive on the ability to communicate, after all. In this case, being able to talk and have an auditory experience with a person, rather than just a visual experience with a text, was very beneficial.