Secret listening: Private, personal, portable podcasts

Podcast listening is a personal and private matter, especially if the listener wears headphones. No one need know what you are listening to.

That’s not to say that privacy and secrecy are the same. I’ve been listening to the Podcast Radio Hour published by the BBC. In the 19 October 2018 edition Stephen Fry speaks about secrets in the Victorian era.

He maintains that family secrets and the shame that came with them were a positive force that bound the members of a Victorian family together. Such innocent secrets included mental health disorders, chronic illnesses, variations in sexual orientation, single parenting, and adoptions. (I think they were on his list.)

Public confessionals

The attitude to secrets is different in liberal societies today. What were family secrets in the day are now proud indices of diversity, acceptance and empathy. See my earlier post A word in your ear: Podcasting for introverts.

He also refers to The Butterfly Effect, a podcast series about pirated content and the pornography industry. That’s another world of compounded secrets. Few are likely to elevate copyright preservation in the porn business to a moral crusade, not least as is it produced and consumed — in secret.

Everything is Alive published by Radiotopia is a series of very human stories told via interviews with everyday objects such as a lift, a lamp post, a can of soda, a bar of soap, and a grain of sand. It’s a lively variant of the theme “the secret life of things” and what inert objects could observe if alive.

Will podcasts reconnect us?

Here’s a video interview by one of our online MSc students Anita Matusevics talking with her friend Kelly Boer about podcasting. Referencing supposed Internet isolation she called her short interview: “Will podcasts reconnect us?”

It comes with an informative written report. We asked that the discussants are visible in the interview, but in keeping with the medium, that aspect of the experience is kept private, if not secret.


  • Crampton, C. (2017) ‘How Technology Makes Us Listen Alone’. New Statesman, 17 February. Available online: (accessed 26 October 2018).
  • Ito, M., D. Okabe and M. Matsuda (eds). (2006) Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  • Matusevics, A. (2017) If ‘Facebook Made Us Lonely’, Will Podcasts Reconnect Us? MSc Essay, Edinburgh: The University of Edinburgh. PDF.


The title of this post references Ito, Okabe and Matsuda’s book Personal, Portable, Pedestrian: Mobile Phones in Japanese Life.

The Podcast Radio Hour series provides reviews of podcasts and advice about creating and listening to podcasts from various presenters, with many speaking effusively about the joys of podcasting.

Here are some other podcasts that I like:

  • The Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy published by Wired Magazine: Mainly interviews with science fiction writers, producers and enthusiasts.
  • Pod Save America: I’m taking a rest from American political podcasts until after the midterm elections on 6 November, but this one of the most entertaining, presented by young former speechwriters for the Obama Whitehouse. The Daily published by The New York Times is also a good antidote to bad news, delivered in calm, reasoned tones.

Thanks to Anita Matusevics and Kelly Boer for letting me publish the video content and report.

Here’s an audio only version of the video. I’ve categorised this post as a podcast, which means that it can be accessed by your smartphone podcast app. Type the following URL into your podcast app:


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