My post-Thanksgiving Serial break conversation with Rabia Chaudry in which we discuss Rabia’s release of the Jay/Jenn interviews, Muslim community response to Serial, and ideas of truth.
“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed
ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The Crack-Up,” Esquire, February 1936
Serial has become gut-wrenching to me, in the way that every good novel I’ve ever read feels like it’s re-organizing my thinking with fire. It is instructive, artful, and intricately organized. It is also a painful path to walk, but the million-odd folks who are listening to it together are embracing that complex ambivalence. Most of us know by now that there will be no smoking gun or creaking prison door swinging open. However Serial ends, it leaves a wake of pain. Whether Adnan is innocent or guilty, two horrible things have happened: the lives of two potentially vibrant, intelligent, kind people were lost. Their families grieve them.
Today on “Conversations” we discussed the emotional impact of Serial’s Episode 9: “To Be Suspected” along with white privilege and gender bias. See Rabia’s post related to Episode 9, “Deeper Into The Fog” on her NEW domain! I will be posting my response to the episode later this week, and we’ll be back next Monday, Dec. 1, 1pm EST.
Serial is more than halfway complete at this point. I’ve waited until now to focus on one of the three most central topics for my study of the podcast: ethics. It is a happy coincidence that our guest on today’s Hangout is Adam Bonnifield (/u/quickredditaccount), one of the four moderators of the Serial subreddit; Reddit serves as a massive laboratory for media ethics because users operate without journalists’ professional boundaries.
My conversation with Rabia Chaudry and special guest Adam Bonnifield today:
My weekly discussion “Conversations on the Serial Podcast” with Rabia Chaudry will happen Mon, Nov. 17, at 2pm EST instead of 1pm EST. You can watch the conversation live here.
I will be blogging about the latest Serial episode, “The Deal with Jay,” on Monday morning, but I wanted to make sure viewers knew in advance of the time change. On Nov. 24, we’ll be back to 1pm EST.
The episodes of Serial continue to get crunchy with metanarrative detail. By that I mean that the podcast serves as a catalyst for other narrative strands. Reddit, Twitter, WordPress, Split the Moon (Rabia Chaudry’s blog), and Slate’s “Serial Spoiler Special” podcast (begun the same week that our Conversations did), along with dozens of media reviews of the the project – all of these provide regular outlets for dynamic discussion. Like a Choose Your Own Adventure novel that sends you off to systems of other novels, Serial inspires further reflection and creation. Consider how “How People Obsess Over Serial” by Sal Gentile and John Purcell, could be viewed as a comedic attempt to probe the same issue I’m exploring in a much more eggheaded way — metanarrative.
Discussion of Serial at this point mainly focuses on Adnan’s guilt or innocence, and, while I’m just as interested in this as anyone else getting up early on Thursday morning to download the podcast, my focus here is to explore the narrative rather than the case. I’ll start with unpacking a word that I used early in my discussions with Rabia and then backed away from: metanarrative. It keeps springing up, so here is some background.
For an overview of my project, see “Conversations on the Serial Podcast: Beginnings.” These conversations are an exploration of the aspects of new media engagement which affect narrative and knowledge. Rabia Chaudry and I will be discussing each subsequent episode of Serial in a live Google Hangout every Monday at 1pmEST. Feel free to use the hashtag #serialnarrative to send questions or comments before, during, or after each conversation.
The Serial podcast has taken over my attention in the last several weeks.
I’ve been fascinated by the personal, rhetorical, and digital components of this story: the difference between Sarah Koenig’s and Rabia Chaudry’s motivations, their personal attachments (and professional attempts at detachment) to the case, the engagement of online communities around the story (specifically on Twitter, Reddit, and the Serial web portal), and the story’s intersection with my own professional and personal identity. I am a professor of English in the Digital Writing and New Media department at Southern Polytechnic State University, teaching classes and researching how digital environments affect how we teach, write, and learn. Also because my closest friend since 1992 is named Adnan; his family is also from Pakistan. So, yeah, I’m hooked on Serial.