The objective of the Library Matters podcast is to invoke conversations about why library and Indigenous issues matter to every person living within the country now called Canadian. Each week the podcast centres around a particular issue or theme within libraries, information and Indigenous contexts. This audio podcast follows the course structure of LIS598: “Indigenous Library and Information Studies in a Canadian Context” offered by the University of Alberta and taught my Tanya Ball and Kayla Lar-Son. Each episode involves Devon having a conversation with various friends or colleagues (typically not librarians) who each bring their own insight to the theme and conversation of the week.
I was an early adopter of podcasts due to my penchant for audiobooks and public radio. Combine this auditory keeness with the fact that I am a queer millennial who grew up deeply embedded within digital spaces and communities because I felt foreign and disconnected from my own rural Saskatchewan small-town. I am likely the key demographic of early podcast listeners. I reached maturity in the early aughts alongside the “new media” phenomena which I enthusiastically used as a way to connect with voices and people I previously had no exposure to. The podcast, which is a term first coined in The Guardian newspaper by Ben Hammersly (Quah, 2019) is a term used to describe internet radio programs of various style and type. To define podcasting is akin to attempting to define all radio broadcasting; as it’s essentially the more modernized version of broadcast radio and just as varied as the traditional medium. The differences between radio and podcasting is the democratization and accessibility of new media. Podcasts can be developed and made without the need of appeasing broadcasters, sponsors or wide demographics. The podcast allowed for the revitalization of more conventional radio broadcasting as podcasts allow creators to self-publish content on any topic, in any format and in any frequency without expressed permission from the typical gatekeepers of broadcast media (Gray, 2020).
In a piece written for Vulture, titled We’re Entering The Era of Big Podcasting (2019) Nicholas Quach outlines the three general phases of the podcast’s history. Starting with the first era titled “The Pioneers” in which the podcast’s early start was generally clunky and amateurish when compared to broadcast radio of the time. All of this would change during the global financial crisis of 2008-2010 when creators and celebrities began looking for cheaper alternatives that still allowed for the production of entertainment through digital content in an online context (Quah, 2019). Of course, the rise of podcasting is also linked to the success of the smartphone, specifically the iPhone. In 2012 Apple released a dedicated Podcast app that appeared on users iPhones during routine updates (Ingraham, 2012). Those who previously had never encountered the word “podcast” suddenly found themselves looking at an icon of it on their iPhone home screen. Apple consciously moving podcasts from the music app and creating its own independent application further legitimized the creative outlet; even if it did leave a few people wondering how to remove an app with a silly name from their phones.
For many, the first time that they truly encountered a podcast was in 2014 when the renowned cultural phenomena that was Serial by Sarah Keoning premiered. Serial which is an example of investigative journalism through podcasting is of significance as it launched during a true podcasting golden era. 2014 through to 2019 was a monumental time for podcasting as Edison Research reports that the average number of American monthly podcast listeners nearly doubled from 39 million to an approximate 90 million listeners (Quah, 2019 & Edison Research, 2019). This rise in podcasting awareness meant that creators from established media sources, independent start-ups and amateurs began to see the medium as a viable and accessible outlet. Suddenly, people who had previously been excluded from broadcast journalism were able to contribute to the art form.
The trajectory of Indigenous podcasts is akin to the wider umbrella of Indigenous publishing which is positively fraught with lasting colonial damages and a disturbing legacy of exclusion and erasure. However, the democratization of information/radio through the advancement of new media has been beneficial to marginalized and underrepresented groups who now have the ability to tell their own stories. One of the benefits of podcasting to Indigenous peoples is that it allows for connection to more traditional ways of knowing and being. While it might seem paradoxical that a new form of technology and entertainment such as podcasting would connect to Indigenous traditions; oral histories and storytelling connect directly with podcasting. The colonial and Eurocentric belief that “legitimate knowledge” must be written and/or published has long permeated the Canadian collective psyche to detrimental effect. The medium of podcasting allows for those who have historically been excluded from publishing and broadcasting to join the conversation in a meaningful way that allows for Indigenous voices to heard on a global scale and works to decolonize the airwaves (NewJourneys, 2017).
Now, listeners have the ability to listen to broadcasts that are made by and for Indigenous peoples in an era of Indigenous representation that truly has never existed in the history of the country now called Canada. Indigenous podcasts weave their Indigeneity into whatever the topic of the podcast may be. In addition to exceptional podcasts there also exists podcast networks such as Indian & Cowboy which looks to “build an Indigenous media revolution you’ve never even dreamed of” (Indian & Cowboy, n.d.). Wherever the future of podcasting is heading- the future is bright for all those who make and listen to podcasts.
Edison Research. (2019). Podcast Research .
Gray, C. (2020, January 29). What is a Podcast? An Explanation in Plain English. https://www.thepodcasthost.com/listening/what-is-a-podcast/
Indian & Cowboy. (n.d.). Indian & Cowboy Podcasts . Retrieved July 24, 2020, from https://www.indianandcowboy.com/listen
Ingraham, N. (2012, June 26). Apple releases dedicates Podcast app for iPhone and iPad . https://www.theverge.com/2012/6/26/3118820/apple-podcasts-app-release
Mitchell, T. (2017, November 6). Indigenous podcasting: resisting the colonial paradigm . https://www.thegrassrootsjournal.org/post/2017/11/06/indigenous-podcasting-resisting-the-colonial-paradigm
NewJourneys. (2017, January 27). 11 Indigenous podcasts for your listening pleasure . https://newjourneys.ca/en/articles/11-indigenous-podcasts-for-your-listening-pleasure
University of British Columbia. (2020, July 21). Indigenous New Media . https://guides.library.ubc.ca/c.php?g=701008&p=4978613
Quah, N. (2019, September 30). We’re Entering the Era of Big Podcasting . https://www.vulture.com/2019/09/podcasting-history-three-eras.html
Dev Stolz studied education and art theory at the University of Regina before pursuing a graduate degree in library and information studies at the University of Alberta. A teacher, writer and public servant- Dev is deeply interested in information seeking behaviour, information ethics, data sovereignty and international perspectives on teaching and learning. He has lived and worked in Japan before returning to Canada to teach in the Canadian school system. Currently he holds the position of Head of Information Management for the Saskatchewan region of Indigenous Services Canada. These days he can be found within his apartment in Regina, Saskatchewan with his work-from-home coworker and cat, Minerva.