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Thursday, May 11, 2017

May 11, 2017: The Scholars Strategy Network and Me: No Jargon Podcast



[Last week, I had the chance to attend a national meeting of the Scholars Strategy Network, a vital public scholarly organization of which I’ve been a Member for almost four years. So this week I wanted to share a few sides to my work with SSN, leading up to a weekend post on that national meeting and SSN’s expanding role in Trump’s America!]
On what I learned from contributing to SSN’s wonderful podcast, and why that multimedia effort is a vitally important one.
In late 2015, I had the chance to record an episode for No Jargon, the Scholars Strategy Network podcast created by two rightly recurring figures in this week’s series, SSN Executive Director Avi Green and Director of Communications Shira Rascoe (the December 2016 date on the above hyperlink is about a year after my episode was released, just for accuracy). As you can hear for yourself if you listen to the episode (it’s about half an hour long, but Avi keeps it moving quickly and engagingly), Avi and my conversation focused on histories of immigration, immigration law, exclusionary and inclusionary attitudes, and refugee communities and responses to them, all as contexts for the then-ongoing presidential campaign, President Obama’s Executive Orders on immigration, and many other contemporary debates and issues. I’m as proud of that podcast episode as I am of any single moment or element of the public scholarly work I’ve done over the last few years, and would highlight both a personal and a broader takeaway from that very positive experience.
On the personal level, I would say that recording my No Jargon episode reinforced but also greatly amplified my sense of the value of public scholarly conversation. That is, while of course most of the topics about which I talk in the episode are ones I had previously thought and written about at length and in depth (including frequently in this space, natch), my particular remarks and ideas in the podcast were nonetheless inspired directly and entirely by Avi’s questions and our evolving conversation in response to them. To parallel what I wrote earlier in the week about the evolution of my ideas on short-form online writing, I suppose I initially saw podcasting as a recorded/audio version of my writing; whereas in truth, if it’s done well (as No Jargon consistently does it), podcasting exemplifies precisely that genuinely conversational form, a medium where any individual’s voice and ideas are communicated through, and often (as were mine in this case) made stronger and more compelling by, dialogue. That doesn’t mean that I advanced different arguments or analyses in the podcast, but rather that I communicated both my perspective and the histories and concepts on which I focused in new, and I believe often clearer and more compelling, ways than I had in other settings. I can’t recommend taking part in a podcast strongly enough to any and all public scholars.
That recommendation is an overarching one; but I also specifically and whole-heartedly recommend the No Jargon podcast to any and all interested listeners. Partly it’s because every episode that I’ve heard (and I’m quite sure every other one as well) offers and models precisely that conversational ideal about which I was just writing. Partly it’s because the entire endeavor embodies both the public scholarly and communal goals for which SSN is so consistently striving. But mostly it’s because all of us—and I mean all of us, as this has been just as true for me—can and will learn a great deal from every episode we listen to, about that particular topic and about the complex and crucial issues facing 21st century America and the world. Obviously I think we can and should learn from reading, of course; but just as podcasting presents public scholarly conversations in a different way from written work, so too does listening to a podcast allow us to learn in a distinct and equally important manner. Am I suggesting that No Jargon should be required listening for all my fellow Americans? I mean, not required required, no—just strongly recommended, as a communal and civic learning experience that’s as compelling and engaging as they come.
Next SSN post tomorrow,
Ben
PS. What do you think? Thoughts on SSN, or other organizations or efforts you’d highlight?

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