Composition and Podcasts: How Ph.D. Candidate Shauna Chung is Reinventing Advanced Composition (ENGL 3120)
Shauna Chung, a Ph.D. candidate in the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program, has come up with a creative and exciting way to teach Advanced Composition (ENGL 3120) to Clemson’s students — an Intro to Podcasting class. “Podcasts have become a legitimate and established form of making meaning and disseminating information in both academic and professional settings,” Chung said when asked about her inspiration to start this class, which originated during a conversation with Clemson’s Learning Technologies Librarian, Kelsey Sheaffer. Students will have the opportunity to learn how to compose, record and edit podcasts, while also strengthening their active listening skills in this course. I had the opportunity to learn more about this upcoming class and all that it entails.
1. Can you tell me a little about yourself? (How long you’ve been here, education, etc.)
My name is Shauna Chung, and I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the Rhetorics, Communication, and Information Design program. Once the fall semester starts, I’ll be entering my fourth and final year at Clemson! Previous to Clemson, I earned a master’s degree in English and bachelor’s degrees in English and music, selling my academic soul to the field of rhetoric and composition in the process. Since then, I’ve been studying the various and diverse relationships between writing studies, digital rhetoric and religious discourse. More specifically, my scholarship examines how students can leverage digital technologies to speak and write across differences with more understanding and empathy.
2. Can you tell me about your new Intro to Podcasting class?
The idea to pitch a podcasting class to the English Department happened in conversation with Kelsey Sheaffer, Clemson’s Learning Technologies Librarian. She and I both share an interest in and passion for incorporating digital technologies into the classroom and also happen to be huge podcast nerds. We met a few times to dream up and brainstorm ideas, eventually landing on a plan to incorporate learning outcomes of Advanced Composition into a curriculum promoting audio production, audio storytelling and civic engagement. Thus, this course is an introduction not only to podcasts as a genre but also as a means to create, engage and write in new ways with sound — approaches catering to our increasingly media-saturated world.
3. What made you want to teach a class on podcasting?
Though podcasts are not new to our cultural landscape, they’re increasing in popularity and impact every year. The Pew Research Center reports that listenership is consistently up, even with younger listeners who may not have engaged with audio-based content in the past. With an influx of scholars, influencers and everyday individuals jumping into the podcasting scene; the huge range of genres and formats available, from three-hour roundtable discussions to brief updates on the pandemic; and the ubiquity and accessibility of the medium across the globe, podcasts have become a legitimate and established form of making meaning and disseminating information in both academic and professional settings. This, combined with my collaboration with Kelsey and personal love for podcasts, made me want to teach this class.
4. How have podcasts impacted the academic world of English composition?
As stated above, we’re living in a media-saturated world where information often arrives not just in alphabetic text alone but also through images and sounds. These additional modes afford us so many new opportunities to write and deliver content in ways that address a broader audience, cater to diverse learning styles and amplify the affordances of text. For podcasting, an immense amount of alphabetic writing still takes place, but these words come to life through the human voice, in music and sound effects, via ambient noises that showcase lived environments, etc. As a result, the composition process involves several elements that remix aspects of a traditional essay.
Thus, podcasting is a form of writing — of composing! I’ve seen numerous educators in the field of English incorporate podcasts into their curriculum to further emphasize the importance of active listening, illustrate the nuances of rhetorical delivery and help students keep pace with a world turning to increasingly multimodal sources of information.
5. What do you hope your students take away from this course?
When addressing podcast creation, I constantly hear (and, admittedly, also say…), “I hate the sound of my voice.” After this course, I hope students come away with an appreciation for both their embodied and scholarly voice! When producing my first podcast, I remember loathing my narrations, cringing at my writing style and delivery, trying desperately to copy the styles of existing podcasts and constantly wondering whether I was doing this — scripting, recording, editing — “right.” Eventually, I recognized that while there are best practices and incredible models to follow, there is no one right way to podcast. Thus, there’s so much room for experimentation, exploration and play.
Second, on a practical note, I also hope students gain technical skills that enable them to continue recording and editing audio well beyond this course. There are a number of platforms (e.g., Adobe Audition, Audacity, Garageband) and on-campus resources (e.g., the Adobe Digital Studio, microphones from the library, etc.) that we’ll examine and utilize throughout the semester.
6. What are you most excited about with teaching this course?
I’m excited to equip students with tools to create and invent! There are numerous opportunities to exercise creativity and to experiment with the podcast medium, and I’m really looking forward to hearing what students come up with. I’m also super excited to tune our ears and microphones to local environments! There’s so much to learn from our immediate surroundings, and what better way than to actively listen to insights and stories from our peers, teachers, neighbors, communities, etc.? Especially in light of the radical changes brought by the pandemic, now more than ever is the time to really listen to people and find ways to connect, honor lived experiences and recognize how we can help amplify voices that need to be heard.
7. What are your favorite podcasts/are there any podcasts that have inspired you?
The first podcast that captivated me was Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich’s RadioLab. Several years ago, I heard an episode on the radio during my drive home and experienced what NPR calls a “driveway moment”: I pulled into my parking spot and just sat in the car for the next 20 minutes to finish listening. I couldn’t bring myself to turn off the car or radio! There was something about RadioLab’s use of sound effects, powerful storytelling, seamless edits and affective vocal deliveries that kept my ears spellbound. From there, I became a faithful listener of NPR’s This American Life, Serial, S-Town, Invisibilia, to name a few; Chris Gethard’s Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People; Michael Barbaro’s The Daily and many more. Kelsey introduced me to The Kitchen Sisters, Everything is Alive, Rumble Strip, among others. Several of these podcasts will be featured as “readings” (i.e. listenings) in the course.
8. Is there anything else you’d like to add that you’d like others to know?
Students can register for the course by searching for ENGL 3120, Advanced Composition. There are two sections available, so please consider signing up!
Written By: Savannah Franklin