August 2008 Transcript: AJ Hannah and Joy Austria

Joy: Welcome to First Monday Podcast I’m Joy Austria.

AJ: And I’m AJ Hannah. It’s August, the dog days of summer are here and though it’s hard to believe, First Monday Podcast has been around for one year.

Joy: We decided to turn the tables and let our Chief Editor Ed Valauskas interview us for a change. The following conversation was the result of hours of painstaking research and ground breaking journalism - the trademark of First Monday Podcast.

AJ: Welcome us to First Monday Podcast, won’t you Ed?

Ed: Welcome, to First Monday’s podcast! It’s our anniversary issue! Oh, we’re so excited, it’s so exciting! And here I am with the founders of First Monday Podcast! I am so thrilled!

Joy: I’m scared.

AJ: Ed, you’ve never acted like this before.

Ed: I’m so excited, it’s such a pleasure to be here with you. I have so many questions, let me, where, where can I start?

Joy: [laughter] I can’t do this.

AJ: Let’s start at the beginning.

Ed: Well, my first question is, why? Why, in the beginning did you want to do this?

Joy: I ask that, I ask myself, every month. I did do a little bit of radio in college, and I guess I had some leftover journalistic-type dreams. Podcasting, one of the great things about podcasting is that it enables sort of like the everyday person, the ordinary man, to make radio, to just make radio, and to do it in a fairly cheap way.

AJ: After all this time, after you’ve actually gotten your hands dirty, do you really think that it’s open to every man?

Ed: Well, that’s leads me to my second question. You’ve done this now for a year. Why do you continue to do this?

Joy: I really love First Monday, because I think it does fill a niche in the technology journalism world. But at the same time it doesn’t fit technology journalism because it isn’t gadgets and gizmos. But there is this, there is sort of a lack of technology journalism that really analyzes the Internet and analyzes -

Ed: Right.

Joy: What’s happening right now, and I think that there’s a lot of important questions about what’s happening right now that need to be addressed.

Ed: So, AJ how do you see the relationship between First Monday the regular journal and the podcast.

AJ: Well, originally when I started doing this, I thought that we would end up, basically, just kind of getting fluff pieces for the authors. I mean honestly, I thought that was how it was gonna go, I though the author would come out, talk about their article and it would kind of -

Ed: Me me me me!

AJ: Yes, it would be all about PR and -

Joy: And I just didn’t see it that way. I really thought that this was a chance to sort of like kinda give authors...I view the articles as the jumping point, here’s your idea, and then we would take it, and then take it a little bit, take it a step further, and ask some more questions, and talk about it in a little bit of a deeper fashion.

AJ: Which wasn’t always quite, well it wasn’t always very well received by the author -

Joy: No.

AJ: We found out.

Joy: Yeah.

Ed: So the authors were expecting it to be fluff pieces -

Joy: Some, some of them.

Ed: - and when you asked more serious questions, you had some issues, or the authors had issues -

AJ: Yeah, it was kind of surprising, some of them didn’t respond in a favorable fashion to having their research questioned. They didn’t like the fact we were picking apart pieces of it. Other people actually relished it, they thought is was fantastic over and over we would hear, “Oh, that’s a good question,” or, you know, “I never thought of it that way,” which is good, you know, because then -

Ed: Right.

AJ: It always, I mean, not only has it made us think, but I think it’s really reflective that people are still thinking about the issues that they’ve written about.

Joy: And I hope that’s the reputation that we’re building, like a year after I hope when people, like when authors talk about their experience, or you know, they mention it to colleagues, that they mention that fact that they’ll [First Monday Podcast will] make you think about your article in new and different ways.

Ed: But, for both of you, there is a reputational capital, so it’s a part of what you’re trying to build up, you yourselves are building up a reputational capital by doing this.

Joy: That’s what I hope.

Ed: Which is one of the reasons I think lots of people do these sorts of projects, do open content sort of projects, because you’re aren’t getting paid, you’re getting paid in a different way - the reputation you’re developing. I mean, that’s one reason why I’m doing First Monday for twelve and a half years. Certainly not the money.

Joy: Well, definitely, some of the people that I’ve talked to they do see the value in what’s we’re doing and they really think that the interviews make them think about those articles in a different way.

As far as being organized and getting things done on time, absolutely not. But, that’s a fine First Monday tradition, I understand.

AJ: For me the big thing, I guess, as far as like as adding onto, what the podcast does, for me it’s always been about bringing it out of, you know, the academic arena, putting it out to the street, saying, “How is this gonna affect me as a Joe Blow walking down the street?” using the Internet, using whatever form of media or gadget that’s popped up. You know, how is it really gonna work in the real world? Is it gonna have any effect at all, or is it just someone spouting an idea?

Joy: When you read a lot of articles, academic articles, I think one of the things that always crossed my mind, I don’t know about you, “Yeah, this is a great idea, but how is this going to work in the real world?” These are great ideas and we totally agree with you, but how are you going to make this a reality? And, this is sort of an effort on our part, to sort of appeal to a general audience. When people think technology, they think gadgets and gizmos, and if you start talking this highfalutin academic speak in our podcast they might turn it off.

Ed: But someone might accuse you of creating First Monday Lite.

AJ: I don’t think it’s necessarily First Monday Lite. We’re still dealing with the same content and the same issues. Originally when we sat down to talk about what we wanted to accomplish with the podcast, one of them was to open it up to a different audience. And granted, the format of podcasting is going to limit it to a certain type of audience, but within that group of people there’s still people who are only focusing on the gadgets and not the human aspect, or the economic aspect, or the educational aspect.

Joy: I don’t think it’s First Monday Lite cause AJ’s right. We’re dealing with the same content, but we’re trying to bring it out -

AJ: Out of the ivory tower.

Joy: Out of the ivory tower, to the regular public.

Ed: But you aren’t dumbing it down?

Joy: I don’t think it’s dumbing it down if you’re challenging your authors for practical solutions.

Ed: So has the, based on what you started a year ago, have you accomplished in a year what you thought you would do?

AJ: As far as being organized and getting things done on time, absolutely not. But, that’s a fine First Monday tradition, I understand.

Ed: Twelve and a half years, I’m still not organized -

Joy: Oh, God.

Ed: Although the last month’s issue, this month’s issue, July issue, actually came out early.

AJ: And a round of applause for Ed.

Joy: I hope twelve years later, we can come out either a) early or on first monday and it’d cause me great -

Ed: That’s a great goal to have, I tell you. It’s a wonderful goal.

AJ: Ed, I have a question for you.

Ed: Uh-oh.

AJ: What did you expect, to -

Joy: When this started.

AJ: Yeah, what did you expect from us, and what did you expect -

Ed: For the podcast?

AJ: Yeah, what did you expect for the podcast?

Ed: I had no expectations.

AJ: None?

Ed: I had none. I was just happy to see it happen. With First Monday, anyone who does anything, if they actually do it, whether it’s reviewing a paper, writing a paper -

Joy: Book reviews.

Ed: Book reviews, anything, if they actually follow up and actually do whatever they said they will do - I’m stunned. It’s a miracle, and I consider each issue of First Monday a miracle, I consider each podcast a miracle.

AJ: Awww.

Joy: Awww.

Ed: Well, I do. Because there are so many things that have to come into play to make it possible, to make it happen. And so, my, I’ve learned, over all these years, not to have any great expectations. And so if it happens, great, if it doesn’t, okay, well we tried.

Joy: Maybe that’s something that I need to adopt, because of my stress level and the amount of Pepto Bismol I buy.

Ed: Exactly.

Joy: Will go down

Ed: Exactly. I’ve learned after twelve years and a half years, it just, you cannot -

Joy: And a couple of stents later -

Ed: Three, three stents later -

AJ: But that wasn’t First Monday that got you those stents.

Ed: No, it was the White Castles.

I don’t think it’s dumbing it down if you’re challenging your authors for practical solutions.

Joy: What’s your favorite episode that we’ve done?

Ed: Maureen O’Sullivan.

Joy: Really.

Ed: Yeah.

Joy: Why?

Ed: Well it’s an issue that I’m very interested in, the copyright, the whole copyright issue. The paper was a great paper, we had excellent reviews of it, we went back and forth, the paper went through, the changes in the process of the peer review, I was really excited about it, and so I had great expectations for the podcast and it just turned out -

Joy: Did it follow through?

Ed: Yeah.

Ed: I saw the original paper, which was a good paper, and then this is a case where it went through several edits. And, it just kept improving, and improving, and I think it, for her it improved her thinking, so you wound up, getting in this podcast, a very distilled, focused, concept, and that’s what you want.

AJ: What was your favorite episode?

Joy: I was just going to ask you the same thing.

AJ: Ha, ha!

Joy: I need to think so you need to answer.

AJ: Why do I have to answer?

Joy: You do while I think.

AJ: It’s kind of rough to pick a favorite. But then again, you know, a lot of, a lot of the early interviews, they seriously were kind of guinea pigs for us.

Joy: Well, we have to thank Ian Bogost, because, and we did tell him, you are our guinea pig.

Ed: Yeah, and Ian was a good sport about doing it.

Joy: He was, and it, it was a good interview, I think, some of it, he is, he was a good interview, we were still trying to find our way on how we wanted to, you know, form this podcast, but I still think that was a good interview. Actually, Siva’s [interview] was a good interview, too.

AJ: Yeah.

Joy: He was fun.

AJ: Stephanie Mills.

Ed: Stephanie’s great.

AJ: Yeah, that was probably my favorite one.

Joy: Why?

AJ: From everything to the technical aspects, to the actual conversation.

Joy: Well, what about the technical aspects that was so fun?

AJ: Well first of all, it was a face to face, much like this one, and it was just, when you have a face to face interview, you’ve got a certain kind of energy going between, you know, the people that are talking, and I thought that the conversation had a certain flow to it that you don’t usually get through a telephone conversation. You prepare your questions, you go in, you’ve read the article, you’ve done your research, sit down with the person, when there’s that distance, you know, once again, the technology between the people, something kind of gets lost.

And, I thought, especially considering the subject matter, about it being, about Luddites, and being able to have a face to face, it led the conversation in a way that I didn’t expect. And it ended up being, a very, to me it was a very interesting discussion. I was kind of sad that we didn’t have enough time to keep talking. She was very interesting.

Ed: She’s a fascinating person.

Joy: I think it’s a tie between Maureen’s episode and Stephanie’s. For the same reason like you said, just, there’s something about her [Stephanie Mills], that’s very intriguing, and she’s just, it was like having a, that’s one of the great things about face to face interviews, like you said, it’s just like, it just, it felt like we knew each other already, and we were sitting around, having a conversation.

And that’s, that’s what I would love to have with every single interview and I know that’s sort of hard with the telephone interviews, that’s the way I would love every interview to kind of go.

And Maureen’s trying to put that interview together, it took like I think six months, to put that together, and she was just so patient, and so excited to be a part of First Monday, and the conversation itself I thought was just incredibly intellectually stimulating. It just, like I said, I don’t understand copyright, and she just boiled it down really well, and she was just great to talk to and just really nice and has a lot of great, she’s an excellent writer. It was a really great interview.

Ed: So, where will First Monday Podcast be going in the future? What can we expect in the next year?

Joy: Well, Ed, I’m glad you asked!

AJ: We’ve got a fantastic project coming up, Ed!

Ed: Really?!

Joy: Funded by -

Ed: Tell me more about it.

Joy: Funded by the fine folks at the MacArthur Foundation, so thank you very much.

AJ: Thank you very much.

Ed: John D. and Catherine T. -

Joy: It’s Openness 2.0 and it’s revisiting the conference, that First Monday had, what two years ago, 2005?

Ed: 2006, on our tenth anniversary.

Joy: The tenth anniversary. So we’re revisiting some of these ideas about the open movement, open science, open journals, and we’re kind of checking back with some authors and some other participants, and basically saying, “How has it improved, how has it not improved since 2006?”

Ed: That sounds very exciting.

AJ: Yeah, we’ll be expanding our format. I think this is, well, we’re actually going to spread out and do our little quote unquote NPR pieces.

Joy: NPR pieces.

Ed: Well, I think that would be great, and I really look forward to it that. That’s going to be good.

Joy: All right, well thanks.

Ed: Thank you. It’s been exciting. I’ve had such a great time. Thank you very much for being here.

AJ: Oh, well thank you -

Ed: What a great audience.

Joy: Try the veal.

AJ: This friggin’ interview is over, man!

When you have a face to face interview, you’ve got a certain kind of energy going between the people that are talking that you don’t usually get through a telephone conversation.

Joy: We’d like to thank Ed Valauskas for hanging out with us. And next up Rory Brown’s review of The MIT Press Podcast.

Rory: Hi, I’m Rory Brown from the Chicago Public Library and I’m reviewing The MIT Press Podcast.

The stated purpose of the MIT [Press] Podcast is to highlight the authors of the MIT Press, and the standard format of two author interviews dividing the approximately thirty minute podcast into two segments does just that.

The MIT Press touts itself as the “only university press in the United States whose list is based in science and technology,” and the subject matter of the highlighted authors falls within these arenas in general, though it is by no means strictly limited to scientific and technological subject matter. Past podcasts have featured a wide variety of subjects, such as history, art and architecture.

Though the podcast does succeed in fulfilling its mission, it is fairly unremarkable in its format and production quality. What is remarkable is that the MIT Press finds it necessary to hire the third party podcast service Heron & Crane Productions to achieve these lackluster results.

At the risk of bringing the qualifications of a certain hack librarian to review technology podcasts under scrutiny, I question why the MIT Press would choose Chris Gondek to host the program. It would be difficult to argue that Gondek is by any means an incompetent host, as his questions are insightful and demonstrate a great deal of preparation and familiarity with the subject matter. But a somewhat monotone delivery and poor production values detract from what could be an excellent program.

It seems to me that MIT Press could find someone more qualified than an M.B.A. with two corgis and a bowtie to host their podcast. Further, it seems that a company that solely produces podcasts should be capable of delivering a higher quality product.

I won’t go so far as to suggest that this podcast isn’t worth listening to, but I will warn potential listeners to expect less than polished audio engineering.

For First Monday, I’m Rory Brown. I bid you happy podcasting.

Joy: Questions or comments contact us at comments [at] firstmondaypodcast [dot] org.

AJ: Special thanks goes out to Linda Naru and University of Illinois Chicago for providing the perfect arena for our landmark anniversary podcast.

And most of all we’d like to thank our listeners or sticking with us through our experiments, our ups and downs, our missed deadlines.

Joy: We hope that you’ll stick with us another year of experiments, ups and downs, and missed deadlines.

AJ: For First Monday Podcast I’m AJ Hannah.

Joy: And I’m Joy Austria. Have a great summer and see you next month.End of article