This episode is a little different from our normal content. In it we feature a presentation Adam gave for Pivotal Labs in which he explores This Anthro Life’s (and his own) developing philosophy about conversations and podcasting as social technologies and what the worlds of anthropology and podcasting can do. Some topics Adam touches on include: what anthropology does in the world, conversation as “little social laboratories”, mapping the contemporary podcast ‘cosmos’, podcasters as cultural brokers, and the kinds of stories we well as Charismatic Data. 

During this pseudo-episode (think of it like a Conversation meets a FreeThink) Adam asks the questions: What makes conversation a social technology? And how can data be charismatic?

As Adam mentions, the audio recording during the talk got messed up, so today we’re presenting you a ‘podcasted’ version of the talk edited for length. You can check out the original talk on YouTube here, courtesy of Pivotal Labs. The original talk also includes much more about Adam’s research and TAL.

As always, remember TAL is an entirely self-funded labor of love, so any help is always appreciated. We’ll be launching a Patreon campaign soon for ongoing support. For now, please give securely at PayPal, every bit makes a difference to us. [wpedon id=”2386″ align=”left”]

Mapping the Podcast Cosmos:

1) Descriptive Story like 99% Invisible and Planet Money

2) Open Conversation like the Slate’s Culture gabfest

3) Serial Audio drama like S- Town , Serial, and Fugitive Waves

4) Expert interviews like Anthropod

5) Information downloads like Hardcore History

Have you noticed any other types of podcasts? Let us know!

Check Out Some of Adam’s Recommendations from his Presentation

Looking For A Podcast? Try ‘Fugitive Waves’

This American Life Episode on Coca Cola: Original Recipe


Conversation + Podcasting as a Social Technology

This Anthro Life structures its episodes around conversation. The episodes are unscripted and are generally taken up as an informal conversation where we discuss the context of social practices and provide critique. In providing a conversation style for our listeners to follow we hope to both begin conversations that can help change minds and start a dialogue. As Adam suggests, “conversations themselves are like little laboratories. The space behind conversations is where we define who we are”. If we are to understand who we are mastering the art of conversation is part of that.

In a recent episode in our TAL+ SM Crossover Series we talked with Alex Golub and Zoe Wool who gave excellent input on becoming a better conversationalist. Alex said, “the point of conversation is to change someone’s mind”, no just tell them they are wrong or right. Zoe strengthened this argument by introducing critique as a tool for change. Zoe said, “critique is not about judging or assessing something as good or bad it’s about bringing into relief the structures through which something is evaluated in the first place”. Critique is a tool you can use in a dialogue “to slow down our reasoning and think what is going on here”.

Check Out The Episodes Adam Mentioned During his Presentation

Emojis and Hieroglyphics

Psychedelic, Science, and Medicine w/ Hamilton Morris

On Kindness and What the World Needs Now

What do you think about live casting our episodes? Would you join the dialogue?

What does podcasting show us?

The Web is inherently public. Since it is public, everybody has a voice, so learning to converse is critical. Podcasting using a conversational format can provide listeners with a model for their own conversations and critiques.

Podcasters as Cultural brokers

A cultural broker operates between local/community orientations (think a small town, or even an office team) and (inter)national or mobile-oriented groups. They are able to move between disparate groups and create a link between them (idea adapted from anthropologist Eric Wolf, 1956).

As podcasters we are in a unique position to be a link between different cultural groups. Our audience is large and is composed of different peoples. Through our content and encouragement to discuss we can help facilitate interactions between people who may not have connected otherwise.

Data never speak for themselves.

To explain this concept, Adam channeled anthropologist Jessica O’Reilly saying, “data need spokespeople, and their effectiveness has as much to do with WHO is presenting the data and HOW they present it as WHAT the data report”. If a person is unable to make a connection to the data they are less likely to consider it important or follow it.

Charismatic Data are an algorithm mixing the production of facts and natural events as reported by [experts or knowledge insiders], and the way spokespeople present these data to non-expert audiences. They are data are imbued with power and favor because of the way they are presented. As Adam says, “charismatic data can make people do something”.

In O’Reilly’s book, The Technocratic Antarctic: An Ethnography of Scientific Expertise and Environmental Governance, she discusses charismatic data in relation to climate change in the Antarctic. In 2006 part of the B15 Iceberg fell away and scientists were able to use it as a charismatic event to visually demonstrate climate change. Another example of using charisma to draw interest to a scientific issue is the use of charismatic megafauna (i.e. pandas, elephants, etc.) to raise awareness for a particular issue (i.e. extinction or ecosystem destruction) and compel and convince people to act.  These examples show that “the way we tell stories and the way that we think about things together will affect how we feel about the data”.

And crucially, how people handle data produces political implications.

Check Out These Links to Learn More About Examples of the Power of Charismatic Data

Demise of the World’s Most Famous Iceberg

How Charismatic Megafauna Work

J Oppenheimer

Edward Teller

Stanislaw Ulam  

Voices of the Manhattan Project: J. Robert Oppenheimer

Check Out These Links That Were Mentioned in the Q&A

Planet Money On Second Thought

Weber on Charismatic Authority

The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

Sleep With Me Podcast

Anthropology + Science Journalism = A New Genre? w/ Daniel Salas of SAPIENS

As always, remember TAL is an entirely self-funded labor of love, so any help is always appreciated. We’ll be launching a Patreon campaign soon for ongoing support. For now, please give securely at PayPal, every bit makes a difference to us. [wpedon id=”2386″ align=”left”]