Why Podcasting?

Podcasting is a comparatively new medium that is achieving increasing popularity alongside substantial interest for educational purposes, but it is only beginning to be explored as a tool for research. It has to-date been viewed as a part of the teaching work of academics, rather than the practice or distribution of research and scholarship (Berry 2006; Ralph and Olsen 2007). While academics are certainly making podcasts (as the list of scholarly podcasts under References indicates), they are rarely discussed as a form of scholarly communication, largely due to the ongoing focus on peer-reviewed journal articles and monographs as the only legitimate forms of research dissemination (Bond and Gannon 2019). As Kathleen Fitzpatrick puts it, academe is still “trapped in an early twentieth century model of scholarly production that simply no longer works” (Fitzpatrick 2011: 18).

Along with Fitzpatrick (2011; 2019), others have observed the limitations of traditional forms of peer review and publishing. Lynch (2001) and Moulthrop (2005) have examined our fixation on written text (in short and long forms) as the primary and most highly valued means of scholarly expression. Fitzpatrick has also inspired a range of scholars to reflect on new models of networked social scholarship, including blogging and social media (Veletsianos & Kimmons 2012, Maitzen 2012; Arbuckle et al. 2015). These experimental models of digital scholarly production are their own form of research, as they have the potential to produce new understandings of both digital production and humanities research (Brown 2011). Nevertheless, scholars like Fitzpatrick and Brown identify a number of key barriers to this kind of experimentation, including a need to rethink how we assess academic value (McGann 2005; McPherson 2009; Galey and Ruecker 2010; Mandell 2012) and a corresponding need to understand more fully the benefits of non-traditional scholarship, including increased public outreach, the development of professional networks, and more rapid dissemination of new ideas (Maitzen 2012; Acord and Harley 2012; Stewart 2016; Bond and Gannon 2019).

Examples like the Scholars Strategy Network’s No Jargon (which “presents weekly interviews with America’s top researchers on the politics, policy problems, and social issues facing the nation”) and the University of British Columbia’s Cited (a project that pairs radio producers with academics to produce documentary-style audio stories about research) demonstrate that scholars are using podcasts to bring research out of the academy. With wide circulation and hundreds of episodes, they provide exciting potential case studies. The New Books podcast network, which brings scholars together to discuss new books in more than 50 subject areas, also provides abundant examples to examine. Its recent addition to LitHub Radio, a new podcasting network run by popular literary website LitHub (published by Grove Atlantic), demonstrates the potential of podcasting to increase the audience for scholarly communication, in this case through the circulation of interviews about new peer-reviewed books. Given the success of these examples, why are scholarly podcasts still comparatively rare?

Altman (2015) recognizes that the lack of incentives to create high-quality, well-produced scholarly podcasts is a significant barrier to their creation. Ted Riecken is also interested in the potential of podcasts, but recognizes, as do many others, that there is an economic imperative to publish articles, as, despite increasing incentives towards open-access publishing, traditional publications remain the “coin of the realm”; therefore, scholars must develop “valuations of new media contributions” and determine how such work gets “converted, literally and metaphorically” into the old academic currency (Riecken 2014). Without models for how to create and evaluate scholarly podcasts, the opportunity cost of experimenting in this new form of scholarly communication may be too high for many scholars. While conversations about the evaluation of digital scholarship (Presner 2012; MLA 2012; Bond and Gannon 2019) and publicly engaged scholarship (Alperin et al. 2018) are ongoing, new approaches to peer review are an ideal way to build space for non-traditional scholarship.

University presses are well-situated to address this opportunity cost by supporting the incorporation of scholarly podcasts into established networks and conventions of scholarly communication, particularly via university presses’ expertise in overseeing peer review and in disseminating and promoting published research. WLU Press has already successfully piloted the peer review of a scholarly podcast through the SSHRC Insight Development Grant funded project “Scholarly Podcasting in Canada,” which proposed to prototype and test a new process for the peer review of scholarly podcasts. The podcast created through that project, Secret Feminist Agenda, hosted and produced by Hannah McGregor, has released over 80 episodes and attracted approximately 7,500 subscribers, with over 350,000 episode downloads since July 2017. Each of the podcast’s three seasons has been subject to open peer review by two scholars in the field, which is shared and explained in further detail on WLU Press’s website (McMenemy 2018) and in the attached Evidence of Formal Partnership. This work has been recognized by scholars, publishers, and podcast listeners as an important contribution to experimentation in born-digital and open forms of scholarly communication as well as innovative approaches to peer review processes. The impactful outcomes of this work are proposed as a foundation to exploring and expanding the use of scholarly podcasts through the currently proposed partnership.


Acord, Sophia Krzys, and Diane Harley. 2013. “Credit, Time, and Personality: The Human Challenges to Sharing Scholarly Work Using Web 2.0.” New Media & Society 15.3: 379–397. SAGE Journals. Web.

Alperin, J. P., Muñoz Nieves, C., Schimanski, L., Gustavo E. Fischman, Niles, M. T., & Erin C. McKiernan. 2018. “How significant are the public dimensions of faculty work in review, promotion, and tenure documents?” ELife. https://doi.org/10.17613/M6W950N35

Altman, Michael J. 2015. “Podcasting Religious Studies.” Religion 45 (4):573–84. https://doi.org/10.1080/0048721X.2015.1055668

Arbuckle, Alyssa et al. 2015. “Intersections Between Social Knowledge Creation and Critical Making.” Scholarly and Research Communication 6.3: n. pag. src-online.ca. Web. 7 Jan. 2017.

Berry, Richard. 2006. “Will the iPod Kill the Radio Star? Profiling Podcasting as Radio.” Convergence 12 (2): 143–62. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856506066522

———. 2015. “A Golden Age of Podcasting? Evaluating Serial in the Context of Podcast Histories.” Journal of Radio & Audio Media 22 (2): 170–78. https://doi.org/10.1080/19376529.2015.1083363

———. 2016a. “Part of the Establishment: Reflecting on 10 Years of Podcasting as an Audio Medium.” Convergence 22 (6): 661–71. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856516632105

———. 2016b. “Podcasting: Considering the Evolution of the Medium and Its Association with the Word ‘Radio.’” Radio Journal: International Studies in Broadcast & Audio Media 14 (1): 7– 22. https://doi.org/10.1386/rjao.14.1.7_1

Bond, Sarah Ed., and Kevin Gannon. 2019. “Public Writing and the Junior Scholar.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 15 October. Web.

Brown, Susan. 2011. “Don’t Mind the Gap: Evolving Digital Modes of Scholarly Production Across the Digital-Humanities Divide.” Coleman and Kamboureli 203-231.

Coleman, Daniel, and Smaro Kamboureli, eds. 2011. Retooling the Humanities: The Culture of Research in Canadian Universities. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

Fitzpatrick, Kathleen. 2011. Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy. New York: New York University Press.

———. 2012. “Giving It Away: Sharing and the Future of Scholarly Communication.” Journal of Scholarly Publishing 43.4: 347–362. utpjournals.press (Atypon). Web.

———. 2019. Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Galey, Alan, and Stan Ruecker. 2010. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25.4: 405–424. llc.oxfordjournals.org. Web.

Katic, Gordon, and Sam Fenn. n.d. “Cited.” http://citedpodcast.com/.

Lynch, Clifford. “The Battle to Define the Future of the Book in a Digital World.” First Monday 6.6 (2001). http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/864/773

Maitzen, Rohan. 2012. “Scholarship 2.0: Blogging And/As Academic Practice.” Journal of Victorian Culture 17.3: 348–354. Taylor and Francis+NEJM. Web.

Mandell, Laura. 2012. “Promotion and Tenure for Digital Scholarship.” Journal of Digital Humanities 1.4: n.pag. Web.

McGann, Jerome. 2005. “Culture and Technology: The Way We Live Now, What Is to Be Done?” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews 30.2: 179-189. Web.

McGregor, Hannah. 2017. Secret Feminist Agenda. Podcast audio. Wilfrid Laurier University Press. https://secretfeministagenda.com/

McMenemy, Siobhan. 2018. “Scholarly Podcasting Open Peer Review.” Wilfrid Laurier University Press. Accessed January 25, 2018. https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Scholarly-Podcasting-Open- Peer-Review

McPherson, Tara. 2009. “Introduction: Media Studies and the Digital Humanities.” Cinema Journal 48.2: 119-123. Web.

Modern Language Association. 2012. “Guidelines for Evaluating Work in Digital Humanities and Digital Media.” Modern Language Association. Accessed December 1, 2017. https://www.mla.org/About-Us/Governance/Committees/Committee-Listings/Professional- Issues/Committee-on-Information-Technology/Guidelines-for-Evaluating-Work-in-Digital- Humanities-and-Digital-Media

Moulthrop, Stuart. “After the Last Generation: Rethinking Scholarship in the Days of Serious Play.” Proceedings of the 6th Digital Arts and Culture Conference (2005). http://iat.ubalt.edu/moulthrop/essays/dac2005.pdf

Presner, Todd. 2012. “How to Evaluate Digital Scholarship.” Digital Humanities 1.4: n.pag. Web.

Ralph, Jaya, and Sonja Olsen. 2007. “Podcasting as an Educational Building Block in Academic Libraries.” Australian Academic & Research Libraries 38 (4): 270–79. https://doi.org/10.1080/00048623.2007.10721309

Riecken, Ted. 2014. “Mapping the Fit Between Research and Multimedia: A Podcast Exploration of the Place of Multimedia within / as Scholarship.” McGill Journal of Education 49 (3): 539–41. https://doi.org/10.7202/1033545ar

Stewart, Bonnie. 2016. “Collapsed Publics: Orality, Literacy, and Vulnerability in Academic Twitter.” Journal of Applied Social Theory 1.1: n. pag. socialtheoryapplied.com. Web. 13 Jan. 2017.

Veletsianos, George, and Royce Kimmons. 2012. “Networked Participatory Scholarship: Emergent Techno-Cultural Pressures toward Open and Digital Scholarship in Online Networks.” Computers & Education 58.2: 766–774. ScienceDirect. Web.

Published by Dr. Hannah McGregor

I am an Assistant Professor in Publishing at Simon Fraser University. My areas of research include podcasting as scholarly communication, systemic barriers to access in the Canadian publishing industry, and magazines as middlebrow media. I'm the co-creator of Witch, Please (ohwitchplease.ca), a feminist podcast on the Harry Potter world, and the creator of the weekly podcast Secret Feminist Agenda (secretfeministagenda.com), which is currently undergoing an experimental peer review process with Wilfrid Laurier University Press. I am also the co-editor of the book Refuse: CanLit in Ruins (Book*hug 2018).

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