Thoughts on Emerging in Perpetuity
by Eddie Lopez
When our wonderful @Ishi Ghai came around trying to start a Tech and Narrative Lab based podcast, I had to join. It was novel, cool, and just such a neat experiment to see how we – as people who will all potentially influence tech policy one day – grappled with explaining technology to people.
I have a confession though: up to that point, I didn’t really know what podcast were. Like, I knew what they were by definition… but experience wise, I had none. Thus, when I looked back at my experience with our podcast, it was really hard to judge it as anything – success, failure, or otherwise.
By happenstance, that actually has changed over the last couple months! In a mix of class assignments, friendships, and my own love of sports, I have finally become exposed to the likes of many different podcasts (i.e. Revisionist History, How I Built This, Babbage from The Economist, and What’s Wright? With Nick Wright to name a few). With such experience in hand, I thought it was finally right to revisit my experiences on Emerging in Perpetuity – the good, the bad, and some thoughts on the way forward.
What is Emerging in Perpetuity?
Emerging in Perpetuity was the Tech and Narrative Lab based podcast I mentioned earlier. At its core, it originates from the idea that technology, as it further integrates into broader society, affects a larger number of both people and industries. Consequently, the need for good tech policy rises, as well as the players that must be considered in such policies. And how does one do that? How do we, as a society, expand our understanding of the applications, implications, and ethics that are associated with emerging tech?
While not a complete solution, one of the ways that we thought to address this was in “future scenarios” – things that could possibly play out ten, fifteen, or twenty years down the line. Like, what happens if the gig economy becomes a more dominant force in the work industry? How does the world change around us? What would have had to happen? This exact scenario is what we walked through in our first podcast arc… and as you could imagine, the possible future scenarios are endless.
How it worked
To create each episode, our team developed and played “interviewees” that existed in these future scenarios. As an example, we took a gig worker that existed within that “scenario’s” gig industry and asked him various questions. The person who helped give rise to the gig industry’s dominance (think LinkedIn meets TaskRabbit) was also interviewed. We also threw characters that did our current researcher roles into the mix… and slowly but surely, each episode came together. Discussions were recorded as reading scripts, and then edited and posted to the Tech and Narrative Lab website.
Before we begin, please note that I am no longer on the podcast team, and thus, this only speaks to my experiences in working the first arc.
As for actual reflections post-listening to other podcast, I think our idea definitely fits into the podcast category of listening. It is reflective, boasts engaging dialogue, and offers a similar level of analysis that I have tended to find in other podcasts. However, unlike other podcasts, ours was completely scripted. At the time, we deemed this necessary due to our lack of depth in such a topic. However, I think that also hurt us; it made our podcast lack that “scripted and non-scripted” dialogue dynamic that most other podcasts have. Granted, I think our premise is also very different than most podcasts… which consequently leads me to some lingering questions for our podcast specifically; what is the way forward?
Firstly, in creating scenario arcs, our podcast is relying on viewers remembering things from prior podcast to a significant level. This is a little different than other podcast I have listened to, as well as may deal with topics that aren’t as familiar to the average podcast user. The question of “how do we ensure ease of memory / jump that gap?” is a big one.
With regards to creating scenarios and our own expertise, I think the team may need to rely on something more than ourselves to establish the depth, as well as the podcast episode, release pace, that we wish. Luckily, RAND is known for having experts in all kinds of fields… so maybe we leverage our parent company relationship and informally consult some researchers for a little more subject expertise? Better yet, maybe at some point we could get RAND researchers as interviewees~ This could give us some of the non-scripted dynamic we are looking for… but may come at the cost of QA / academic freedom. It’s an interesting cost-benefit analysis… and definitely a discussion for another time.
Overall, I do think our podcast is a work in progress… but in the end, that’s just it! Work in progress means we are still working through it, and if we continue to do so, I think the path forward is only upwards. If interested, please feel free to listen to the latest podcast episode here. I believe the team is on a new arc!!
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