PhD Journal Entry 10: Finally, a Question

It has been too long since my last PhD journal entry here on Lounge Ruminator, however to be clear, I am also attempting to maintain a journal to document my lessons and efforts in podcasting and a separate one for my thoughts and ideas as I read… on top of all the note-taking! Of course, this is all self-inflicted but I do enjoy the process of discovery and reflection.

I feel that I have come a long way since my last entry, as I have continued my reading not only in media ecology and podcasting, but also in radio, fan studies and parasocial interaction. This combined literature has helped me to craft a research question, which was my greatest struggle. All along, I have been interested in the artistic creation, technical details and fan practices that go into the production and consumption of niche tech podcasts. There is a genuine feeling of community among the producers and fans of the shows that I listen to—which is naturally present in many other types of fandom or group—however there is also a determination to discuss the how and why of the medium of podcasting. This is something that podcasters in other genres (true crime or sport, for example) do not discuss: what it means to podcast and how it should be done. It feels like a different world of podcasting within the wider galaxy of podcasting.

After attempting to word various different questions, some of which were too long or vague, I finally settled on a question to drive my research, of which both of my supervisors fortunately approve:

How do indie producers of niche tech podcasts present a “countervailing thrust” against more mainstream, corporate players in the industry?

In formulating this question, I now have a much clearer sense of direction and clarity. Over time, as I was reading more texts, it seemed that I was looking at all podcasts—too great a task!—when I was actually supposed to be looking at a particular type of podcasting practice, within the networks that interest me.

I have also found texts that combine various aspects of media ecology and podcasting scholarship. A great example is one by MacDougall (2011), who some time ago cited McLuhan and Ong in proposing the idea that podcasting is a kind of secondary orality—an example of a new oral culture that is aware of and builds on its literary/print-based roots. MacDougall (2011) also cites Carey in his assertion that podcasting is a new kind of ritualistic communication. At first, I felt a sense of dread that my thinking was no longer original, as I had enthusiastically noted these ideas down myself, prior to reading his text. Upon reflection and discussion with my supervisors, however, it was concluded that this is a good thing; someone has already said it, so I can’t be that crazy. Instead, I can build on these ideas to found out niche tech podcasting challenges the mainstream.

I am now spending more time exploring literature in the field of radio studies. I had been reading about podcasting first, which when considering the emergence of each medium chronologically, may not seem to make any sense. The funny thing is that as in order to determine who I should read in the scholarly world of radio (as a beginner in the field), I had to read podcast scholars first to see who they cited from the field, either to acknowledge its influence or insist that podcasting is its own thing.

Very soon, I will have to do a lot of writing for my literature review. There is still much to read before that time, however I now feel confident that things are now crystallising in my mind.

Source: MacDougall, R.C., 2011, ‘Podcasting and Political Life’, in American Behavioral Scientist, Vol. 55, No. 6, pp. 714–732.

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