For the past few years, I have been listening on the sidelines to the explosion of creativity and insights emerging from contemporary podcasts. I am listening to dozens of different podcasts every week, constantly trying out anything recommended to me. Well, sooner or later, it was going to happen – I’ve been hit hard with the urge to develop my own podcasts, which will allow me to interview people in my network that would never have had the time to do the lengthy interviews we run here on the blog.
I have been in conversation with Colin MacClay who currently runs the Annenberg Innovation Lab. Colin and I have a long history going back to when he was at the Berkman Center at Harvard and I was at MIT. And we share a suite in the old Annenberg building.
Over the fall, conversation led to experimentation led to more actionable plans and now, to the launch of our podcast. Our vision is to tap people from our combined network of activists, policy makers, artists, technologists, fans, educators, journalists, and media industry insiders, all of whom have something interesting to say about the relationship between popular culture and politics.
We are calling the podcast, for now, “How Do You Like It So Far,” a title intended to signal that we are still trying to figure out what we are doing and would appreciate your feedback. Our approach – again, for now – is to focus onto some of the hot media properties and franchises of the moment as starting points for exploring the bigger picture developments which are reshaping the media landscape. Think of it as a return, for me, to the structure I used in Convergence Culture – the franchise is a point of entry but our explorations go broader and sometimes leave that starting point behind.
The podcast is going to dig deeper, ask more ambitious questions than most pop culture podcasts out there – we are not doing recaps or just remaining on the level of entertainment coverage. For us, popular culture offers resources for asking questions about who we are and where we are going, questions that can be political, legal, technological, economic, or social, but often cut across all of the above.
So, in the first cluster of episodes, we are turning out attention onto The Last Jedi, which we are coming at from multiple angles. The first episode, which you can access here, is an interview with Ahmed Best, the actor who played the part of Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars prequels, perhaps one of the most hated characters in the franchise. But Best could not be a nicer or more thoughtful guy, and he’s spent much of the past decade plus digging deeper into issues of inclusion and representation, so we focused our interview mostly around the racial politics of Star Wars, and in the process, learned more about representational politics in contemporary Hollywood. Check it out here.
If you like what Best has to say, check out his Afrofuturist podcast here.
Coming Up Next Week: transmedia producer Jeff Gomez joins us to talk about how changing storytelling practices in contemporary Hollywood (which involve a rethinking of Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey myth for a more diverse culture) may account for the fragmented audience response to The Last Jedi.
And from there, we will be digging into fan reception, taking soundings into what the debate about Last Jedi looks like for both male and female fans, and beyond that, we will zoom out to think about the struggles over inclusion and representation in the entertainment industry more generally.
Watch this space for more updates, while we work out arrangements with iTunes to set up a subscription for the podcast.
Given that this podcast is being hosted by two white dudes who used to work for elite east coast institutions and now work two doors apart at USC, we are committed to insuring a diversity of guests as defined in terms of race, gender, and national perspective.
We welcome your feedback on any aspect of the podcasts, including suggestions of potential guests or questions you would like for us to explore. We have lots to learn but that is going to be half the fun, and we hope you will join us along the way.