What is Technoculture?
Technoculture is a podcast launched by Federica Bressan in 2018; its first episode was released on 28 October 2018, the international day of cultural heritage. It consists of a series of one-on-one conversations with experts in the fields of technology, research, art, and science, and is available on iTunes, Spotify, YouTube, and all major podcasting apps.
The podcast focuses on how digital technology influences our lives, our experiences, and ultimately what it means to be human today.
Federica conceived the podcast as a platform to foster an intelligent discussion around topics that concern our contemporary society. It is meant to explore at 360 degrees the impact that digital technology has on our lives and our society.
The common denominator is an interest in the Human, and how the experience of being in the world changes as new technology emerges, and people depend on and merge with machines.
About the author
Federica Bressan is an academic researcher based in Brussels, Belgium (learn more).
She has been active in academia for ten years now. Her research interest initially centerd on technical issues related to analogue-to-digital audio transfers, is now focused on high-level issues related to multimedia preservation – and, even more broadly, on why cultural heritage matters, how it relates to the concepts of memory and identity, and how it helps us answer fundamental questions of the human condition.
In 2017-2018, she was travelling world-wide for her Marie Curie research project and she was meeting people from all walks of life with whom she had fascinating discussions. Some were so interesting she thought it was a shame not to share them with the world.
So the idea of the podcast came about as a podcast gives the spoken word the same permanence of the written word, and it reaches very far instantly through the internet. One can play the audio back on a personal device, anytime, anywhere.
During the first season (October 2018 – July 2019), Federica has published 33 episodes ranging from cybersecurity to film preservation. Each episode has a duration of about one hour, and is accompanied by a web page including the full transcript of the interview, a summary of the contents, word clouds, and pull quotes. The first episode featured Michael Matlosz, who at the time had just taken office as President of EuroScience. A historian of science talks about the life of Marie Curie (episode #7) and the rethoric of science (#30); the author of a video featured by Nature talks about his approach to data visualization (#29); an AES sound engineer tells a story that few of us have heard, the production process of an audiobook at the Penguin Random House in New York (#18); the world number one advocate for transhumanism talks about future science that sounds like sci-fi (#11); a neuroscientist gives a definition of consciousness informed by science and tells us what happened when he brain-scanned a Buddhist monk in meditation (#15). Don’t be taken aback by the variety of topics: find your own itinerary on this map as it keeps being drawn.
The podcast started attracting increasing attention and Federica was being offered new interviews. So she decided to produce a second season with new episodes. In the light of the experiences and lessons learnt from the first season, she has fine-tuned the format, which now features interviews of the duration of 30 minutes and a video summary of the duration of 1-2 minutes for each episode. The first episode was released on September 30th, 2019, which is also International Podcasting Day. The topic of the episode is “living history,” an intriguing approach to cultural heritage dissemination that opens interesting reflections on how people will look back at our era in a thousand years into the future (watch the video summary). Besides some guests from Europe, like a theoretical particle physicist at CERN in Geneva and the director of the Institute for Psychoacoustics and Electronic Music at Ghent University in Belgium, the podcast will feature a number of guests from the United States – where Federica will spend good part of 2020 thanks to a Fulbright grant with Stony Brook University in New York. Expect interviews with Yaneer Bar-Yam, director of NECSI; Senior Advisor at the US State Department Rick Ruth; the Laptop Orchestra at Princeton University; and other prominent leaders from renown institutions in the fields of research, technology, philosophy, and peace-keeping.
The making of
Technoculture is mostly the effort of one, and a long-term endeavor by necessity. While producing the episodes is time and resource demanding, the real challenge is the constellation of materials that keep being added to the website over time: show notes that include full transcription (about 6k words per episode in the first season), a summary of contents with timed links, as well as audiograms, video pull quotes, and every creative way to extract and present the wealth of information “buried” in the audio stream. Keep going back to the web pages of your favorite episodes, because new material is progressively being published. The best way to stay up to date is following the podcast Facebook page. Technoculture was a finalist at the MSCA Award for “Sharing excellence” in June 2019. Federica is currently working on a book with a selection of interviews from the podcast.
Episodes on EuroScientist
Featured image credit: Federica Bressan