Humanities puts its best foot Foreword with new podcast

Alison Innes, Social Media Co-ordinator for the Faculty of Humanities, is inviting the Brock University and broader community to listen in on some of her most interesting — and tough — conversations.

Foreword, a podcast produced and hosted by Innes, features interviews with various professors from across the Faculty. The first episode debuts Wednesday, July 1.

The premise, she says, is to introduce listeners to the types of research being done in the humanities by addressing a variety of topics through conversation, including some on Vikings, Indigenous activism and appropriation, and video game culture and propaganda.

“It’s a conversation over a cup of coffee and the listener is welcome to join,” says Innes. “You can pretend you’re eavesdropping in a café. The episodes are introductions to some interesting issues as well as what our researchers do, how they do it and why it matters.”

Episodes will be released every Wednesday on Apple, Google Podcasts and Podbean. The first six episodes have been condensed and edited to roughly 20 to 30 minutes each, with the final two being unabridged conversations ranging from 40 to 60 minutes. All episodes will be transcribed for accessibility purposes.

She says the name was chosen as a play on a book’s foreword, and also represents the role humanities has in moving culture and society forward.

The project also taps into the talents of students from the Interactive Arts and Science (IASC) program. Hayley Wilhelm (BA ‘20) will be presenting a bonus episode she created while interning with Innes last semester. The show’s theme music has been created by another IASC graduate, Khalid Imam (BA ‘20).

In order to make the project a reality, Innes proposed a plan and budget through the Dean’s Discretionary Fund, which gave her access to funds for equipment and hiring a student to do audio editing and graphic design.

“Working on the Foreword podcast has been an honour and such a wonderful opportunity to put my sound design skills to good use,” says Serena Salwa Atallah (BA ’20). “I’m a big fan of podcasts and I’ve never heard anything that approaches the many different streams of humanities the way Foreword does.”

She says that while the research and topics aren’t necessarily new, the perspectives the Brock faculty members share — such as what we can learn from a 19th century miller’s diary — are interesting and thought-provoking.

“You can really hear the passion in their voice when they’re talking about their research, which is so important to keep the audience engaged,” says Salwa Atallah. “Listening to the interviews has given me a lot of new insight about the work these researchers do. It’s eye-opening, fun and informative without being too academic and rigid.”

Innes started the project right before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, which meant that about half of her interviews had to be recorded remotely. While the pandemic created challenges in kickstarting the podcast, Innes chose to see it as an opportunity.

“The podcasting space has been growing again as people settle into new routines,” she says. “People might be looking to connect more through storytelling. It’s an opportunity to focus less on our institutions as physical spaces and more on the people who make up those institutions. Our researchers are still working even though we’re not physically together at the University.”

Associate Dean of Humanities Keri Cronin says the project wouldn’t have been what it is without Innes’ hard work, passion and innate curiosity.

“Not only does the podcast offer an in-depth look at some of the interesting and innovative work that is being done within the Faculty of Humanities at Brock, but it also does so in a way that has the potential to reach a broad audience,” says Cronin. “Alison is an experienced podcast host, and I know that in her hands, this project will be a huge success.”

In addition to entertaining and educating listeners, Innes hopes the podcast will enlighten people about the importance of the humanities.

“It can be hard for people outside of the field to understand what we do and why it matters,” she says. “I hope to do more episodes and am thinking about it as a series. I have ideas.”

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