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Guest Talk Dr Ian M. Cook

Talking Media: How to Speak to Online God(s) through Academic Podcasts


Guest Talk

30 April 2019, 18.00, Room 123 (first floor)
Institut für Ethnologie
Oettingenstrasse 67

Dr Ian M. Cook, Central European University

Talking Media: How to Speak to Online God(s) through Academic Podcasts

This talk explores the latent potentialities as revealed through an ongoing academic podcasting experiment. It explores the intersections between academic knowledge production, voice, and digital politics in India. Since August 2017 I have co-hosted the podcast series ‘Online Gods – Digital Cultures in India and Beyond’. The broad aim of the series is to explore how the digital is changing the public sphere in India. Each episode, first we speak to a scholar about a key concept or idea they have worked with or on, and, secondly, to an ‘online god’, someone who is using new media in interesting or innovative ways in relation to politics, religion or national belonging.

In this paper, drawing on the experience of interviewing ‘online gods’, I explore latency as a way of conceptualising both the temporal dynamism at the heart of academic knowledge production and digital politics in India. I understand latency both as the time interval between stimulation and response (as it is usually used in digital parlance), but also as the state of existing but not yet being developed or manifest (in its standard pre-digital understanding). There is an unease surrounding the reduction in latency within online circulations, yet there is an expectation for evermore instantaneous communication.

Specifically, I suggest that the temporal dynamism revealed by academic podcasting is produced by digital media’s tendency to fracture linear timelines, academia’s incommensurable temporal logics of knowledge production, and the digital-enabled possibilities for coevalness between interlocuters and anthropologists. Furthermore, the centrality of the human voice in podcasting pushes us to think through old debates about whether we speak ‘for’ or ‘with’ interlocutors, if there is a specific directness to a research podcast, and what properties get filled into the gap created by acousmatic sounds.

Building on this, and shifting to think about digital media more broadly, I explore how these material spatio-temporal sonic contours can be used somewhat metaphorically to illuminate the actions of our online gods. Is there a directness to these actors interventions? Is there a desire to close the time lag between existing and emerging forms of sociality? And is latency induced ‘talking over one another’ a metaphor for online communication that contradicts the supposed synchronous online communication promised by technological developments?


Ian M. Cook is a Research Fellow at the Central European University (Budapest). An anthropologist with a regional focus on south India, he works primarily on cities, new media and opening up academia.

He has published work on topics including small cities, housing and land; is the co-founder of CEU’s podcast library (with Dumitrița Holdis), as well as co-host of the podcast series Online Gods (with Sahana Udupa); and works for a university access programme for refugees and asylum seekers.

His current research projects include – urban change in Mangaluru (India), academic podcasting, corruption and environmental damage in Hungary, digital media, and urban justice and sustainability in Europe.

He is currently a visiting scholar at LMU Munich.