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Podcast review: Thinking allowed April 14, 2009

Posted by Sverre in : Reviews , trackback

podcastIn my series of reviews of political science podcasts, I’ve arrived at the BBC Channel 4 program “Thinking Allowed”, that is podcasted through the BBC web pages.

This radio program about research in social science really interested me. It features interesting topics and interviews with leading social scientists and thinkers. Political science seems to have a pretty good presence among them. I’ve listened to the broadcasts for the past three weeks – of particular interest in those were a discussion with Michail Rykin on Russian democracy and the rehabilitation of Stalin, with Anthony Giddens on the politics of climate change and with Kevin Doogan on “New Capitalism”. A pretty impressive lineup.

As a program from perhaps the most established public broacasting institution in the world, we expect the technical quality and the host to be of top notch quality, and they are. There isn’t anything to put my finger on there. The host, Laurie Taylor, isn’t a scientist himself, but he seems to have enough insight paired with being a good radio host. It all makes for interesting radio.

The professional radio format is however also the program’s biggest weakness. It isn’t made for political science nerds like me, but for a general audience. Because of this, interesting topics are compressed into smaller sound bytes than I’d like to see. For the most part they’re not deep, lengthy analyses, but quick interviews and science teasers. For example I was very frustrated when the extremely interesting insights by Michail Rykin were cut short after just 10 minutes. I’m used to people getting to speak for one or two times 45 minutes. Still, I’m really happy I got to hear it, and it spurred my interest into looking up those perspectives on my own.

One last little annoyance also needs to be mentioned. For some reason, the podcast feed seems to include only the last program at any given time, unlike most podcasts that include a backlog of several episodes. If you wait for more than a week between updating your podcasts that means you’ll lose an episode. Luckily it’s possible to get old episodes from the website, but it’s a bit annoying that they’re not in the podcast stream itself.

The blog Anne is a Man also has reviewed this podcast.


1. jacobchristensen - April 14, 2009

Actually, Laurie Taylor is a (retired) professor of sociology:


Unfortunately, the BBC only has its podcasts available for downloading for one week (the same also goes for In Our Time) – I’m not sure why, but I too miss being able to fetch older programmes when I’ve been off-line one way or the other for more than one week.