Arranging Delivery, Delivering Arrangement:
An Ecological Sonic Rhetoric of Podcasting

But the good qualities of the voice, like those of all our other faculties, are improved by attention and deteriorated by neglect. (Quintillian, 2015, p. 605)


(00:00) Hello, this is Abigail Lambke one final time with the Outro for “Arranging Delivery, Delivering Arrangement”

(00:08) Music: Podington Bear “Bit Rio” (2015b)

(00:13) Thus far, I’ve located rhetorical choices in podcasts and sketched patterns between a few canons. But, what does this mean and why does it matter?

(00:24) Most significantly, it’s further evidence for Brooke’s (2009) theory of an ecology of canons as the choices made about arrangement clearly impact those made about delivery, and vice versa. His argument was published in 2009, the early days of podcasting and prior to the conception of Radiotopia. In applying new media ecology to podcasts, I’ve both extended Brooke’s argument to another new media form and expanded it to include a form that can be considered both a static text and an interface.

(01:02) Another implication of this piece is my consideration of arrangement that does not rely solely on the visual. Arrangement is often seen as a visual canon, but it is present in non-visual media as well. Of course, you might be thinking that I had to use visuals as evidence for my analysis of arrangement and sound, and you’d be right. But those visuals were evidence for a hypothesis I formed while listening.

(01:30) Perhaps the real point is that it is all too often easy to divide the senses simplistically: visual rhetorics, sonic rhetorics. (I’ve been guilty of this too.) But podcasting is sounded both before and after being visualized. Is there any better evidence than Jessica Abel’s successful Out On the Wire, a graphic narrative of radio? For me, this is another circle back to Walter Ong (1977), whose work on psychodynamics of media always emphasized the overlapping nature of media forms. We might be in the age of secondary orality, but print, text, visuals, graphic narratives remain central to how we can think about and process the world.

(02:18) Certainly there are a number of unanswered questions and places for further research and extension of Brooke (2009) here. I’ve focused on a deep dive into one aspect of arrangement and one aspect of delivery within one podcast collective. Further research might focus on other aspects of these respective canons, on relationships between other canons, or how other podcasts or podcast collectives map out differently.

(02:45) What is clear however, is that while at one point, possibly, it might have been helpful to think of the canons as discrete steps in a process, when it comes to new media, and in this piece podcasting, that's a reductive measure. It's also reductive to think that arrangement or delivery means only one thing. I’ve been careful throughout to emphasize that I focus only on one aspect of arrangement and one aspect of delivery, but there are multitudes to analyze and interpret. The rhetorical canons remain helpful in considering the practice of composing, but boundaries between them can be fluid and choices within one can influence, predict, or correlate with choices within another.

(03:33) Another aspect I’ve only touched on here is that of gender. Radiotopia has openly encouraged female podcasters, and gender does not seem to be significant to either category of vocal presence or vocal engagement in my analysis. But general podcast data suggests that older, educated men are more likely to be podcasters (Markman, 2011; Markman & Jenkins, 2014). Lindal Buchanan’s (2005) Regendering Delivery: The Fifth Canon and Antebellum Women Rhetors reminds us that there are many social aspects to delivery, regarding how one is allowed or encouraged to speak and in what genre.

(04:10) Music: Podington Bear “Kaleidoscope” (2017g)

(04:14) Many people are skeptical of their voices or outright dislike them. When teaching sound as an available means, I’ve often emphasized this vocally hidden arrangement approach for people who dislike their voices. Teaching arrangement techniques can also help someone deemphasize their delivery if necessary or desired. You can compose with sound, even in a podcast, without always relying on your voice.

(04:43) Much of the analysis throughout has been descriptive; I’ve described the rhetorical choices made by podcasters within Radiotopia within the terms I’ve defined. But this webtext is also intended to be generative, and in no way prescriptive. I am not saying this is only way to make a podcast, or than the four categories I’ve outlined are the only four ways to do it. The intersection of rhetoric and new media often emphasizes play alongside performance, and thus experimentation with different relationships between arrangement and delivery could be a fruitful exercise and result in an interesting podcast.

(05:22) For what rhetorical purpose might a podcaster choose to be detached but vocally present? For what rhetorical purpose might one choose to be vocally hidden but enthusiastic? I can think of a couple examples. Can you?

(05:39) So, are you thinking about starting a podcast? Are you thinking of asking your students to use sound as an available means? Do you already do it? Either way, vocal presence and performative delivery in engagement are two rhetorical aspects to reflect on throughout the process of composition.

(06:00) A few questions you might think about:

  • How much of your voice, or any, do you want your audience to hear?
  • Do you want to guide your listeners through a subject, like Roman Mars, putting in fun asides throughout?
  • Or do you want your listeners to put the story together themselves, like in an episode of The Kitchen Sisters Present?
  • How enthusiastic or detached should you sound?
  • How can you perform your voice to reflect the level of engagement you want from your listeners to increase your ethos?

(06:37) These are sonic questions, and they are also rhetorical ones. If you produce audio with your voice, you’ll want to make these choices consciously, to ponder them reflectively, and consider their relationship with one another.

(06:51) I’m almost at the end here, so I’ll say that I hope this piece starts a conversation about the rhetoric of podcasting beyond its potential pedagogical features and that I have managed to communicate all this information sonically as well as textually.

(07:06) That’s it folks. I’d like to give a shout out to FreeMusicArchive, which collects music licensed under Creative Commons, where I obtained all of the background music for these productions. For full academic citations and my fair use statement, please see the References, for which I do not have an audio composition.

(07:23) Thank you for listening. Goodbye.

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