By: Eden Kinkaid, Kelsey Brain, and Nari Senanayake
Article Title, Issue and Volume:
The podcast-as-method?: Critical reflections on using podcasts to produce geographic knowledge. In the special issue: Challenging Research Methods in 21st Century Geography.
What is the main purpose of your study?
Our study explores how podcasts can be used to produce geographic knowledge. Podcasts have been used to communicate geographic ideas and to teach geography in the classroom. We extend this potential to consider how the podcast medium might also be used as a research method: as a way to produce geographic scholarship. We examine how the podcast provides opportunities to process and represent data differently (because of its audio format) and how including different voices in our research outputs may create more sustained and inclusive dialogue within and beyond the academy.
What are the practical, day to day, implications of your study?
A January 2019 CBS News Poll found that 2/3 of residents of the U.S. listen to podcasts, a dramatic increase from just a few years ago. As podcasts become a core medium for communicating information, scholars must critically consider how podcasts can represent and even produce geographic knowledge. Our study contributes an innovative method for geographers and other scholars to produce and communicate geographic knowledge. Further, many contemporary social and environmental problems that we study as geographers, like climate change, migration, gentrification, and rural change, are complex issues that require sustained dialogue to solve. The emotive and polyvocal possibilities of podcasts offer new ways to engage these topics and foster dialogue across the boundaries of the academy and civil society.
How does your study relate to other work on the subject?
Our discussion of the podcast as method contributes to a rich tradition of methodological innovation in the social sciences. It builds upon recent sound-based research in geography, including radio and sound-walk methods.
What are two or three interesting findings that come from your study?
Our study identifies three important potentials of podcasts as a geographic method. First, including samples of research participants’ voices in podcasts allows for the production of knowledge that is situated in the embodied emotions, positionalities, and responses of both researchers and research participants. Second, it enables a research product that is polyvocal and dialogic, which stands in contrast to traditional academic outputs (i.e., journal articles). Third, this medium and method can contribute to debates outside of the academy, engaging new audiences and contributing to projects of social change.
What might be some of the theoretical implications of this study?
This study advances discussions of innovative field methods and creative approaches to producing geographic scholarship. It develops both the potentials and challenges of working with podcasts as a form of research, insights we hope will support geographers and other scientists as they experiment with this medium and method.
How does your research help us think about Geography?
While our study advances geographic scholarship methodologically, it also challenges geographers and other scientists to critically reflect on their role in public debate. Engaging innovative methods like the podcast can bring new voices into scientific knowledge production, reach new audiences, and make research a more collaborative and socially relevant enterprise.