Video Podcast: Academically Distanced

Podcasting: Academically Distanced

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The following is an accompanying blog post I wrote as a general introduction to the Academically Distanced series.

Before March of 2020, I couldn’t tell you what the benefits of washing fruits and vegetables were. I’d rinse off dirt on sweet potatoes, sure – but I’d usually be content to consume bananas and strawberries off the produce stall if I wasn’t bound by decency to pay for them first.

Now? There are stakes. Risks. Now we have a system for bringing home groceries.

Step into the house. Deposit bags on the prescribed counter space for sanitization. Antimicrobial solution and wipes at the ready. Immediately shed and wash our outer layer of clothes. Shower. Return to our spoils and begin the ritual: cleanse everything from the outside in.

There’s no telling who handled this box of Nilla Wafers before placing it back on the shelf with reckless abandon. Could we trust even a well-meaning stranger to have sung Happy Birthday twice when they last washed their hands? The data doesn’t paint a favorable picture. I’ll give these wafers another wipe down.

And take another shower, for good measure.

I had selfish reasons to pitch a podcast about academia in the age of COVID. The rituals and neurosis of quarantining while dodging microbes were pervasive. If discussions outside of our Zoom call agendas and memes across the social sphere are to be believed, I don’t think I’m the only one who had gotten a little into my own head about this whole quarantine business. I spend quite a bit of time trying to preserve a kind of continuity for normal university library services in circumstances that are anything but normal. I used to tour across campus to meet with collaborators and talent, personally placing lapel mics on seminar presenters or interviewees, sitting in small studio spaces with no airflow with several people at a time…recording studios, libraries, classrooms, water fountains, handrails, the whole of the public restroom experience – right now that all hits a bit different, so to speak. 

Campus is closed for now, and I’m extremely privileged to be able to continue working remotely. I can still produce bespoke media projects for stakeholders, but have found more pleasure in meeting a need to train others to create their own media content for work and learning. How this pandemic has affected any given initiative is at the forefront of every discussion I have. Why it necessitates a different approach to this grant project, this seminar, this classroom. We frequently discuss how to work around it, but we seldom really talk about it.

The Academically Distanced Podcast provided a space for me, faculty, staff, and even students to find catharsis in acknowledging the more intimate facets of the now versus the before-March-of-2020-times. Each guest was gracious enough to fit an extra Zoom call in their day of Zoom calls to break from the typical formality of academic workaday and speak candidly on how life, learning, research, and even social justice experienced a paradigm shift during a global pandemic.

Quarantine has been isolating, in ways beyond literal isolation. My hope is that these conversations might offer other people a bit of comfort knowing that this experience – one which has us all feeling quite alone – is one we share.