From “phantasmic radio” to "phantasmic" podcasting.
Authors: Karathanasopoulou, E.
Conference: 7th ECREA Radio and Sound Conference
Dates: 6-8 September 2023Abstract:
In 1995, when Allen S. Weiss wrote Phantasmic Radio, the internet was still kind of a novelty, and broadcast radio was a well-established medium. While radio had perhaps lost the awe and magical properties it would have had for its first listeners, who may have felt that it carried ghostly voices from the heavens (Street: 2006), it still retained its intimacy; a notion often used to describe radio but also, at the time, sort of an elusive concept. Weiss explored the meaning of radio to the modern imagination through an avant-garde perspective. By connecting to other radio avant-gardists, like Gregory Whitehead, he offered a notion of radio that was full of disembodied voices and corporeal metaphors. His was a postmodern portrait of what radio is or should be, rather than what radio does – the latter being the occupation of mainstream academics writing about radio’s genres, audiences, commercial models, industry structures and so on and so forth.
In the era of podcasting, where the ether has been joined by the cloud, we hear less from these avant-garde theorists. This paper wonders why. While the newly established field of podcast studies is starting to sketch out podcasting as a medium, and is figuring out its attributes and notions, this paper wonders whether tracing back to theories of disembodiment and phantasmic voices, might help us connect to a new kind of poetics of this new online medium. By looking at some prominent English-speaking factual podcasts (like Jim Harold’s Campfire and Spooked from the USA) that deal with the paranormal, this work examines the phantasmal qualities and potentials of podcasting. The case studies used here are by no means avant-garde in form. In fact, they largely borrow from the phone-in (what used to be seen by some as radio’s most intimate genre) as well as from documentary and drama. And yet, the mere theme of the paranormal goes all the way back to the first notions of radio as an ethereal medium, where voices linger and travel into the ether like disembodied ghostly memories. This paper proposes a new conversation on intimacy by exploring podcasting’s immersive qualities through notions of the paranormal.