Podcast Selections: Science, Counter Culture, Pop Culture and the Future

Podcasts present some of the best media in the world; the very brightest of our futures, the strangest notions and the most startling warnings make their way into podcasts. In my first two Podcast Selections posts I focused on fiction, personal development and spirituality; now I will showcase an assortment of the best podcasts that cover pop culture, geek culture, counter culture and other strangeness.

The Hour has become Canada’s best interview show due the superb interviews conducted by its host, George Stroumboulopoulos. The show covers a wide range of topics that include —but are not limited to— science, politics, arts and ethics. The Hour offers both video and audio podcasts, as well as full episodes, marking it as one of the most web-savvy major television shows.

Past guests of the show have included Eckhart Tolle, David Suzuki, Jimmy Carter, Larry King, Henry Rollins, Alanis Morissette, The Smashing Pumpkins, Richard Dawkins, Al Gore, Tony Robbins, Margaret Atwood, Levar Burton, Cory Doctorow, Naomi Klein, Blue Rodeo, Stephen King, Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, Morgan Freeman, Moby, Spike Lee, and Margaret Cho.

George Stroumboulopoulos is the host of The Hour, Canada’s late night talk show. Now in its sixth season, the program has won seven Gemini Awards (Canada’s equivalent to an Emmy Award), three for best talk series in Canada; three for best host in a talk program or series; and a Gemini for the production design of The Hour’s set. The Hour has also won a 2009 Gracie Award – the first international award presented to The Hour for Outstanding TV Show – Public Division, by the American Women of Radio and Television.

The Hour is unlike any program on television. It is a hybrid of news and celebrity, reflected through in-depth conversations and dynamic production. It covers politics, the arts, entertainment, the environment, human rights, sports and more. George is one of the most respected journalists in Canada, equally comfortable speaking with a world leader as he is a rock star. He has interviewed many of the most influential and recognized people in the world.

TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) creates astounding meetings of some of the world’s greatest minds. Presentations from every conceivable discipline have graced the TED stages and have revealed some genuinely world changing ideas. Like The Hour, TED Talks are available in both video and audio, but have been taken beyond that and translated into many other languages.

Scott McCloud, Pranav Mistry, Kevin Kelly, Juan Enriquez, Ray Kurzweil, Imogen Heap, Al Gore, Richard Dawkins, Jane Goodall, Tony Robbins, Aubrey de Grey, Janine Benyus, Richard Branson, Stefana Broadbent, Natalie MacMaster, Stephen Hawking, Chris Anderson, Richard Baraniuk, Dan Ariely, Peter Gabriel and Karen Armstrong have all been speakers or performers at TED.

TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with the annual TED Conference in Long Beach, California, and the TEDGlobal conference in Oxford UK, TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Program, the new TEDx community program, this year’s TEDIndia Conference and the annual TED Prize.

… We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we’re building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

… TEDTalks began as a simple attempt to share what happens at TED with the world. Under the moniker “ideas worth spreading,” talks were released online. They rapidly attracted a global audience in the millions. Indeed, the reaction was so enthusiastic that the entire TED website has been reengineered around TEDTalks, with the goal of giving everyone on-demand access to the world’s most inspiring voices.

… Today, TED is therefore best thought of as a global community. It’s a community welcoming people from every discipline and culture who have just two things in common: they seek a deeper understanding of the world, and they hope to turn that understanding into a better future for us all.

… Each year, the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference hosts some of the world’s most fascinating people: Trusted voices and convention-breaking mavericks, icons and geniuses. These podcasts (also available in audio format) capture the most extraordinary presentations delivered from the TED stage.

The Viking Youth Power Hour

Like your podcasts weird, outcast and with a dash of social responsibility? Look no further than The Viking Youth Power Hour, where you’ll be encouraged to “quit dreaming like a pussy!” The Viking Youth explore such diverse topics such as entheogens, conspiracies, music, aliens, natural buildings, comics, politics, religion, science fiction, environmentalism, Americana, whiskey, and science. The Vikings have talked with Cory Doctorow, Alex & Allyson Grey, Erik Davis, R.U. Sirius and Stuart Davis, among others. This podcast is currently on an extended break, but lots of great material is offered in the archives, and the vikings are teasing about a new episode soon. Three of my favourite episodes are “Wooing the Odd Muse“, “Erik Davis on Scientology” and “Comic Book Culture“.

As part of the first wave of podcasts to hit the internet, recording their first show shortly after New Years 2004, the Vikings, along with Madge Weinstein’s “Yeast Radio” became the Chicago media’s focal point illustrating “podcasting is the ideal field to bring a real voice back to the people”. Featured in Chicago magazine, The Red Eye, a cover article on New City, and a feature interview on Ken Wilber’s show “Integral Naked” the Vikings were lauded as keeping “a new trend interesting instead of participating in the inevitable fight to make it yesterday’s news” by New City editors when they were chosen as Chicago’s Favorite Podcast by editors and readers in 2005. They were nominated for best adult podcast at PodCastAwards.com first annual awards and in 2008 they were reconfirmed as Chicago’s Best Podcast being voted “Best Podcast” in the Chicago Reader’s “Best Of Chicago 2008 Readers Poll”.

The Viking Youth Power Hour covers issues that mainstream media typically ignores. Some of these efforts have included helping disseminate information on detailing ‘astro turf’ organizations efforts to undermine net neutrality, and issuing information on surviving possible future influenza outbreaks. [wiki]

Kelly Cree and Jessica Mullen produce The Popular Podcast around themes of new media, altered lifestyles, lifestreaming and academia. Their insights into online presence, monetization of content and lifestreaming are especially valuable. The podcast is anything but dry because every bit of process talk is layered with pieces of Kelly and Jessica’s lives and they clearly have a lot of fun bringing their lives and knowledge to the web.

The Popular Podcast is a video podcast made in beautiful Austin, Texas by lifestreamers Kelly Cree and Jessica Mullen. Formed in June 2008, TPP explores lifestyle design and methodology, content generation, academia, and emerging production techniques online.

In many ways, it has become a reason to get up in the morning (and who doesn’t need more of those?). Our goal is to support ourselves with this endeavor, since we have so much fun making it. We’re working on improving the show daily, always while documenting the process. We’ve spent a lot of time learning how to podcast and lifestream; now it seems like a good idea to share the knowledge.

We’ve reframed our focus just a bit to dig deeper into the various aspects that go into designing a podcast, lifestream, or general online presence. We cover theory (why podcast at all?), technical issues (hosting, ecommerce), lifestyle design (integrating technology into your life to improve it), and where human relationships fit in amongst all the computers.

I’m always open for great new content, so if you have any podcast suggestions for me, please leave a comment. I’ll be sure to share anything I fall in love with in future entries and through my lifestream. In my next selections entry I’ll delve into the depths of geekery with commentary podcasts on science fiction and comics.

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