Assignment 1, Part 2

Please complete the following assignment in time for class on Friday, January 14. Please be sure to share your thoughts in the comment section below, and also be prepared to discuss these readings in class.

Thread 2: Interpretation, Digital Storytelling, & Podcasting

Assignment:

  • Locate one episode of one podcast, listen to it, share a link to it, and tell us what you like about it and how it could influence our work.
  • Read the following online documents and respond to the questions below:

David L. Larson, ed., Meaningful Interpretation: How to Connect Hearts and Minds to Places, Objects, and Other Resources, Sections entitled:

Chana Joffe-Walts, The Tricks of Planet Money

What similarities do you see between these two approaches to connecting visitors to compelling stories? What differences?

As you read both documents, reflect on experiences you’ve had with various forms of interpretation, and think about when you have (and haven’t) seen (or heard) these principles in action. What worked? What didn’t?

What specific points or principles from each resonate most with you? Which do you think will be most helpful in guiding your work in this class?

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About Greg Shine

Adjunct faculty in the History Department at Portland State University, where I teach historic site interpretation. Former Chief Ranger & Historian at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.
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11 Responses to Assignment 1, Part 2

  1. Laurie Pentz says:

    http://feeds.thestranger.com/stranger/savage

    Episode 221 January 11th, 2011.

    I listened to Savage Love Episode 221 for my podcast assignment. I chose Savage Love because I wanted a contemporary piece and I’ve read Dan Savage’s article for a long time now. I really enjoyed the jingle at the front of the podcast because it ties it together with the others outside of content and title. The sound quality, however, wasn’t very good and continued to be spotty for a while. It was actually difficult to listen to at first because it sounded like Savage was talking through a tin can. As expected, he talked about current events including the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” before diving into the advice portion. At a certain point he talks about a video from YouTube and plays it for the audience before interviewing the producer. However the listener obviously doesn’t have access to the video and would have to view it separately from the podcast. From the perspective of our class, obviously sound quality is important. I would go so far as to say, however, that we have to guarantee that the finished product will be free of sound blemish since voice is the vehicle we’re using. If video is included as some portion of our podcast it should complement the program rather than be an essential component to it. In my mind, I picture people listening to these podcasts on the bus or while jogging as well as at the historic sites and battlefields themselves. We need to be aware of, as we design this program, what resources our audience is going to have access to. As for the theme song, I’m certainly not implying that a jingle would be appropriate for the Civil War Sequicentennial podcast program, but I do think we should consider having some element in each podcast that establishes the single as a piece of the whole. Transitions are important for flow in written documents and I think for a more smooth-flowing program we should include transitions for the series. Savage’s podcast is in the form of an audible advice column, which doesn’t literally apply to the Civil War project. What I noticed in the podcast was that I was more empathetic to the plight of listeners with whom I could identify with. I think that human component and the stories we can tell about the participants is important to any podcast program we present. We really need to help the listener “connect’ empathetically with the stories that address the themes of the project.

    Joffe-Walt’s approach to intriguing listeners is similar in some ways to the ideas presented in the NPS article. In “Meangingful Interpretation” Nedlit articulates the importance of the interpreter’s job to “facilitate a connection between the visitor’s interests and what the place means.” The interpreter connects visitors to a park to the intangible meanings of tangible objects. Interpretators lay out a path that can be easily followed by the visitor, but also allows the visitor the freedom to come to their own conclusions and find their own truths within the scope of the park. The very first trick of “Planet Money” is to lay out the groundwork for the story the listener is to follow. Just like Nedlit suggests in his imaginary dialogue with the park interpretor, Joffe-Walt suggests that the story being told must have a destination and that this purpose must be stated early on and repeated to help remind the listener of the purpose.

    The second suggestion Joffe-Walt makes also shares some similarities with the ideas behind interpretation. The second tip for “Idea Stories” is to include a vast array of characters. In the case of historical interpretation we aren’t going to make these characters up, but putting faces to the stories behind historical sites can help the visitor connect with intangible meanings in the same way physical artifacts can. Trick 3 also resonates with ideas regarding interpretation in the NPS. Joffe-Walt cautions us to think about the intrinsic pieces that form the whole story and the Interpretive Process Model follows a similar path. You start with a single tangible item that you want the audience to care about and follow the model to create an interpretive program that establishes a “big-picture” theme by expanding upon these smaller pieces. The difference is that Joffe-Walt encourages a focus on minutae, while Rober Fudge in “What’s the Big Idea?” cautions that each smaller piece must address the larger whole.

    Step 4 in Joffe-Walt’s process deviates slightly from the position of interpretation. From Joffe-Walt’s perspective, you find the question and then search out the answer. Becky Lacome’s interpretive equation presents a different perspective. Instead of seeking out the answer to a specific question, knowledge of the resource and the audience is part of the process for forming “interpretive opportunity.” While there is a good bit of research involved in defining the nature of a program and the historical relevance, it is the tangibles which not only answer, but also define the questions being asked.

    Of course, Joffe-Walt’s last tip on organization is essential to any undertaking. The history of interpretation in the NPS is organic and dynamic and has mutated and changed throughout the history of the Park Service. What we have today in the interpretive model is the result of many years of research and trial and error and should be used as an effective organizational tool for planning our podcast series.

    One of the things that really stood out for me in the articles we read was Lacome’s equation. I really appreciated her analytical approach. As a history student, I’ve been primarily focused on academia and just recently became interested in public history. While historical interpretation isn’t exactly theatre, there are some aspects of performance that are essential to a good program. A part of Lacome’s equation was knowing your audience and it seems extremely important to understand who the people are that will be interested in a specific program. Speficially relating to our podcasts, it’s essential that we identify the needs of the various people who will comprise our audience. Will we get casual dabbler who are interested merely because of the anniversary? What about the Civil War Reenactment participants who may be passionately dedicated to a personal truth? What about historians and other students who are studying this period and interested in the production as a secondary resource? It is essential that we attempt to take into account – but not necessarily hold ourselves to please – the audience.

  2. Melissa Swank says:

    Both Larson’s compilation and Joffe-Walts’ article describe the significance of the idea of Idea Stories as Joffe-Walts puts it, or as the Interpretive piece states, the importance of an idea leading to meaning. While both are similar – Joffe-Walts’ a more intriguing and captivating read – there are a few differences.

    “Helping visitors connect to meanings is the entire goal. Meaning is more important than knowing!” The “why?” behind an idea leads to purpose, to meaning. Both works describe the starting point of having a purpose. To the interpreter, the ultimate end-goal is for the visitor to make meaning out of what is presented before them. Joffe-Walts however points out that it is important for you to clarify that whatever is presented IS important, and the audience NEEDS to make a connection and she will making the meaning known, rather than the interpretive view of presenting and letting the audience make their own meaning.

    I personally prefer Joffe-Walts’ approach. Her layout was more precise and understandable, shorter and less bogged down by institutional jargon. Beginning with a purpose, “Why is X important?” we need to reiterate the importance of whatever our theme may be by underling and foreshadowing – giving a back story and providing clarity – in order that the appropriate interpretation and meaning is associated with whatever is being presented. To me this makes more sense than letting the visitor make their own meaning. I have heard many-a-classmates over the years associate absolutely WRONG meanings to certain events. And these are well-meaning students of history. If we do not reiterate the meaning that should be associated with an event, how can we expect any less from the general public? This may not be “politically correct,” but in my view, the purpose of historians has been to clarify the meaning and importance of past event.

    Joffe-Walts’ practically lays out how she approach “Idea Stories” in a way that is manageable and appropriate to the work ahead of us. She suggests having a script, working from one point to the next, a cohesive story line that begins with a clear statement of purpose and directions of how you plan to get there. The main point is reiterated throughout with signposts that show you where you’ve been and where you are going. Tell your audience the next step and what has already been addressed, much like we learn in public speaking courses. It keeps you on target and your audience engaged.

    Characters should be used, and obvious middle-men, the ones that get neglected. As in the Civil War, most often generals and battles have been addressed, not everyday civilians and life at home. She also suggests using real-life examples that people can relate to on a day-to-day basis. For instance, the terrorists attacks on 9/11 could be used to emphasize the horrors of Pearl Harbor. Another important component, in the quest for an answer – make it at least FEEL like a story. Let the theme construct the larger narrative with “discoveries” or examples along the way.

    Likewise, the Interpretation work states, “A successful interpretive product cohesively develops an idea or ideas about the resource. It’s not enough to provide related information or even disjointed meanings. Interpretation says something, expresses an idea. A series of facts or a chronological narrative just doesn’t provide enough relevance to connect enough people to the place. A compelling idea does. All the parts of the program have to work together to develop that idea so the audience can make personal connections to the meanings of the resource.” Jaff-Walts suggests including this in your organization and finding actual examples that get at the big idea. She sums up her main idea, “The example allows you to tell a story and talk about the big idea at the same time… It can be powerful to hear a piece that gets at a big fundamental idea or question. It gets under people’s skin. There are obviously more than five tricks to take a boring or complicated topic and make it interesting. The point is if you’re fascinated by something but it seems really complicated, or if you can tell everyone is confused by something and you are too and you’re thinking it’s a monster to take on – do it. Find a way to make it work. It’s worth it.”

    In addition to Joffe-Walts’ stand, the Interpretive piece emphasizes the importance of collaboration, an indispensable aspect of public history. Another point is linking tangible resources to universal concepts. This provides a grounds for greater significance and meaning. There is an emphasis of caring about your visitors and audience that is addressed, of which Joffe-Walts does not, that is highly appealing. Without care, I feel that it is impossible to attribute true meaning to any purpose. A unique aspect of the Interpretation compilation also was the Interpretive Equation: in which the Equation is supposed to add up to something much more important than the sum of its parts.
    (KR + KA) x AT = IO
    KR — Knowledge of the Resource
    KA — Knowledge of the Audience
    AT — Appropriate Techniques
    IO — Interpretive Opportunity

    One statement however I absolutely DISAGREE with is, “Your job is not leading people to the meanings you think they should know and feel. Your job is to help people discover their own meanings. When you do your job well, people might come to conclusions you don’t agree with. So be it. If people come to care about your park, you’ve done your job!” While we cannot force someone to accept the appropriate meaning of an event or concept, we also do not need to leave room for misinterpretation or personal “meaning.” This is a very post-modern concept of “if I believe it, than it’s true for me.” Well, I wasn’t born to experience the Civil War, I’ve never seen a battlefield, I’ve lived in Oregon all my life without visiting the east, I think the war was a hoax. And I have met family members like that. Interpretation cannot be so wide open that the audience makes their own meaning… that’s ridiculous. The meaning has to be laid before them, THEN if they appropriate some further personal meaning, then the interpretation is all-the-more successful.

  3. Melissa Lang says:

    Podcast: What You Missed in History Class episode 141, the Caning of Charles Sumner on the Senate Floor found on Itunes.

    What I like about this podcast is its brevity and accessibility to regular people who may not have a significant interest in history. I often try to share my passion in history with friends and family and I often have greater success when 1. It’s short 2. its accessible (no need to know background) 3. made relevant to their own lives and 4. usually extraordinary, mysterious or has the “cool factor”. I think this podcast nails all of these.

    While I think that it would be great to have extensive podcasts that might last an hour or so I think we might want to consider a more pedestrian friendly approach as well.

    Another aspect of this podcast that I appreciate and fits into the NPS plan outlined in Holding the Higher Ground is the podcasts desire to correct common myths or false histories.

  4. Dianna Woolsey says:

    For my podcast, I listened to an episode of the Archaeology Channel’s weekly “Audio News from Archaeologica” (http://www.archaeologychannel.org/AudioNews.asp), which sums up several small news stories from Archaeologica, a daily archaeology news site. I’ve resisted getting my news in audio format for a long time because it doesn’t usually seem to hold my attention, but I was impressed with this one. It’s a short program, with short individual stories — this week was eleven minutes and four stories — and it’s easy to listen to and feels both accessible and informative.

    The stories this week varied in their location and age: one was about new data on the early peopling of Polynesia, one about a new find of pottery and stone tools at a Neolithic Chinese site, one about the rediscovery of a Neolithic wooden structure in present-day London, and one about a historic American shipwreck find related to the War of 1812. Not all of the stories got the same amount of time and information; the Polynesia and American shipwreck stories were relatively detailed while the China story was merely a quick update on the items found. The London story partly served as a comic-relief anecdote about the British Secret Service being misinformed that the archaeologists were carrying rocket launchers, and that made a nice interlude without losing the informative tone of the podcast.

    Some things that I think the podcast did well: starting with an overview of what the program will contain; including competing researcher opinions and information about the significance of finds without lapsing into arcane terminology; using a casual reporting tone that doesn’t condescend or lecture; and signing off with information on where to find the podcast and how to share it via other social media. As an archaeologist I also think that using material culture as a starting point for telling a story — which was done nicely here in the shipwreck story with its background information on Captain Perry’s naval career — is a useful tool for NPS podcasting, and I’m sure that some of the sites with Civil War narratives to tell have material culture items that can be used as speaking points or places to start the story.

  5. Makenzie Moore says:

    I listened to a podcast of Weekend Edition of NPR News. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104452266
    This podcast told the story of the complex life and legacy Jennie Hodgers, an Irish immigrant who joined the Union Army under the name Albert D.J. Cashier. Following the war she continued to live as Albert Cashier until hospitalization revealed her secret. Now, the people of Saunemin, Illinois, the town she lived in following the civil war, is debating what to do with her house and story. While some residents are eager to embrace the story of Jennie Hodgers others are a bit more uncomfortable and nervous about some of the implications of who Hodgers really was.
    I found this story really interesting. I don’t think it’s as historically focused as ours should be, but overall I thought it did a good job of connecting a historic episode to modern debates on gender and identity. I liked that, while there was one narrator who connected all the pieces together, the podcast also featured a variety of interviews from different people who are connected to the story in different ways. Of course, not all interviewees were equally eloquent, but overall I thought having multiple speakers helped make the podcast easier to sit through and more relatable. I also appreciated the fact that there were audio cues apart from the narrator and interviews. At several intervals music played in the back ground and a recording of a Memorial Day celebration in which Albert Cashier’s name was read off along with other Civil War Veterans. While I’m not sure the music was the best fit, I did think these elements helped enrich the overall experience.
    I think the articles from both Larson and Joffe-Walts are concerned with making information and knowledge accessible and appealing to a wide group of people. Making concepts relatable by connecting them to the larger human experience is a big part of that. I felt as though Joffe-Walts approach was a bit more structured, had a greater concern with communicating facts, and was specifically designed with an audio format in mind. The readings from Larson, while structured and detailed, also left a lot of room for different kinds of interpretation and placed more emphasis on emotional connections that come from a dialog between visitors and interpreters. I think both readings offer a lot of valuable insight into the class project and it will probably be a combination of the two that will help us create the richest possible resource.

  6. Amy Platt says:

    I chose RadioLab’s “The Ring and I” podcast, an hour-long story about Wagner’s opera. http://www.radiolab.org/blogs/radiolab-blog/2008/jan/01/the-ring-and-i/

    I picked RadioLab because the hosts take difficult topics–usually from science or social science–and try to explicate them to a general audience; and I picked the Wagner piece because the hosts tone down their normally frenetic pace in this piece. And it was long, so I wanted to see how a long podcast could be used (or should be used).

    It was nice having read the Planet Money piece, because I could hear the structure of the podcast following a basic story arc Joffe-Walt describes AND molding that arc around the subject itself–in this case, the story was built around the acts of the opera. There was a narrator, who brought himself into the story (which I think would NOT work for our purposes), but he heavily supplemented his narration with other voices. These voices were varied–experts, opera fanatics, performers, pop culture people, etc.–but they were called on enough so that their voices were recognizable throughout the piece. Which is to say, there were enough voices to balance the story out with many perspectives, but not so many that the story itself was lost in an overload of subjective commentary. The narrator was there to connect the dots, carry the storyline, and–perhaps most importantly–provide context.

    Running in the background (of course) was the Ring, which was brought forward often as an anchor to the commentary. If we think of the music as the primary source document, I think we can imagine how documents, buildings, ephemera, artifacts, etc., can help anchor interpretive commentary. The music also gave the ear some variety, a break from the voices, and the overlap created a kind of conversation, which is the illusion the podcast attempts to create. But the conversation is not just between the speaking voices; it’s between the narrator, the people he talks to, Wagner, the listening audience…and the MUSIC. The music is the thing trying to tell us something, trying to communicate something across 100 years. The rest of us are just trying to parse it out. If we approach our task as an attempt to find and communicate the meaning of place (which is both in AND out of time, like music or art), then this is a good model.

    The readings about interpretation were smart–especially the formulas. The formula not only provides an excellent starting point for interpretive projects, but keeps the related projects consistent and recognizable as parts of a whole. The weirdo encounter between the interpreter and the philosopher was a little confusing, mostly because it leveled out park visitors (regardless of age or geography) in an attempt to elevate the visitor experience. To me, any set of interpretive programs must assume first, that the audience has no knowledge of the subject, AND that at least one person in the audience has a deep background in the subject, but both have something to gain. The Civil War programming plan addresses this issue, I think, by looking at the relationship between pieces of the story and the story itself–it’s wonderful to tell the story from the point of view of a slave or a soldier, but The Story has to stay put in every podcast. So, for example, if someone listens to only one podcast, they should not come away from it thinking that the South won the war.

    While the NPS interpretive document provides an enormous amount of information about the institution’s missions, and how that mission has served the public in the past, I was looking for something about context. That context can be time, geography, events. Why did all those people think it was ok to have slaves? How are ordinary people able to take up guns and shoot each other? The inconceivable must be made accessible. When I was traveling in Europe, I was happiest when I got an overview of what I was seeing first–and this was mostly chronology, “characters,” precipitating events, and aftermath. Then I could look at the particular and put it into place. I think our podcasts need to reflect the need for both.

    I also like the idea of making the “why” obvious. I think the interpretive docs did a better job than the interview did on this topic. The answer, in part, is relevance. How did our treatment of African Americans in the 18th century affect the laws we passed in the 20th century and our public policy now? And, ideally, we should be fearless about this. I can’t remember which, but a southern plantation open for tours has scrubbed all evidence of its slave residents from both the property and the interpretive programs (not NPS) so that visitors (especially children) would not be exposed to sad things. You don’t muck with history. Neither interpreters nor audiences get to maneuver history to suit themselves–too much of that going on already.

  7. Brandon Quintel says:

    the podcast i came across was called “teaching american history ” and it was episode 9 that caught my attention. it is called “re-thinking uncle tom”. the reason i picked this is because even though we are not learning about this subject directly, this podcast sheds on light on how to take something and to re-think it and to always look for something, new different, and to make something new and uniquely yours about it, instead of just reading whats on the page, or taking what someone told you about it as the truth. the way i found this is by just going onto itunes and searching in the podcast tab and searching for history as the subject, or you can simply search for “teaching american history” within itunes to find it and then you can pick the appropriate episodes.

    as for the differences between these two methods, one is in my opinion, on the surface at least, much more engaging and personal. if you take the style of David Larson, he says that you want to make that connection with the visitor and make it a unique visit, rather than a dry history lesson. this is in contrast to the other piece that focuses more on the dry history lesson. however, that being said, i get the impression that she also feels that this is the wrong approach to visitors and people in history a like, and feels that it needs to be more of an engaging experience, so in this case, they are similar, but different.

    when i visited alcatraz the few times ive gone, they have taken more of the first approach which was more engaging. when i went, they gave you a headset which acted as a walking tour of the facility while adding in dramatized stories within the facts. this to me was awesome. i remember going to sites when i was little in elementary school and purely getting the facts which was not pleasurable. so for me, the more engaging style works best.

    i think that both sides will help in this class. at least for me, besides being obvious to me, it solidifies the idea of to try and think outside the box when presenting ideas on history and the parks and to make it as if you were making this tour/trip for yourself. that way, you can at least make it something that people would not dread going to.

  8. Shawn Daley says:

    I listened to BBC4’s A History of the World in 100 objects: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ahow
    I chose this because it was fairly short, focused on an aspect of history, and seemed tied to the themes of interpretation that we’ve been discussing thus far. The overall series goal is to work though human history by selecting artifacts and then discussing their background. The episode I listened to was about the suffrage movement in England in 1902, and highlighted the “Suffragette Coin,” a British Penny on which the term “VOTES FOR WOMEN” was engraved by the Suffragettes over the likeness of Edward VII.
    What I liked about the podcast was that they did a nice job of keeping the history “flowing,” interspersing music, multiple commentators, and quotes from people from the era (read by re-enactors AND recordings of the actual people). In tracking this, it seemed the main narrator never allowed himself to have a barrage of more than 90 seconds of history before he swapped out to someone else, and interestingly, it seemed that my attention was fading almost precisely before he made a switch, so I felt it perfectly timed.
    I thought that this could be helpful for us as a model if we use artifacts in our podcast. While I felt the historical information was overloaded, the script seemed well planned around the artifact. They would use it as a starting point and then depart from it into the various stories of the period. And even with the info overload, they kept names and dates to a minimum, and focused on key ideas. A final segment also made connections to today.
    When considering the two approaches, I found a significant amount of similarities. I thought that principal among these was the respect for the audience. Joffe-Walt’s concept of signposting sprouts from this respect, as in her work – “there is no rewind.” If you are asking listeners to absorb heady information in this medium, you have to offer a thoughtful roadmap. I heard the program on gold as currency on NPR, and remember the constant directions as they maneuvered through the Periodic Table, and that sustained me through the complexities. In the “Interpretative Equation,” Becky Lacone’s segment on Knowledge of the Audience begins with her quoting Freeman Tilden, who powerfully referred to resource meanings that did not connect to the audience as “sterile.” When I moved on to David Larsen (Process Model), his identification of the audience section explained to me how questioning visitors upon arrival is not just a friendly greeting, but a way to size up the audience to be able to serve that grouping appropriately (and is thus a conscious strategy).
    What I did notice as different was that it seems that Joffe-Walt, even in respecting the audience, is telling us how to get facts across to people. At the end of those stories, she is defining a complex process in “her” terms. While she kept us entertained in the process, she isn’t looking to allow us necessarily to interpret the facts for ourselves. The NPS documents seem to indicate that while a ranger may have as much information as Joffe-Walts and the ability to give us that same information, the interpretive process is supposed to allow the listener to ultimately absorb what they find to be most pivotal: “Interpreters…develop ideas that say something important and powerful so they can provoke and assist personal connections — not merely transfer an idea to another person.”
    What I considered as the read the interpretive pieces (the Larsen work) was the challenge of knowing “appropriate techniques” to access the audience. I was in New York two weeks ago and visited a Vanderbilt mansion. The guide who was there was fairly hands off, and were he dealing with only me, I would have appreciated that. However, I had my children along, and while they loved the exhibit (as this Vanderbilt had collected any animal that has ever moved), the guide still left us completely alone. As I was walking I found a scavenger hunt guide sheet that was made for kids that I gave to my daughter, and only after my kids had gone outside and I was talking to the guide did I discover that there were two additional exhibits in the museum that my kids would have loved. I was not angry at the guide, and I certainly didn’t expect him to entertain my kids, but I felt he could have applied some technique to help ensnare my kids in the life of that building (which was actually built by the father as a memorial to his only son who died in a tragic accident, something that screams with “universal concepts”).
    I agree with Doug, who above noted that the idea of a cast of characters (from the Jofee-Walt) is something that I feel is crucial to sustaining attention in the interpretative work that we are about to do. Not only does it keep with the notion of offering multiple perspectives on a moment of history, but it literally challenges a listener to keep track of those angles. While listening to my podcast, I found that when the voice changed (suddenly) from the male narrator to any of the other characters, my brain had to react and process who was talking – I stayed alert and became cognizant of the fact that at any moment a new player, with a new perspective could jump into the fray.
    I believe respect/knowledge of the audience is going to be my principal takeaway from these readings – that my responsibility in interpretation is to understand “them” enough to help them access the “universal concepts” of the resources I’m working with.

  9. Melissa Swank says:

    The Podcast I listened to was “In Our Time with Melvyn Bragg.” This link should open to the listing of available Podcasts: http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/iot

    The particular episode I listened to was entitled, “Foxe’s Book of Martyrs 18th Nov 2010” from Thursday, November 18, 2010. Having never listened to a Podcast, I chose a topic that I would be interested in to see how it would be presented. In the Podcast, Melvyn Bragg discusses one of the most important books of the Reformation, “Foxe’s ‘Book of Martyrs'” that recounts the horrific deaths of hundreds of martyrs put to death in the reign of Mary I. Melvyn is joined by Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University; Justin Champion, Professor of the History of Early Modern Ideas at Royal Holloway, University of London; and Elizabeth Evenden, Lecturer in Book History at Brunel University.

    This is what I found to be useful:
    *A brief background to catch listeners up and give the listener historical context of what was to be discussed. We will want to be sure in each Podcast that we give context for the content of the episode. Really, this was the only thing I found useful to our project.

    Points of annoyance and things to avoid:
    *This Podcast was more of a conversation dialogue than a monologue. For the academic, I think this is great; it’s what we’re used to. However, for the lay person – or the general public – it’s very dull. It feels like a bunch of “smart people” discussing something that you’d never feel adequate to converse with.
    *The use of academic jargon is impractical. It confuses the listener – assumingly someone who is uninformed on the topic.
    *Similarly, NO academic or history jokes! Don’t assume your audience has the same historical context as you do. Even as history majors, none of us pretend that we know all of history. Likewise we can’t expect our audience to catch on to our witty historical jokes if they don’t have the context.

    So, while I didn’t find a lot that I know we SHOULD do with this project, these are a few things I strongly feel that we should avoid.

    ~Melissa

  10. Andrew Carlson says:

    http://www.wvtf.org/news_and_notes/feeds/wvtf_cw_rss.php

    Not knowing much about podcasts, I decided to go out on a whim and search for “Civil War Podcasts.” I was expecting to find only amateur, long, drawn out recordings of the same thing – what the war was about, why it happened, how it ended, etc. Instead, I came across a series of podcasts out of Virginia related to the American Civil War by Dr. James Robertson, Jr. What is unique about these is that it actually started in 1993 (and ran for 14 years) but are being digitally re-mastered and distributed to audiences in time for the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. These started re-airing in 2009 and the current subject is leadership, part 72. In it, Robertson states that many people believed that the Civil War would only last a few weeks, in some cases a couple months. He drew on historical examples that society used, such as the Franco-Prussian War, in making their case.

    I enjoyed this podcast because it was less than 10 minutes long and was succinct and to the point. I believe that in order to drawn the audience’s attention, a good podcast must not dwell on unimportant topics but focus on one specific idea. I think we could benefit from this podcast from a technical standpoint – make ours brief and something that the audience can understand. In a series, I believe this is relatively easy to do.

    The most recent experience I’ve had with historical interpretation and its various forms was in the summer of 2010 when I took a trip to Yellowstone National Park and, on the way, visited Lewis and Clark Caverns State Park in Montana. While I was there I took a tour of the caves and had a friendly, upbeat, down to earth park ranger show us around. I find that in the Larson article, the idea about “Knowledge of the Audience” was apparent here (Visitation and demographic information, Group identity culture, ethnicity learning styles, Motivations, expectations, interests, and existing meanings, interpretations, attitudes). Most of us were not there because we knew a ton about rock formations in the caverns but because we were on a trip and either wanted to crawl around inside or learn MORE. The ranger did an excellent job in playing to his audience, which actually consisted of many young boys and girls. He cracked jokes and was able to answer basic question for which he seemed to be prepared. It was a great experience because the ranger not only connected with the group but was patient enough to focus on thoroughly explaining aspects of the caves.

    I appreciated Chana Joeffe-Walts’ idea about thinking small(er) when trying to tell a story. Instead of giving the reader a broad overview about a long tale, give them a few main characters or events and discuss them when examining the bigger picture. This definitely draws the audience’s attention and perhaps would make them want to discover more about the character, place, or event on their own. By “thinking small(er),” it is also possible for the audience to develop a personal connection (which is a basis for interpretation) through a specific narrative. I think this aspect would help us immensely in our work for the class because, after all, there are some people who could care less about history and what has happened in the past. We need to change that! There are differences between these two articles which, for the most part, include more, complex ideas with smaller, simpler ideas. Joeffe-Walts has a plan which seems basic yet it works, while Larson has a more long-range plan that seems to be aimed towards a more enthusiastic, committed audience.

  11. Doug K-C says:

    For my podcast, I chose a Frontline podcast titled “College Inc.” from a 5/5/2010 posting date (I accessed this podcast on an iphone, so I do not have a url. From itunes, search “Frontline” and it should pop up.). The podcast, as could be expected, had wonderful production quality; an intro song, quality audio recordings and good editing (no “ums” and other annoying pauses). The podcast also had numerous interviewees, providing some diversity to the audio track; it wasn’t just one individual droning on for 56 minutes. This was more interesting to me as it tended to break up the pacing and the format of the podcast. It was not monotonous.

    There has been a little discussion about video. The Frontline podcast I selected was obviously the soundtrack to a televised episode, and in my application, it lacked the video. It was obvious to me that the format had been video, and at times I felt that the storyline would have benefited more from that video component. Something felt missing.

    This drew my attention to the video concept for our project. What if we did produce video and a park visitor was accessing our production with a device that did not support video? If that was the case, I would not want our production to be reliant on the video component. If we do decide to do video, it should be complimentary to the audio track, and not necessarily have dependencies between the two.

    The Interpretive method, portrayed in the NPS documents, presents a way for the park visitor to experience universal concepts through the application of various methods designed to have the visitor make a connection with the resource. This is accomplished by presenting tangibles to help explain intangible concepts. These concepts are “universal,” meaning that they are similar themes that people from all walks of life can relate to, or have opinions about, one way or another.

    Idea stories, as explained by Chana Joffe-Walt, have a much more defined and laid out progress that the listener follows. Indeed, the metaphor imagined, a road map specified by sign posts, denotes (literally) a lineal progression that the listener would follow to understand the concepts being presented. In the NPS method, concepts would be introduced, and depending on the interaction with the visitor, would then be explored in a bit of a piece meal fashion, a little at a time. The interaction is driven by the participants, enabled by the NPS interpreter and the theme is played out, rather than produced and arraigned in a specific, straight trajectory.

    On past visits to Fort Vancouver, I have had opportunity to see the blacksmith shop in action, and witness depictions of historical characters portrayed by various NPS employees and volunteers. I must say that I have never before picked up on the presence of universal concepts, but perhaps this has been due to the subtlety of the actors I have encountered.

    I always think that a cast of characters makes for an interesting production, so I agree quite a bit with Joffe-Walt’s opinion. Hearing actual participants describing what they were seeing or feeling can help to reinforce the universal concepts that we all feel (albeit in different ways). Hearing a slave depict a battle, knowing he and his family are about to be freed, or to hear a Southern woman describe witnessing her house being ransacked and burned by Union troops, all well acted, of course, strikes me as having much more theatrical production value than a stodgy, all knowing “historian voice” describing the scene. Primary documents can be used in this way – coaxed for unique, relevant and interesting voices (characters) can be collected and developed by the production crew.

    It seems that both “schools of thought” should be incorporated to build a successful NPS podcast. Like it or not, under present application processes, podcasts are linear storylines, and thus, should follow the “Big Idea” format, with “sign posts” along the way directing the listener/ visitor. Techniques such as multiple voices (characters) should be utilized. But as this is an NPS product, basic fundamentals of interpretation (tangibles, intangibles, themes, interpretative opportunity) should be incorporated into the podcasts. It will be extremely important to follow the “NPS roadmap” when conceptualizing for these podcasts.

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