A UW-Madison project exploring the golden age of podcasting is one of 245 humanities projects across the country receiving $39.3 million in grants, the National Endowment for the Humanities announced today.
PodcastRE Analytics: Investigating the Golden Age of Podcasting through Metadata and Sound will receive a $74,972 Digital Humanities Advancement Grant, say principal investigators Jeremy Morris and Eric Hoyt, both assistant professors of Media and Cultural Studies in the Department of Communication Arts.
Morris also is the founder of PodcastRE (short for Podcast Research), one of the largest publicly oriented research collections of its kind, with more than 150,000 audio files and 180,000 metadata records from over 1,200 podcast feeds. Hoyt is an expert in the field of film and media archiving, as well as the developer of two web-based digital humanities platforms — Lantern and Arclight — for the Media History Digital Library.
Morris and Hoyt realized that, while podcasting is thriving, its history and sounds remain difficult to analyze, with scant resources for researching the form, content and history of podcasts and even fewer tools for preserving and analyzing the sonic artifacts being produced.
With PodcastRE Analytics, they plan to draw from the PodcastRE database and make digital audio more usable, visible and audible for scholars and the public. “This project will pioneer new techniques for the analysis and visualization of audio and metadata, allowing users to explore audio in ways that are as familiar and useful as how they currently explore books in libraries,” they state.
These new tools will provide such insights as whether the number of new podcasts is rising or falling each year, if religious podcasts are more popular than comedy podcasts and what the keywords were in podcasts that aired the week after the U.S. Presidential election.
“Questions like these, and the many more this project will spark, will help researchers and the public gain greater insights from the vast amount of audio content being produced via podcasts,” say Morris and Hoyt. “Ultimately, what today’s podcasters are producing will have value in the future, not just for its content, but for what it tells us about audio’s longer history, about who has the right to communicate and by what means.”
PodcastRE Analytics is also supported by the UW-Madison Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education, a UW2020 grant, the UW Libraries, the Department of Communication Arts, the Instructional Media Center, Computer Media Specialist Peter Sengstock and AudioSear.ch.
Ultimately, what today’s podcasters are producing will have value in the future, not just for its content, but for what it tells us about audio’s longer history, about who has the right to communicate and by what means.
These NEH grants represent the third and final round of the organization’s funding for fiscal year 2017 and support vital research, education and public programs in the humanities. The grants are awarded to local cultural organizations, museums, archives, state humanities councils, colleges and universities and individual scholars. (Find a full list of projects here.)
“NEH grants ensure that Americans around the country have the opportunity to engage with our shared cultural heritage,” said NEH Acting Chairman Jon Parrish Peede. “From traveling exhibitions and teacher workshops to efforts to preserve local history, these projects demonstrate the power of the humanities to build connections, stimulate discovery and contribute to vibrant communities.”