A lot of my personal interests and projects have happened to coincide with elements of this Digital Stroytelling/Networked Narratives course, and this week is yet another entry for the list. A friend and former coworker of mine from the Writing Center (she has since graduated and begun her teaching career) have been planning to make a podcast for quite some time, and this weekend we finally met to cement some details for it. We’re calling our project A Jar of Salsa: For the Casual Academic.
The Jar of Salsa saga actually began at a table in the campus Starbucks during the finals season of the Fall 2016 semester. I was working on a large, challenging research paper, and my friend was grading papers. Both of us were in that particular state of delirium one enters when they have had way too little sleep and way too much stress, not to mention way too much caffeine to compensate for the former. I had just enjoyed an end-of-semester party for one of my classes, for which I had brought chips and salsa. Because that class was relatively small, and everyone had brought food, I had a fair amount of chips and salsa leftover. At some point during the night, my friend and I began to eat the leftover chips and salsa, and to discuss our work, writing studies in general, teaching life, and a variety of other topics. I don’t remember how or when we decided that our conversation would make a great podcast, but we did wind up at that conclusion. We wanted to bring the spicy spark of that cafe-table environment to others because it had been so productive, fun, cathartic, and inspiring for the both of us.
In addition to being a tasty snack associated with casual gatherings, salsa is symbolic of a mindset. I’ve heard that many people are starting to view America less as a melting pot, where identities liquify into each other to make something completely new, and more like a stew, where identities are preserved and accepted into a larger whole. Salsa, with its mixture of distinct, flavorful vegetables and spices, is like the proverbial stew, except it cannot be eaten alone; it needs chips or something else to move it into the mouth. The salsa signifies an ideal for academia: a place of inclusivity, with a wide range of contrasting and complementing ideas and viewpoints. The chips represent the need to move meaningful “scholarly” conversation out of lecture halls and into mainstream society.
To capture our desired feel, we want to make use of certain sounds and music. Each episode of A Jar of Salsa will begin with the sound of a lid being popped off of a salsa jar; each episode will end with the sound of a metal lid being screwed back onto a jar. During the episode, transitions will be marked with the sounds of crunching chips, a rustling bag, and a jar lid moving across the table. The music will be faint and jazzy, much like what one would hear in a coffee shop. We may also see if we can figure out how to mix in sounds like muffled conversation or plates clinking.
A Jar of Salsa will have multiple series, each of which will consist of ten 20-minute episodes. Each series will follow a theme; for example, language is what we’re planning for the first series. Each episode will feature a guest talking about some facet of that theme (and their favorite kind of salsa!). In addition, each episode will feature improv, the sharing of teaching/tutoring experiences, reviews of resources, and clips of topical questions asked to laypeople on the street or around campus. New episodes will be released on a monthly basis (we’re busy!). We’re currently in the process of working out episode topics and guests, but we’re planning for the first episode to feature a colleague of ours talking about Language and Superheroes. We hope that the results will be informative and entertaining, and that listeners will feel like they’re sitting at a table with us sharing a snack and talking casually about “academic” topics.
The biggest challenge for us right now is figuring out how to work audio and recording software. Neither of us have experience with sound editing or high-quality recording equipment. We’re going to be relying on our own laptop computers and the GarageBand software, at least that’s the plan. I think this lack of knowledge about sound/audio equipment is the biggest barrier to entry when it comes to sharing sound creatively online. We are taught how to make websites and blogs in our major, but not how to handle sound. I wonder if this stems from a separation in our minds between written and verbal communication?