Rice University (my employer) just announced that it will be working with the PRI program Fair Game to produce a series of segments profiling cutting-edge humanities research. Through this initiative, Rice’s School of Humanities hopes to engage leading humanities researchers more fully in public conversations. The first shows will focus on democracy, taking on complex issues such as the role of religion in politics and the tension between justice and liberty. The host of Fair Game, Faith Salie, is a Rhodes Scholar and a comedian, so you get smart and funny together. Indeed, the show is a sort of Daily Show for the radio–it doesn’t take itself too seriously even as it examines serious ideas.
As an avid listener to PRI and NPR shows such as This American Life, RadioLab, and Speaking of Faith, I find radio is the best medium for carrying out (or listening in on) rich conversations about ideas, since I can really focus my attention on what is being said. I’m delighted to see the humanities find a new forum. I hope that future episodes will look at digital arts and culture, since I believe that the shift to online communication and collaboration is a profound cultural transformation that humanities scholarship can help us to understand. For instance, the show could examine debates over authority and Wikipedia, the changing nature of reading, the ethics of literary scholars retrieving deleted data from hard drives (see Matt Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms), geographic visualizations, the impact of new technologies on research practices, etc.
By the way, after writing my post on YouTube Scholarship, I’ve come across more examples of scholarly videos. For instance, Rutger’s English department has produced some fantastic YouTube videos making the case for digital humanities. I also noted that the New Media Consortium’s 2008 Horizon Report describes “grassroots video” as a key emerging technology and emphasizes the ease with which it can be produced and shared, making me think that the barriers to producing video aren’t as significant as I previously imagined.