Commuting to work, running, gymming, doing the dishes — all great opportunities to listen and learn. I started pimping up my bike rides to campus quite a while back and learned lots about the latest tech developments and human wisdom. There’s general knowledge, satire, dummy breakdowns, also super specialized topics. There’s everything — that’s why this is just a tiny little snapshot of what’s out there. Here are my top ones throughout most different categories.
ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN
The goal is to expose the unseen and overlooked aspects of design, architecture, and activity in the world. It’s often about things that do not sound very interesting at first, but the producers put it into lovely stories and tell it in a very intriguing way! You can for example learn how The White Elephant of Tel Aviv whips up feelings, how the Swedes managed to switch their left-hand traffic to right-hand traffic during one spectacular H-Day, how Architects were the guinea pigs to learn more about what makes creativity, or in what rather unusual way Taiwan deals with their garbage problem. Plus Roman Mars’ deep, calm voice is just very likable.
A weekly show about what’s new in Science, Technology and the Internet. And it’s not only for Brits. The cast is mostly online editors and tech journalists — James Temperton, the producer, has this very nice sarcastic British humour — and all of them have the very elegant British tone. They lately introduced the opening category one thing I have learned this week — which brings up fun facts about Internet connected volcanos, the US marine’s 32 page long tattoo guide, and that the deepest dive of a diving bird was 690 feet deep. That is over 210 meters! How crazy is that! And the show is also just a very interesting teaser for what’s written about in the magazine and online.
Another tech podcast worth listening to is the newly rebranded Tech Weekly of the Guardian. British too. Not as broad as the Wired one, but focussing on one topic concerning something around the internet every week. They just finished a 4-part-series about the UN’s decision to make Internet a Human Right. They interview tech experts, human rights lawyers, and many other interesting folks. Pretty insightful and well-made.
That’s one of the more topic specific ones — it’s all about data visualization. So if you’re interested in how to visualize information, this is a great mix of academic research and industry knowledge. The hosts are from those two different backgrounds and if you are somewhat interested in the topic you have probably heard of Moritz Stefaner and Enrico Bertini. With super interesting guests they chat about research, design, conferences, and all those things. I learned so much from them!
And are there more podcasts about dataviz you ask? Absolutely! There’s PolicyViz with Jon Schwabisch, What’s the Point from FiveThirtyEight, Data Skeptic — which looks through the eye of scientific skepticism. To only name a few.
The topics are basically everything under the sun — Josh and Chuck explain the world. The two hosts are rolling together so well that no matter the topic, it’s a delight to listen to them. A few of my favourite episodes: How Gossip Works, How LSD works, How Reverse Psychology Works, How Grimm’s Fairy Tales Work, and ok, here we go: Our cats episode — right here, right meow.
An “Audio Newspaper For A Visual World Since 2007”. Probably the densest satiric audio experience you will ever have. About current topics, commented by two Brits at heart — even though one of them made his way over the sea — it’s John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman. They are going through some transitions right now, and it will probably only be Zaltzman in the upcoming episodes — but pretty much all the past episodes are worth listening to. Admittedly… as a non-native speaker (and even as one I’ve heard) it might happen that you can’t always follow their rather rapid and nippy analysis of world affairs, but the parts I get are so sharp and darn hilarious.
Vox is great for not making you feel like an idiot. They often explain things from the ground up. Since things are happening so fast these days, and all the people around you seem to always know everything about it already, you need to catch up on world news and have somebody explain things to you. Especially when it comes to business and economics, it happens that I do not have a clue. And the weeds, more often than not, helped me understand things a bit better.
The mother of great podcasts. Those guys figured out how to win audio. They tell stories so well and use audio snippets, sound effects, and dramatic accents masterfully. Any episode is thrilling to listen to. It’s “a show about curiosity” and tackles topics all over science, philosophy, and human experience. Some recommendations to start with: Debatable is about those debating clubs in US high schools. If you’ve never been part of something like that this episode opens up a whole new somehow ridiculous world. Another pretty edgy story is The Buried Bodies Case, which raises the question how far lawyers should go to provide the best defense to the worst people. Well, check them all out! Awesome storytelling!
Of course there are TONS of other great ones. If you have a favorite put it in the comments! It’s always great to hear about new ones.