Arranging Delivery, Delivering Arrangement:
An Ecological Sonic Rhetoric of Podcasting

Welcome to this rhetorical consideration of podcasting. Because the webtext focuses on sonic rhetoric and audio podcasts, I’ve designed it to be received aurally, so please press play and listen. You can follow along (or not) with the timestamps on each page, the design of which affords silent reading. In rhetorical terms, I've arranged and delivered the argument so that both readers and listeners can experience it; those who do both will access the affordances of both alphabetic text and recorded sound.

In regard to it, then, the first thing to be considered is what sort of voice we have, and the next, how we use it. (Quintillian, 2015, pp. 604–605)


(00:00) Hello. I’m Abigail Lambke and this is the introduction to “Arranging Delivery, Delivering Arrangement: An Ecological Sonic Rhetoric of Podcasting.”

(00:10) Music: Podington Bear: “That’s Alright” (Podington Bear 2017k)

(00:13) I’m going to begin this fittingly, with a story told on a podcast. On a 2011 episode of How Sound, Roman Mars explains how his podcast 99% Invisible came to be (Rosenthal, 2011). He tells the host of How Sound, Rob Rosenthal, how it used to be just a four-minute standard format, before the audience demanded more. But why am I summarizing, when you can hear it yourself?

Rosenthal: Get this. He produces two versions. One for the podcast and one for the radio.
Mars: They used to be the same product. I used to make a four and a half minute version for the radio and that’s what I released as the podcast, but the podcast audience quickly wanted more. And usually I had more. I usually had a longer story that I cut down. And then I just began to make two versions.
Rosenthal: But cutting two stories from one? Well, I don't think Roman’s crazy—wink wink—but that’s a lot of work. Well, Roman’s discovered a formula for making it easy.
Mars: The simple formula for the show is that it has a big idea, it has one take-away fact, it has two anecdotes and it has a person exhibiting geeky enthusiasm. That’s kinda my basic formula. And so the podcast version has three anecdotes. And so I get to squeeze in one more idea and I get to let the tape breathe a little bit more. You know, it's not the most efficient way to work. But it’s, you know, like, I do this to make an audience happy and get them interested and engaged in the show and if that’s what it takes to get the podcast audience to be into it, to have it to be a little bit longer and have a little more meat, then it's totally worth it. It’s fun. (Rosenthal, 2011)

(02:09) This is an encouraging story. An audience demands more. The rhetor, in this case Mars, gives them more, editing two stories from one batch of material—or, in rhetorical terms, arranging two different but connected pieces of rhetoric, for two different delivery media: radio and podcast.

(02:31) But, sorry to tell you—this isn’t actually the story Mars tells Rosenthal, or what Rosenthal produced for How Sound. In adding it to this piece, I’ve changed it, clipping and moving, rearranging what Rosenthal arranged in the episode, and then uniting it with my material, repurposing it for a new audience, thus delivering a different piece of rhetoric.

(02:55) This webtext is concerned with all of those rhetorical maneuvers, with editing and arrangement, delivery, with voice and how podcasting shows another window into how the rhetorical canons are not discrete and linear practices, but as Collin Gifford Brooke (2009) argued in Lingua Fracta, the canons are ecologically intertwined.

(03:18) Music: Podington Bear “Everybody” (Podington Bear 2017c)

(03:19) But first, why podcasts? Since their inception in 2004 (Berry, 2006), podcasts have become an increasingly popular and influential medium for consuming audio. By 2010, Pew Research reported that 21% of Americans had listened to a podcast (Zickuhr, 2010) and by 2017 that number rose to 40%, with 24% in the last month (The Infinite Dial, 2017). As popular medium, podcasts deserve rhetorical study. The primacy of sound, listening, and vocality in podcasting means that rhetoricians should be curious about how meaning is made through podcasting.

(04:01) Thus far, rhetorical scholarship on podcasting has focused mostly on podcasts for audio essays for teaching composition (Bowie 2012; Palmeri 2012; Rodrigue et al., 2016). But this leaves so many questions about podcasts themselves unanswered: How does the reliance on the voice in an audio-only podcast change the rhetorical situation? What choices do established podcasters make in crafting a series, and how does that influence their public audience? Further study is warranted, particularly as rhetorical scholars create their own podcasts, like Eric Detweilers’s Rhetoricity:

Detweiler: Hey hey Rhetoricity listeners, this is Eric Detweiler coming to you from my home office in my neighborhood where the weed wackers are out in force and the commuters are driving by at significant volumes. (Detweiler, 2018)

(04:50) Or, Saint Louis University’s Eloquentia Perfecta Ex Machina

Automated Voice: Eloquentia Perfecta Ex Machina—Eloquentia Perfecta Ex Machina
Nathaniel Rivers: Welcome to Eloquentia Perfecta Ex Machina, a podcast series devoted to the teaching of rhetoric and composition with and through a range of media and focusing on the Writing Program at Saint Louis University. (SLU New Media Writing, 2017)

(05:12) So, if you keep going with this piece, then what you’ll get is a webtext where I apply Brooke’s (2009) theories of rhetorical canons as an ecology, in which choices in one canon influence others as in a dynamic ecological model, and I'm going to be applying that to the practice, process, composition, and reception of podcasting.

(05:31) If you are reading along with the transcript you can look at the blue box right below where I outline Brooke's (2009) reworking of the canons. I’ll be focusing on the canons of arrangement and delivery, arguing that the choices make about arrangement influence choices made about delivery, and vice versa. In this way arrangement and delivery are not discrete steps in a process, but overlapping and connective processes.

Reworking the Classical Canons for New Media

Collin Gifford Brooke’s (2009) Lingua Fracta: Towards a Rhetoric of New Media offers a framework for using concepts from classical rhetoric to understand how meaning is made in new media artifacts. While rejecting separated rhetorical canons as a practice of explaining static texts, Brooke directs his attention to reworking them to fit the shifting nature of new media interfaces. He claims that the five canons are “more like a disciplinary heirloom than they are a part of our core intellectual inheritance from antiquity,” with invention and style remaining central, memory and delivery “nearly vestigial,” and arrangement somewhere in between (p. 29). Brooke then sets out to rework the canons, developing them as an “ecology of practice” that can be used to “both interrogate and produce new media” (p. xvii). This ecology is not a static model, but has “delineations that preserve the dynamic flexibility of an ecological model while providing us with some ability to distinguish one practice from another” (p. 42).

(05:56) Now, while I follow Brooke’s (2009) central thesis, I depart from him in significant ways, particularly in the choice of artifact. Brooke’s Lingua Fracta concentrated on interfaces like Amazon recommendations where different audiences have different outcomes based on their previous actions (p. 45). In contrast, my focus on podcasts is inside the tradition of studying linear texts, in that an episode of a podcast is generally listened to start to finish and is the same for all. Yet, the flexibility and connections that Brooke outlines between canons are observable in a static audio text, particularly in the canons of arrangement and delivery.

(06:40) Music: Podington Bear “The Gall” (Podington Bear 2017d)

(06:44) Throughout, I focus on shows from the podcast collective Radiotopia, spearheaded by Roman Mars following the success of 99% Invisible. My central thesis builds from Brooke’s (2009) theories about the ecological relationship between canons in Lingua Fracta. But I focus primarily upon the rather neglected canons of delivery and arrangement, arguing that there is significant overlap between them in two ways. First, in the composition of podcasts and how their delivery is dependent on arrangement, how arrangement often follows chronologically after delivery and in a sense becomes delivery through the editing process.

(07:27) The other way they overlap, I argue, is in specific choices regarding narration, how much narration is used (or arranged) in the piece, and the vocal tone of delivery. These are somewhat subjective traits, particularly vocal tone, but I work to prove that they are interconnected—in effect the podcast’s choice of arrangement can correlate with their choices of vocal delivery. There are graphs; I hope you check them out.

(07:55) So, please keep clicking around and listening. The Conversation section outlines the interconnected subjects that I bring together for this piece; the Procedures section includes my methodology and results (that’s where most of the graphs are); the Sonic Ecology section is the heart of the argument, and my Outro section suggests implications from it.

(08:18) In each section, I’ve performed the argument sonically and provided a textual transcript with timestamps to let you navigate the audio and text together. You might have also noticed that there is some text included not performed in the audio. That's part of my ethics of sonic rhetoric: the text that I provide in the blue boxes is based around specific quotes from sources. In audio productions, I consider it unethical to read a source’s exact words through the understanding that written documents (at least in this century) are designed to be read with the eyes, not performed with the voice. If I have audio of a source, I’ll use it. If I don’t, I’ll paraphrase, and provide the citation in the transcript. If I consider it important enough that you read the exact words the source wrote, I put it in a blue box in the webtext. You’ll hear me referencing them throughout this production. But please know that either a listener or a reader will be able to get the entire sense of the argument.

(09:23) Thanks for making it this far—to the end of the beginning. Goodbye for now.

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