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Project Humanities launches 'Talking, Listening and Podcasting'

COVID-19 births new podcast club, which provides a unique way to talk about the things that make us human


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June 02, 2020

It's not a club that requires a monthly fee, a secret key or a password. All that’s required is a listening ear and a curious mind.

Sponsored by Arizona State University’s Project Humanities, “Talking, Listening and Podcasting with ASU Project Humanities” is a new podcast club that launches on Thursday, June 4. It’s essentially an extension of the award-winning initiative's event series and is designed to keep community conversations going during summer 2020.

“To be clear, Project Humanities is not starting its own podcast,” said Neal A. Lester, the project's founding director. “Rather, we are building on the popularity of audio books and podcasts. Just as what happens with book clubs and film clubs, our podcast club invites individuals to experience a podcast independently, then come together to talk about it and potentially learn from it.”

For this new programming, Project Humanities has selected popular podcasts that are accessible, provocative and linked to topics related to past and future Project Humanities events. These one-hour virtual conversations will be co-facilitated by a Project Humanities team member in partnership with community members, supporters and partners.

The hour-long podcast discussions will occur every other Thursday at 6 p.m. (MST) and will be broadcast via Zoom and Facebook Live. Topics include corporeal punishment and African American parenting, death and dying, youth mental health as related to academic pressures, menstrual equity, and police departments and neglected rape kits.

Like most other programming at ASU, Project Humanities transitioned to virtual events this spring because of COVID-19. However, the podcast club has been nearly a decade in the making.

Woman in glasses smiling

Jocelyn Booker-Ohl

“Listening to podcasts was something that really helped me emotionally when my father died in 2011,” said Jocelyn Booker-Ohl, a coordinator with Project Humanities who produced the series. “Music was too emotional to listen to and silence was even worse. Television requires you to sit, but I didn’t want to sit around for long periods of time. So, I started listening to podcasts while taking my dog for long walks and have been hooked ever since.”

Booker-Ohl said she found herself talking about podcasts nonstop to family, friends and acquaintances in the following years. Then when the coronavirus pandemic hit and people were forced to shelter in place, Booker-Ohl said it was the right time for Project Humanities to introduce the idea to the public.

“People need something to do right now and they want to learn, so here’s an option,” Booker-Ohl said. “We also don’t want to put this out into the internet void. We want this to be participatory like a book club. We want to feel like this is a shared experience, where our followers are listening and thinking along with us. We truly want a mutual conversation.”

Two weeks before each discussion, Project Humanities will post the name of the podcast and episode, guest facilitators, subject matter and related materials to engage the listener through social media channels. On the day of the event, Project Humanities will host the conversation on Zoom and Facebook Live so that followers can chat with guests.

Booker-Ohl said the podcast club is a trial run; if it's a success, Project Humanities will consider continuing the series in the fall.

“My hope is that we’ll continue this in the fall,” Booker-Ohl said. “It’s a decent amount of preparation work but my fingers are crossed.” 

'Talking, Listening and Podcasting' schedule

6 p.m. Thursday, June 4

Podcast Series: “Making Contact”

Episode: “Spare the Kids” (based on the book “Spare the Kids: Why Whupping Children Won’t Save Black America” by Stacey Patton)

Facilitators: Neal Lester and psychologist Michelle Melton

6 p.m. Thursday, June 18

Podcast Series: “Radiolab”

Episode: “After Life”

Facilitator: Jocelyn Booker-Ohl

6 p.m. Thursday, July 2

Podcast Series: “1A”

Episode: “Why Did Police Departments Throw Out Rape Kits?”

Facilitators: Rachel Sondgeroth, Project Humanities coordinator, and Samantha Hill, ASU alumna

6 p.m. Thursday, July 16

Podcast Series: “This is Normal: A Podcast about Youth Mental Health”

Episode: “School Stress Led Him to Despair. Support from Family, Friends Brought Him Back”

Facilitators: Stefano Contreras and Brooklyn Christofis, Desert Vista High School recent graduates

6 p.m. Thursday, July 30

Podcast Series: “Vicious Cycle: On the Bleedia”

Episode: “Menstrual Equity”

Facilitator: Sai Vadnerkar, Phoenix Country Day Upper School student

For more information on “Talking, Listening and Podcasting with ASU Project Humanities”, visit the Project Humanties events page.

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

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