Podcast Ethics and Auntiehood with Dr. Ethel Tungohan

By Amplify Network Date: July 19, 2022 Tags: Podcasting

Amplified is an audio blog series about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. This month, I’m joined by Dr. Ethel Tungohan, the host of the Academic Aunties podcast, to talk about collaborative, ethical and consent based interview podcasts. We also dig into questions of podcaster versus researcher identities and the pros and cons in considering all academic podcasts as scholarship.


[00:00:00] [theme music]

Stacey Copeland: [00:00:00] Welcome to Amplified, a podcast about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. I’m your host, Stacey Copeland. As a first generation grad schooler, learning to navigate the complex alternate universe of the academy has at times been… Quite the daunting experience. Whether it’s the code switching to academic talk or the sobering realization of what working in the academy is truly like, it can all be a lot. Thankfully, conversation with other graduate students and mentors helps ease the journey, but the pandemic dramatically changed access to community and connection. This is where Academic Aunties came in. 

Clip from Academic Aunties: [00:00:50] [Academic Aunties intro music] I’m Dr. Ethel Tungohan, an associate professor of politics at York University. This is Academic Aunties.

Stacey Copeland: [00:00:57] A podcast sharing stories and advice from thriving and surviving first generation people of colour and women, academics, academic aunties who inhabit social locations that are traditionally unrepresented in the often exclusionary world of academia. This month on Amplified, I’m joined by Academic Auntie‘s host, Dr. Ethel Tungohan, turning on her mic for some auntie wisdom on making more collaborative, ethical and consent based interview podcasts. We also dig into questions of podcaster versus researcher identities and the pros and cons in considering all academic podcasts as scholarship. Now, here is the academic auntie herself.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:01:53] My name is Professor Ethel Tungohan. I am an associate professor of politics at York University, and I’m also the host of the podcast, Academic Aunties.

Stacey Copeland: [00:02:04] As a first gen graduate student myself, I’ve been listening to academic aunties for a while now. Full disclosure. [ethel: oh cool!] So a little mini fan over here (laughs). But for listeners unfamiliar with your show, could you tell us a bit about Academic Aunties?

Ethel Tungohan: [00:02:20] Absolutely. So. Academic Aunties is a podcast that is for women of colour, for folks who are first generation, for people who need a space to discuss some of the weird norms surrounding the academy and also to talk about race, gender, sexuality and other sources of marginalisation and discrimination in the academy as well. Academic aunties is a labour of love, basically started during the pandemic in March 2020, when we were all feeling super isolated. We’re all feeling really untethered from community. And what had happened was I was feeling completely burnt out. Not just because of care work at the academy, but also because of a lot of situations in my professional/academic life where I kind of felt gaslit. I was like, Is it me or is it the academy? Is this normal? And so we decided to create this podcast based on kind of my group chats with my fellow aunties, so my fellow friends that this is not something we’re experiencing in isolation. So we really wanted to create community. The lineage of Aunty Hood is super important for the podcast. A lot of racialized communities. So I’m Filipino, rely on Auntie Hood as a source of support. A lot of indigenous communities and black communities also rely on aunties to provide support and solidarity as well. It’s a place to hang out to talk about the issues that we keep facing and the academy and also to get some advice and auntie wisdom from each other.

Stacey Copeland: [00:04:00] Yeah, I mean, I love it. It’s really great to hear these conversations happening outside of what you’re talking about, like the group chats and things too, because it’s totally conversations I have with other fellow PhD students and some early career scholars. But we often don’t get to have those more candid conversations with tenured professors, with someone, you know, very impressive like yourself, who’s a Canadian Research Chair. Right (laughs). These titles that we think about as being people that maybe have it all together, that know exactly how the whole system works in comparison to early career scholars or first gen or graduate students of colour. Right? And, you know, I was listening today to your recent interview with Dr. Joyce Green, which certainly speaks to some of these barriers of different generations of academic work for women, for women of colour, for indigenous feminist work as well. The ultimate academic aunty for anyone listening who wants to check it out.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:04:55] OG academic auntie, Dr. Joyce Green is such a mentor and I love her and I honestly think it’s funny hearing you say that, it’s good to listen to people who have it together, because I don’t think I have it together. I don’t think a lot of guests would say that we do. I think we’re all navigating this extremely, extremely kind of almost dystopian world that is the Academy and kind of fumbling along and trying to change norms through the podcast and through the conversations as well. Like, I don’t know. I don’t know if I have it together. I don’t think I do (laughs).

Stacey Copeland: [00:05:31] And that kind of spirit comes out in the podcast, which is why I think it works so well, right? Because you are being so candid about your experience in the academy and then talking to other people about their experiences too, from all different walks of academic life. Listening to the conversation you had with Dr. Joyce Green, what I also wanted to talk to you about that I notice not only in that episode, but in a lot of the series is just how amazing of an interviewer you are. So in our last blog, audio blog for Amplified with Dr. Jill Fellows, she talked a lot about how learning to interview was one of the biggest challenges for her starting out in podcasting as a scholar. She’s- her background’s in philosophy, and she was never trained to interview people in this style. Right? And so that was one of the biggest challenges for her in starting up her podcast, Gender, Sex and Tech. So do you have training or a background in interviewing? Where does that come from?

Ethel Tungohan: [00:06:32] First, I want to shout out the Academic Aunties team. It’s not just me coming up with questions. My producing partner, Wayne Chu, is also part of it. So he also comes up with the questions. Dr. Nisha Nath, who is at Athabasca University, she’s an assistant professor. There is also a producer. Before we meet with the people who were interviewing, we have like a pre interview segment where we just talk about the podcast, we talk about the questions they might want to answer, and it becomes a collaborative process. A lot of the questions we collaborate with the people we’re interviewing to make sure they’re comfortable with that. So it’s never the case where we just hit record. And that’s the interview you hear with the exception of the very first episode, Academic Assholes, Season one, Episode one, where it was literally just me, Nisha and Mariam, really good friends, pressing play, and we’re already friends. So the rapport is there already. I do have qualitative research training like I was trained and I still do a lot of interviews and focus groups and things like that for my own academic research. But beyond that, I mean, I do want to stress that it’s not it’s not just we hit record and the magic happens. We do have to make sure that before the interview gets taped that people feel comfortable with questions.

Stacey Copeland: [00:07:51] That’s great to hear. I think this is something that comes up a lot when I’m talking to scholars who are interested in podcasting but have never done a podcast before, or maybe have just jumped on a more casual one with their friends before, is the amount of work that can go into making a podcast sound so natural and effortless in conversation. Could you walk us through maybe an example of an episode you’ve done what the production process looks like from thinking of the idea to actually putting it out into the world.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:08:21] It’s funny, when it first started, it was literally me and my partner in our house talking about, ‘Let’s just do this, let’s see where it lands. It doesn’t have to be anyone listening to it. It could just be us’. We just needed a project during the pandemic that kept us alive. Right? And I really was craving community during the pandemic. But as the episodes continued, especially during season two, we were starting to get a lot of feedback from people, including in unexpected quarters, right? Like I just assumed it would be my friends kind of politely listening to it because everyone has a podcast these days, right? So I’m just like, you know, who knows where it will land? As we started taping more episodes and it had more reach, we then started realising, Oh, there’s a lot of audience members with their own ideas as well.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:09:09] And so from season two and with season three coming up, we started having more of a systematic process through it. So basically what this means is that we have production meetings, we actually have a shared Google Drive where we have episode ideas and potential guests, episode ideas generated from us, but also from audience members who give suggestions too. And then after that we narrow down themes. If we want to talk about, for example, the job market. So that was one of our episodes with Dr. Robert Diaz from the University of Toronto and Dr. Mendoza in California. We started trying to narrow down what are some of the things that people need to know if they’re not on the job market and don’t know how it quite works? Right. And from there, after developing these themes, we come up with a list of questions collaboratively with our guests as well.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:10:01] So it’s not just us thinking of things off the top of my head. We have to do a lot of outside research. We’ll look at the Chronicle of Higher Education. We’ll look at Inside Higher Ed. We’ll look at like even scholarly works published on this to make sure that we’re kind of zeroing in on the questions that we need to to ask after we’ve kind of vetted the questions with our guests and they are okay with it. And we have the pre interview hangout, we then tape and after that we have to edit the episode as well. And as you know, editing is not easy in all honesty. A lot of our episodes are much longer, like a lot of them are like 2 hours. And so distilling the essence of the interview to what, tight like 30 minutes, sometimes it gets 40, 45 minutes. That’s really difficult. And so, again, it’s a collaborative process. So the first cut we go through together as a production team and then a lot of guests have feedback too. They’re like, You know what? It doesn’t make sense if you kind of just talk about that without talking about this. And nothing ever gets released without the guests consent, right? It is a labour of love. As I said, it does take a lot of time. It does take a lot of bandwidth and it takes a lot of research. It depends on what you want to accomplish. But it’s not just hitting record on your iPhone and just seeing where- seeing where the conversation takes you, at least not in our experience with Academic Aunties to make sure it’s a collaborative and consent based process.

Stacey Copeland: [00:11:26] Yeah, I really appreciate you bringing up consent and also walking us through the collaborative elements of your podcast in starting those conversations early on with your guests, especially because you are covering some more vulnerable subjects around navigating the academy, sometimes more frank conversations come out of that, then those conversations seem very valuable to have in advance. And then also giving them the option to listen back to what you’re going to put out before it actually goes out into the world. As someone who has a background in media production and journalism coming in to the academic space, that was something that I really learned through the ethics process and doing qualitative research was the value of those kinds of conversations. So I really love and appreciate you bringing up those intersections and maybe some of the ways that your own background in the university influences the way that you’re making your podcast. Which brings me to the question, you know, here at Amplify Podcast Network, we’re really interested in what draws scholars towards podcasting. It’s not typically where we see academics spending a lot of their time and effort, whether that’s an alternative mode for sharing research, a space for candid conversation or community building, or maybe a complement to a more traditional publication. With academic aunties, you just wrapped your second season, as you mentioned, which congratulations. What is it that continues to draw you toward podcasting as part of your scholarly journey?

Ethel Tungohan: [00:13:00] That’s an interesting question, because initially I was clear, at least when we started in March 2020, that this is not at all related to my research or my academic persona. In fact, in my email signature for my work email, I don’t even put in a link to Academic Auntie‘s. And the reason for that is that I want to keep this sacred. I don’t necessarily want this labour of love to be embedded in the competitive mindset that usually engulfs all of us in our academic work right? But as time developed, it’s bizarre that even as they try to kind of create that separation, I did become more associated with a podcast, even though I’m like, okay, but like this is a side gig. I mean, this is not my academic work. But as we continue with the episodes, one thing I’m starting to realise is that maybe it isn’t a side gig, maybe it isn’t just kind of a project, a labour of love I do for fun. But maybe this is part of a broader agenda to make academia more humane and more social justice oriented. And I don’t know quite what that means. As I said, I’ve tried to kind of separate it out, but I think one of the things that draws me to the podcast, quite honestly, and to podcasting as a whole, is the fact that there’s just way more reach through the podcast as opposed to publishing an article or even blogging.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:14:24] I used to blog as well, or even writing an op ed. The fact that people can engage more with the podcast, not only as listeners, but also as folks who give feedback to us through our Twitter account or our email address, makes it a more fun and a more dynamic space as well. But I also really like how, depending on the podcast of course and the structure they follow, I like that it opens up conversational spaces with people who you may not necessarily talk to. Right? And so, you know, although a lot of our guests are in social sciences and political science because that’s my discipline, I did have the opportunity to talk to other folks in the sciences, other folks in other disciplines as well. So it becomes kind of more interdisciplinary. And I think what I like the most out of podcasting is that you become part of this community too. You get to meet other folks who you wouldn’t necessarily be talking to as well, but it kind of democratises knowledge production.

Stacey Copeland: [00:15:28] This is a really key tension I think that you’ve brought up is deciding what role the podcast, your podcast plays in your research journey. And as you say, like you as a Canadian Research Chair, whether that fits into the same identity or not, and what those choices mean when it comes to some of the questions you’re asking in Academic Aunties about how you or others are perceived in the university space for the different work that we do outside of our traditional research. And I have to say, you know, Academic Aunties is very refreshing to listen to in that way because it really weaves its way through some of those questions and some of the different choices that people make. What makes the most sense in our research? You know, I study podcasts, so it’s not really an issue for me to do podcasts (laughs), but depending on the discipline people are in, these are questions certainly to bring up is, what kind of role does a podcast play in your research and do you want it to be considered research at all? Right?

Ethel Tungohan: [00:16:30] Yeah, I mean, I think that’s a really provocative question, actually, because as I said, in some ways I kind of want to protect Academic Aunties and that space and make it a space away from research and other kind of metrics that we are always evaluated towards. When I call it the site of the sacred, what I mean, basically, is that I want this to be just mine. Right? My Canada Research Chair and my research output. That doesn’t just belong to me. That also belongs to the university. That also belongs to the discipline. It belongs to the university in that, I don’t know, the number of citations they get, the the grants they get. It makes the institution look good as well. My research grants allow me to pursue amazing projects with amazing collaborators, and it allows me to further questions that I have always been passionate about examining in that way, but at the same time it’s still work. In other words, there are other interests, institutional and individual and community tied along with it, whereas Academic Aunties, I mean this sounds kind of silly, but it’s just mine. No one- I don’t want the university to touch it because it’s my space. Right? Don’t try to evaluate the podcast based on the downloads people have had or based on the number of listens. Right? I don’t want that. I want this just to be mine, like where it’s not going to be subjected to to scrutiny using the same conventional metrics that my research, my research persona, gets subjected to. I don’t know if that makes sense (laughs).

Stacey Copeland: [00:18:03] Makes complete sense. And these are conversations I think a lot of folks are listeners, people interested in academic podcasting, quote unquote, I’m doing little air quotes right now, are actively engaging with. It’s kind of funny, some of the other folks I’ve talked to, like Jill in our last episode talked about her fun podcast versus her academic podcast and how even though they both are informed by her research and certainly Academic Aunties, you can tell that you have a deep invested interest and relate it to your own research in activism and community that informs the way you approach the podcast. But it is not your research, which I think is an interesting distinction that folks interested in podcasting as scholars have to decide what they’re going to do there. Is it a podcast you’re doing because you want it to be your own space of community, for you a sacred space, or is it a podcast that is a development or an output of your research? And what does that mean around questions of ownership, questions of what that podcast sounds like or what its purpose is. To folks who aren’t familiar with Academic Auntie‘s highly recommend checking it out and thank you for taking the time to come and talk to me today Ethel.

Ethel Tungohan: [00:19:21] Absolutely. And we are on Twitter @AcademicAuntie, then you can kind of stream the podcast wherever you get your podcasts. Yeah. Thank you.

Stacey Copeland: [00:19:36] You can check out Academic Aunties at AcademicAunties.com and on Twitter, as Ethel mentioned at @AcademicAuntie. Links in the show notes. A big thanks to Dr. Ethel Tungohan for joining us here on Amplified this month. We only just hit the tip of the iceberg when it comes to conversations around ethics and politics in podcast scholarship. So if you have comments or want to take this conversation further, please do reach out. We’re always interested in hearing from other folks engaging with scholarly podcasting and other alternative modes of academic publishing. Thanks for listening to Amplified a podcast about the sounds of scholarship coming to you each month from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network.

[music up and out]

Guest Bio

Dr. Ethel Tungohan is the Canada Research Chair in Canadian Migration Policy, Impacts and Activism, and Associate Professor of Politics and Social Science at York University. She has also been appointed as a Broadbent Institute Fellow. Previously, she was the Grant Notley Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Alberta’s Department of Political Science. She received her doctoral degree in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies from the University of Toronto. Her research looks at migrant labor, specifically assessing migrant activism. She is also the host of the monthly podcast Academic Aunties.

Links Mentioned

Academic Aunties Podcast – https://www.academicaunties.com

Academic Aunties Twitter – https://twitter.com/academicauntie

Academic Aunties episode with Dr. Joyce Green – https://www.academicaunties.com/episodes/the-ultimate-academic-auntie

Dr. Ethel Tungohan’s Other Impressive Work – https://www.tungohan.com/

Amplified audio blog with Dr. Jill Fellows – https://amplifypodcastnetwork.ca/2022/06/21/the-podcast-as-book-companion-with-jill-fellows/

Intro + Outro Music: Pxl Cray – Blue Dot Studios (2016)

Written and produced by: Stacey Copeland