• Reginold Royston
  • Information School and the Department of African Cultural Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Abstract Title: Podcasting and Orality in African Digital Aesthetics

Abstract: As podcast culture has blossomed in the West (Johnson et al 2015), the uptake and consumption of this burgeoning media-form has been relatively slow in Africa's mediascape. Yet, oral culture remains central to African modernity, with proverbs, radio, and other sonic practices dominating most public life (Kaschula et al 2001; Dorvlo 2017). However, diasporic actors working in technology and human development have seized on podcasting, as way of engaging in what I describe, as an aural pedagogy, connecting to the homeland with an entrepreneurial voice. In this paper, I compare media and tactics common to several Africa-themed podcast series, asking, what are the intersections of audio new media that capitalize on the affordances of sound, and indigenous ways of communicating in which sound remains central to knowledge production? This work maps out an emerging aesthetic of aurality in Africa's digital culture, in forms such as online radio, and in cutting-edge practices such as voice-command HCI.  This work is based on interviews with African podcasters living abroad, a media content analysis, and my experience as a digital ethnographer in Ghana.


Bio: Reginold Royston, Ph.D. is a media anthropologist and digital humanities researcher, jointly-appointed in the Information School (formerly SLIS) and the Department of African Cultural Studies. Prof. Royston teaches courses on the political economy of information, race/class/gender/identity in tech, Africa, and Black diaspora studies. He coordinates the Black Arts + Data Futures group at the UW-Madison Center for Humanities. He does ethnographic research in Ghana, the U.S., and the Netherlands, examining Ghana’s digital diaspora.