During the previous two quarters, the Stanford Storytelling Project (SSP) shifted the focus of its “State of the Human” show from a radio segment on KZSU to an online podcast format in a bid to reach more internet users.
SSP explores how the tradition of storytelling has shaped human history and how stories themselves enrich human life. In 2012, SSP founded “State of the Human” as a way to share stories through broadcast audio. Since then, SSP has aired hour-long episodes of the show weekly on KZSU. However, as online podcasts grew, SSP began to move away from KZSU, instead offering podcasts to a growing online audience.
“Most people listen online because KZSU [has] a very specific listening audience,” said “State of the Human” producer Sienna White ’19. “We are able to reach many more people on the web. It just goes further than long wave radio [today].”
Editor Jake Warga explained that in this booming technological age, podcasts uploaded to SSPs SoundCloud reach many more students than those broadcast through KZSU, which is why he supports channeling attention to online podcasts.
“Students listen to a lot of podcasts,” Warga said. “Technology is connected to our phones, to which we are always connected. When we move it’s great [opportunity to reach] audience there. We don’t give much importance to the broadcast of KZSU. Those [episodes] are not archived for download, unlike SoundCloud, where [the podcasts] are all there all the time.
Student producer Cameron Tenner ’20 said he also attributes SSP’s gradual gravitation towards online podcasts to an ongoing cultural shift. He believes listening to podcasts online gives listeners the element of choice, which is why radio listening is down.
“In general, most people consume their podcasts through the Apple Podcast app or SoundCloud,” Tenner said. “[Listening to podcasts online] gives you the flexibility to choose what you want to listen to when. I think the shift to online podcasts is making podcasts more accessible to everyone.
When airing on KZSU, SSP is limited to 60-minute episodes, as they must fit into KZSU’s broadcast schedule. However, as SSP moved away from the traditional radio format, the organization stopped compressing the length of its podcasts, allowing the nature of each story to determine the length of each episode.
“When I joined [SSP], we moved to a podcast model,” Warga said. “It’s fun to get off the radio station, but I focus on podcasts, where the length is determined by the stories and the people producing them, rather than the one-hour window.”
Producer Yue Li ’19 explained that removing the one-hour time constraint gave SSP more artistic freedom and the ability to tell their stories more organically and creatively.
“We’ve become more like a podcast in the sense that the duration [isn’t controlled]”, said Li. “We have a lot of freedom now, because we are not limited in terms of time. Many of our recent episodes have been longer, like 90 minutes, [or shorter, like] 20 minutes.”
On the other hand, Tenner believes that SSP will always have an invisible time restriction, as listeners’ attention is rapidly diminishing. He hasn’t noticed any change in podcast production due to the removal of the one-hour time constraint.
“Episodes are usually about an hour long,” Tenner said. “Even though we don’t have a restriction on airtime, we still have a restriction. It’s hard to get people to listen to something for more than an hour. Even more than half an hour can be difficult. I think we will always be limited by people’s attention span and interest.
“State of the Human” was primarily created to convey shared human experiences and feelings in the form of an audio story. Each episode consists of individual stories that all relate to an overall theme, such as survival Where speculation. According to Li, “State of the Human” aims to present diverse human experiences, which has increased her ability to empathize with people from all walks of life.
“I realized how important it is to hear other people’s stories,” Li said. “When you walk down the street, you don’t realize how different other people’s experiences are. I think “the state of the human” is essential for SSP, because one of our biggest missions is to be able to tell a story about common human experiences and to be able to connect all these human experiences together. »
Tenner thinks the purpose of the SSP is twofold. Not only does it allow students to hone their story-making abilities, but it also provides a platform for impactful stories.
“A very important part of storytelling is that you’re the host,” Tenner said. “You are the intermediary between someone’s story [and the audience]. [SSP] gives Stanford students the space to learn about the art of history, but also provides a platform for incredible and valuable stories.
Every time Warga helps his SSP colleagues write a story, he asks them two basic questions: “What is the story about?” and “What is the story really about?” Warga believes that any good story should focus on an experience or anecdote, but shed light on something deeper about the human condition. also convinced to take an interest in the subject.
“Facts have no emotion,” Warga said. “Facts have no feeling. But when you combine facts with a story, enlisting someone to give a voice to a phenomenon, that’s where we can care about something. When we can both know and feel.
Likewise, producer Claudia Heymach ’19 said she was always touched and influenced by an emotional story. She believes a story can impact someone in a way that bland facts and research never can.
“I think storytelling is really powerful,” Heymach said. “It’s this intimate experience where you hear someone else’s voice. It’s not just the statistics, which seem cold and distant. The storytelling is humanizing.
For White, storytelling is a force that exposes him to the myriad of emotions that encapsulate the human experience. She said she joined SSP because she wanted to revive storytelling in modern society. White is determined to expand the scale of SSP, which is why she supports the program’s move to online podcasts.
“[In storytelling,] there is a capacity for connection between two people,” White said. “It’s that feeling you get when someone is telling a story and you get chills or find yourself thinking about things you haven’t thought about in a very long time. The way a story resonates with you [is] something beautiful and inexplicable. I never want to be able to explain it.
Contact Swara Tewari at tewariswara ‘at’ gmail.com.