What do you call a detective from the reformation? Martin Sleuther: Making Digital History Relevant

Last week I talked about having a social media presence and how that can relate to history. But besides the popular avenues like Twitter or blogging, how else can historians reach the public? PODCASTS!

I’m very excited about this week. I love podcasts! If you see me out walking around and I have headphones in, there is a good chance I’m listening to a podcast. As a medium, they are great because they are handsfree. I used to have a job cleaning residence hall rooms and to keep myself from going insane while scraping walls for 8 hours a day I would listen to podcasts. I tend to listen to comedy podcasts, but I have also listened quite a bit to ones that tell myths and legends and I am about to start listening to some about true crime.

I realize that I am probably in a minority of people who frequently (and sometimes binge) listen to podcasts. For some people its just not their thing, and for others it may be that they just don’t know where to find them. The other day I was scrolling through podcasts on Spotify looking for a history podcast to listen to and I compiled some pros and cons:

Pros:

  • It makes history accessible to almost anyone. Most podcasts are free and are set up to be easily understandable. So whether or not you have background in a certain event/time period you will be able to learn without feeling alienated.
  • It is handsfree. You don’t have to read a book. I listen to podcasts when I’m just sitting around, but also if I’m out walking or driving (which are times I probably should not be reading).
  • You can find podcasts on TONS of topics: WWI, WWII, Rome, Ireland, American history, certain objects, etc. Any topic you choose, you’re bound to find someone who is interested in it.
  • History podcasts generally are not presented in a serial way, meaning that you can pick and choose episodes that you want to listen too.

Cons:

  • Something I know about myself is that I’m very picky. So sometimes, no matter how great or informative a podcast could be, I will not listen to it if the person talks too slow or has a voice that I don’t want to listen to. So as a podcaster, some people might not give it a chance because of something like that. I guess it’s like the whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” but for an aural medium.
  • There are a lot of podcasts (and I know I put this in the pros too but hear me out). With such a large number of podcasts available, some with huge backlogs, it can be overwhelming. If you don’t know where to start to find a podcast you’re interested in, or if you’re like me who likes to listen in order, it can be a daunting task to even start.
  • A lot of people don’t listen to podcasts. They tend to be a forgotten medium and not a place that people first turn to for history. The task of public historians would be to start pushing podcasts, to let people know that they are out there.

 

Overall, I think this would  be a great medium for public historians to start taking advantage of, but there is a way to go before it will become part of the mainstream. So its something to keep an eye (or rather ear?) out for and if we as historians start talking about podcasts and recommending them to people, in the future it may just become another part of history.

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