Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #4: In Our Time, with Melvyn Bragg

My Top 5 Podcasts 2014

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Diet matters. All fat & sugar all the time just isn’t as healthy as a balanced and varied diet. You should take care of your typist’s body. But at least for an avatar, you can shave off years of poor diet with a body shape slider.

Mind Diet #

image of a brain running on a treadmillYour mind is no different. And there’s no avatar, or typist, “mind slider.” You are what you eat. Or read. Or watch. If all you ever do is watch Michael Bay films, well, there you go. Books still matter. Nobody cares if you read them as ink on paper, or on your Kindle or iPad, or listen to the audiobook as you workout or commute. Reading builds healthier minds. Smarter. More diverse. Richer. More connected. More deeply understanding.

I must confess that I’ve never read Jane Jacobs’ 1961 masterpiece The Death and Life of Great American Cities, so I’ve just started reading it now. I got the audiobook so I can “read” it while out on brisk winter runs, or riding the metro. The other thing I love to do while commuting or running is listen to podcasts.

I am a post-2007 construct #

Image of a man wearing a cap of electrodes and looking at his brain activity on a monitorIt’s funny, I think that who I am, what I do, what I believe, my ideology, and my aesthetics, have all formed post-2007. By 2007 I already had a BFA in Choreography and an MFA in New Media. I’d already done some pretty cool work for fancy clients. And certainly I had played with New Media and New Ideas. Still, for all I’d done or learned before 2007, I do believe that the me today is a post-’07 construct. In 2007 I met Richard Stallman and Jon Phillips, then a Creative Commons evangelist. They had a profound influence. Profound! I’ve never met Charlie Nesson, Lawrence Lessig, or Jonathan Zittrain, but thanks to podcasting I’ve heard them speak for perhaps hundreds of hours. They, and many others, have refined my perspective on everything.

My Top 5 Podcasts 2014 #

Since diet, ideas, reading, and thinking matter, I thought December’d be a pretty good time to share my Top 5 Podcasts for 2014. I never made a Top 5 Podcasts 2007. If I had it’d be a very different list. Back then it seemed somehow easier to find more individual, idiosyncratic podcasts. Indy stuff. Like that Seattle hacker / developer guy Bluejack who did an indy podcast called Overclocked about life, tech, the universe, and everything. Or that woman whose name I can’t remember who used to narrate her walks and cultural adventures. I just remember her running into some frogs one night. It was better than that just sounded. It seems like back then a lot of individuals took to podcasting. They, or others, must still be out there. But they seem harder to find. I can’t help but notice that my Top 5 Podcasts 2014 come from KCRW, BBC Radio 4, Harvard, Stanford & CJSW. Magnificent institutions all, yet I’m just a little sad that the voice of the lone individual isn’t in my podcast diet at all today, where once it dominated.

Still, I do love these Top 5 Podcasts 2014 a lot. They’ve been an enormous part of my continuing education. So, here they are!

#5 Martini Shot – Rob Long #

Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #5: Martini Shot with Rob LongMy Top 5 Podcasts 2014 are 4 pretty serious podcasts, and Rob Long. The others all run about an hour. Rob Long’s podcasts run about 4 minutes. In 4 minutes he manages to be a little bit funny, a little bit insightful, and a little bit delightful. That’s actually a lot to accomplish in 4 minutes. I’ve certainly accomplished less in longer. Plenty of times. Rob Long’s a really good writer. With a really good voice. I love hanging out with him for 4 minutes a week.

#4 In Our Time – Melvyn Bragg #

Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #4: In Our Time, with Melvyn BraggOMG, I’ve been listening to, and watching, Melvyn Bragg for my whole life! When I was in school I watched documentaries he hosted. I remember Melvyn Bragg taking me on tours of places like Chartres Cathedral. Bragg’s resume is long, and for the past 16 year’s he’s hosted the remarkable In Our Time, an in-depth cultural conversation. From Hatshepsut to Kafka to Beauty, Bragg and his weekly guest scholars break down powerful ideas in human culture. The program is dense and compelling. I’ve learned a lot.

#3 MediaBerkman #

Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #3 MediaBerkman from The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. Image of a video player with a video of Aaron Swartz speaking on The Open LibraryAs I mentioned above, MediaBerkman has allowed me to spend countless hours with the biggest thinkers of our age. danah boyd, Yochai Benkler, Ethan Zuckerman, Susan Crawford, and so many others. For me MediaBerkman has been ground zero for understanding the culture of our internet age.

My one complaint, just in case you’re reading, Berkman, is how the richest university on the planet, with the most important ideas of the century, can, week after week, produce the worst audio quality online. The levels are so wild and bad, the micing is so poor, some content just can’t be heard, and some you have to crank up so loud you risk blowing your car speakers or your earbudded eardrums. Believe me, these ideas are so powerful they’re worth plenty of inconvenience to access them. But it’s sad that technically, this podcast is so much poorer than the other 4. It’s sad that Harvard / Berkman, who already does so much, won’t go one more step to achieve audio quality in keeping with the excellence of their content.

  • Harvard / Berkman Center for Internet & Society / MediaBerkman

#2 Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders #

Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #2: Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders from the Stanford Technology Ventures ProgramI can hardly believe that a “business” podcast is on my top 5 list! When I teach Introduction to the Visual Arts to a general university audience, the business students are the worst. Forgive me for stereotyping my own students, but most often they seem to care less than other students, be less engaged, and are more distracted. The weekly speakers at Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders are a world apart from what I thought I knew about business people. Thanks to Stanford’s location at the heart of Silicon Valley, the speakers tend to be important and successful entrepreneurs. Then tend to be ridiculously rich, but they’re not really about money. These are people who care deeply about easing the friction of pain points. Sometimes small pain points, often culturally significant ones. These conversations are insightful and inspiring. For the least likely business person around, me, they are an irresistible call-to-action.

#1 Space + Place – Amery Calvelli #

Top 5 Podcasts 2014: #1: CJSW's Space and Place with Amery CalveliEntrepreneurial Thought Leaders has shown me a caliber of Business Person I didn’t appreciate, and show after show, Amery Calvelli’s Space + Place shows me a caliber of Developer I haven’t appreciated. Developers so often seem like the selfish, narrow-minded bad guys. But Calvelli has brought in so many visionary developers. Like those Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, Calvelli’s developers understand both the largest cultural contexts, and the need to create profitable, sustainable architectural environments. This podcast is as ridiculously inspiring as it is insightful. So many powerful ideas. It lifts my simplistic ideas about architecture to the full promise of engaged civic design.

Thank You #

Thanks Rob, Melvyn, Harvard, Stanford, and Amery! You are my Top 5 Podcasts 2014! I said that my mind is a post-2007 construct, and I mean it. Content like Martini Shot, In Out Time, MediaBerkman, Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders, and Space + Place has widened, redefined, and vastly enlarged my perception of our world and its tremendous realm of possibilities. Thank You for My Top 5 Podcasts 2014! A thousand thank you’s!

Your Top 5 Podcasts 2014?

What are Your Top 5 Podcasts 2014? What do you listen to? Heavy, insightful, funny, delightful, whatever works for you, please LMK in the comments below. And tell me what you think if you have a chance to listen to any of my Top 5 Podcasts 2014. Happy listening in 2015!

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About Vanessa Blaylock

I was the Choreographer at Vanessa Blaylock Dancers and the Artistic Director at Vanessa Blaylock Company. Today my work focuses on Public Art projects. I'm interested in the mediation of perception and mixed reality performance works. I'm passionate about community and civil rights in cyberspace.