Conversations on the Serial Podcast: Beginnings

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.

As students and citizens of the web, we have to remember that any media endeavor or knowledge-producing activity has its own narrative, its own argument. What I feel like I have to offer the unfolding Serial narrative, of which the podcast is just the nucleus, is an attention to metanarrative — the story of the construction of Serial and how engagement of a active audience impacts the story (already Slate and Rolling Stone are working similar angles). For me, unpacking the metanarrative starts with Rabia, whose weekly blog posts respond to the show.

I’ve reached out to Rabia on Twitter and over video chat about her involvement with Sarah’s team, her commitment to the case, and her activist work in Muslim communities. I am interested in exploring how new media engagement affects narrative and knowledge, and Serial presented an fertile ground in which to ask those questions. Rabia has agreed to talk to weekly about her experience of being listening to and responding to the show. Our conversations will be broadcast Mondays on Google Hangout at 1pmEST. To learn more and receive links to the live conversations, you can follow me on Twitter or participate in the #serialnarrative hashtag.

Read Rabia Chaudry’s description of the project on her post “Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About.”
Read and watch “Conversations on the Serial Podcast: One.”
Read and watch “Conversations on the Serial Podcast: Two.”




11 responses to “Conversations on the Serial Podcast: Beginnings”

  1. […] co-founded by “This American Life” producers Sarah Koenig and Julia Snyder is a daring living piece of serious, journalistic […]

  2. […] podcast co-founded by “This American Life” producers Sarah Koenig and Julia Snyder is a daring living piece of serious, journalistic […]

  3. […] podcast co-founded by “This American Life” producers Sarah Koenig and Julia Snyder is a daring living piece of serious, journalistic […]

  4. Hi! I really enjoyed listening to this discussion. Thanks for sharing it with the rest of us! I think you are so right, that this ‘storytelling’ process is unique and groundbreaking and worthy of a more holistic study. I was wondering if it would be possible to offer the conversation as an mp3 download or podcast as well as video? As it is, I can only listen with my browser pulled up to this page, I can’t switch to another page or program while listening. Thanks for starting this and being so open!

  5. Rather Not Avatar
    Rather Not

    Please address the hoard of moderator [deleted] comments and shadowbans going on on reddit currently. Currently, Jay’s narrative is being questioned in a substantial way – discrepancies that can be verified using digital resources like Maryland Court Records & google maps. Is the route narrative altered by the fact that his 1/27/99 arrest lists a different address than the one on his guilty for Accessory After the Fact charge of 9/7/99 worth censoring? Reddit mods fear certain questions/comments could result in a witch hunt, which is absurd given the fact that Jay is on public record for some version of a crime he claims to have willingly gone along with. Is suggesting that the former residence(s) of “the criminal element of Woodlawn” worth censoring in light of the impact it could have on the narrative of the aforementioned? The route narrative is the linchpin. Google “Silver Springs Arrest 1/27/99”.
    I also suggest looking at the Maryland court records to verify what I suggest: that the address listed on Jay’s 1/27/99 charge, it’s status (STET), location of the cop’s district has the potential to alter the timeline laid out In Jay’s narrative & henceforth to dispel the cognitive dissonance endured while listening: Prosecution is lying & so is Jay (probably to avoid a federal drug charge) and Sarah Koenig ignores the most interesting points.

    Serial evokes the happenings & interventions of the 1960s… I am invested – hard to stomach idea that a kid got convicted by the coerced (purely speculative here) statement of a another kid cornered by corrupt cops. I hope this investment pays out – I hope Adnan gets out. Otherwise, what? The whole thing is an exercise in pealing back the curtain on corrupt justice/law enforcement system. There is a bit at stake here. And reddit mods are rather misguided in what they’ve censored. This isn’t fiction although the podcast producers have emphasized the influence of Novelle Romans of 19th century & descendants. In the end, I suggest that the only measure of the podcast’s success will be whether the clear miscarriage of justice is established through a different medium, a different venue than the one that heard the case initially. Is it ironic that Jay’s story falls apart next to serial’s and that the podcast producers’ interests seem trite next to Adnan’s? Isn’t that the point?

  6. QuickRedditAccount Avatar

    Hey there Rather Not:

    PM me your reddit username and I’ll take a look at the deleted comments and if we made a mistake we can always fix it.

    – quickredditaccount

  7. Hi, Enjoyed the latest discussion on the progression of “Serial”.

    As far as meta-analysis, I think you’re missing an important factor.

    When Rabia was discussing the possible ways the case could go, she disregarded the impact of social media and it’s ability to change laws/society/outcomes.

    Hey, Obama would not be president if social media were not a powerful force.

    As someone who does not know any of the persons involved, the real story is that many wealthy white priveleged people are getting their first in-depth look at how “justice” manifests under late patriarchal capitalism.

    People whose opinions “matter” under the current system are becoming outraged (Adnan’s guilt or innocence aside, it is more than obvious that there should not have been a conviction based on the scant evidence provided).

    This outrage can be harnessed not only to free Adnan but, more generally and significantly, to transform the prison industrial complex into a system of true justice that serves the common good.

    The potential implications are huge. Please don’t miss it.

  8. Uh, that’s “its” not “it’s”.

  9. […] a few really big steps back and think bigger picture questions, and I’m also grateful that he proposed a media project in which he’ll be helping parse those questions through a series of live online conversations […]

  10. There is so much about Serial that fascinates me. The narrative is a big part of this. I don’t think I’ve seen programmes like this before, with a series long arc – especially one that may or may not have a conclusion. The fact the story is being constructed on the fly, almost makes this feel like a real-time story (although we all know it isn’t) but this does open the door to these meta-narratives – and perhaps this is what makes this so fascinating to everyone? I’ve been tracking the podcast market for 10 years now, and i can’t remember exciting like this before – but there hasn’t been a podcast like this before. I’ll be fascinated to see and read what your conclusions, and I am sure that by next year academic journals and conferences will be buzzing with papers about Serial

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