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Podcasting and Complex Narrative: The New Wild

Podcasting and Complex Narrative: The New Wild

‘Rewilding’ is a movement in conservation science that aims to support the health of the environment through the restoration of wild spaces in developed areas. This book chapter/article explores the ways in which new transmedia works and in particular podcasts manifest common values, structural dynamics and other epistemological affinities with the rewilding movement, drawing out evidence for a growing contemporary impulse to appreciate and defer to complexity as the ‘natural’ form of cultural processes. Examining podcasts like Serial, Welcome to Nightvale, and the How Stuff Works podcast network, I examine the conventions of podcasts in relation to other media—serial format, tendency to open-endedness and improvisation, intimacy of the private listening experience—and demonstrate how these conventions open up spaces for fertile interchange, complexity and paradox. I focus in particular on how podcasts challenge linear logic and replace it with ecological discourse, with narrative typically hinging on expressions of compound truths and the accumulation of content or matter over time. This reading of the podcast places form in a fertile relationship to cultural space; I posit the podcast as the ideal format for exploration and representation of the profoundly in-process nature of life as we know it, having structural and aesthetic qualities that keep the future, and any sense of conclusion, simultaneously void and active, allowing podcasting itself to address the complexity of reality with adventure and contemplative depth.