Curated by Molly Schwartz and Sarah Nguyen, the creators of Preserve This Podcast
Molly Schwartz is a tech reporter, studio manager at the Metropolitan New York Library Council, and the host and producer of Preserve This Podcast. Sarah Nguyen is an archivist-in-training and the Project Coordinator of the Preserve This Podcast project. Here, they present a collection of podcasts about when things on computers go horribly wrong.
For the past year, we’ve been working with a team of archivists on a podcast about how to save podcasts from the threats of digital decay. We spend a lot of time thinking about what can, could, and does go wrong when we trust computers with precious information. A lot of the work of digital preservation is imagining the potential risks to our digital files — and then doing everything we can to mitigate those risks. That’s why we recommend things like saving multiple copies of your files in different locations, saving uncompressed versions of your audio, and uploading your podcast to the Internet Archive.
Even though the cybersphere can be a scary place, we still love the fact that coders and computers have given us the tools we need to share snippets of audio with each other. We would like to make sure that these podcasts stick around for as long as possible. That’s why we created a zine workbook with all of our podcast preservation exercises. Of course, if there’s a solar flare, we’ll all be screwed.
In honor of the scary digital dark side, here’s a collection of podcasts that aren’t afraid to investigate the worst case scenarios of our information futures. Computer viruses? Data breaches? An API for the brain? Yes please, sign us up!
Preserve This Podcast
Preserve This Podcast is a 5-part, narrative series that takes listeners through the nuts and bolts of how to save a podcast from disappearing. It’s a playful romp through the joys of file organization, hard drive backups, metadata, and RSS feeds. In each episode we work with a different indie podcaster to help them save their show. Beneath all the technical information, the spirit of podcasting shines through — which is that everyone has their own perspective on the world, and podcasting is a great way to share it. We created this series because we believe that every podcast deserves the chance to live on for future listeners.
The World According to Sound
The World According to Sound is such a precious, sound-first podcast. With the help of contact microphones, Chris Hoff and Sam Barnett capture all kinds of sounds — from wifi to gravitational waves to mudpots — and release them as 1:00 – 3:00 minute podcast episodes. In “Episode 12: 8-bit Death,” Hoff and Barnett showcase the creative ways that video game developers in the 1980s created soundtracks for death in 8-bit music. Is this what dying podcasts sound like? Hopefully we’ll never know.
In every episode of Flash Forward, Rose Eveleth takes classic sci-fi concepts — from telepathy to sex robots — and explores how our lives might work if this invention became real. Flash Forward is a refreshing blend of audio fiction and academic interviews. Every episode opens with a fictional sketch, and then dives into interviews with scientists and experts. While a lot of these episodes aren’t horror stories, they don’t shy away from dystopian versions of the future.
Lif-e.Af/ter is a science fiction radio drama. The podcast opens with a jarringly real portrayal of what it feels like to lose someone you love in the age of social media. When FBI clerk Ross Barnes loses his wife in a car crash, he is unable to stop listening to the audio messages she left on a fictional technology called “Braintree.” It’s a reminder that the podcasts we create are little pieces of ourselves that will live on after we’re gone.
We are all more vulnerable than we realize. Jack Rhysider’s ventures into the dark side of the internet helps us understand the risks that our files face on the web. Once we get into the technology we use to store data we also start to see where there are weaknesses in the systems (and the people who expose them).
A tape recorder is the only thing documenting a road-trip gone terribly wrong. James Carmichael’s tour through an apocalyptic landscape is a current reminder that we want our podcasts stick around long enough to be found.
What happens when we lose power? How much are we relying on technology to work — and what happens when things go wrong? This show makes us think about how much rely on technology working like it’s supposed to do. But technological malfunctions are the norm, not the exception.
The Secret History of the Future
Sometimes to glimpse the future we need to look to the past. This podcast is a partnership between Slate and The Economist that looks for historical precedents to the futuristic technology we’re encountering today. Archivists who are preserving digital information, like podcasts, find themselves at a similar juncture between the future and the past. We are trying to preserve documentation of the present so that people in the future can understand the past.
Reply All is a classic show when it comes to exploring mysterious things that happen on the internet. From hackers to cat-phishing to niche Reddit communities, the Reply All team brings humor and compassion to the stories that they report, showing that the odd things we do behind our screens are usually driven by our most raw human needs.
This is a branded podcast funded by Carbonite, a file backup and data protection software. It’s one of the best branded podcasts we’ve heard. Breach investigates the largest data breaches in history. The first season looked at a variety of major hacks, from Yahoo to the 2016 elections, while the second season focuses on the Equifax breach. This podcast will make you want to encrypt all of your data — which is probably why Carbonite funds it.
There’s a fine line between reasonable disaster-preparedness and conspiracy theories. The “Y2K bug,” which was supposed to bring down modern civilization by crashing all the computers at the turn of the millennium, sits right where disaster-preparedness and conspiracy meet. Surviving Y2K is a narrative series in which Dan Taberski goes back to the year 1999 and remembers how the threat of Y2K affected people’s personal lives — including his own.
Venture Capitalist Alice Lloyd George interviews people working on frontier technologies. While this is a more tech-positive show about the ways that inventors are trying to build a better future, it doesn’t take much imagination to think about how some of these could lead to a digital horror story. We appreciate that Alice Lloyd George seems to be knowledgeable about every new technology on the planet, and she knows how to ask questions about both the business and tech side of new technologies.
Want to create your own collection of shows that dovetails with your area of interest? Add shows to your Smart Folder on RadioPublic, then inform the Podcast Librarian of your collection: email@example.com.