The Conversation explores visions of our future and questions of the good. If you rolled an audio documentary, dinner party, and digital humanities project into a giant media-burrito, this is what you’d get:
From April to December of 2012, Aengus Anderson traveled America and recorded long, unstructured conversations with a cross-section of thinkers and doers, from transhumanists to neoprimitivists, urban farmers to musicians. The resulting conversations were wildly diverse but unified by a few themes: critiques of the present, hopes for the future, and discussions of what each thinker considered “the good.” The results may not yield any existential answers, but you’ll hear thoughtful and often provocative discussions emerging from a cacophony of ideas.
Within each episode you will (almost always) hear genuine conversations rather than boilerplate monologues. At the same time, the project itself is a single conversation that spans episodes. This is because, unlike most interview series, Aengus told the thinkers about each others’ ideas. This gives The Conversation a self-referential quality that grows richer as the series progresses.
But if you find linearity boring, you can navigate The Conversation by a concept map of topics and perspectives, a nonlinear approach which allows you to see unexpected connections across diverse episodes. For more information about the concept map, check this out.
No project called The Conversation could be hosted by an individual, so Aengus is joined by Micah Saul and, more recently, Neil Prendergast. At the end of every episode, they have a candid discussion of each thinker’s ideas, draw connections between thinkers, and reflect upon their own changing perspectives and biases.
Though Aengus has ceased recording conversations, he is currently editing through his backlog of interviews and will continue to post new episodes until early May, 2013. Barring a financial windfall that allows production to resume, The Conversation will then live as an online time capsule of how Americans were thinking about the future in 2012. Hopefully it will grow more interesting with age.
If you want to read about the hypothesis behind The Conversation, check out this blog posting from the beginning of the project.
Who we are:
Aengus Anderson is a radio producer with a background in post-production, photography, and US History. He has motorcycled around North America twice, interviewing over four hundred Americans, Canadians, and Mexicans for long-format radio projects that explore how people think about the present and the past. The Conversation grew directly out of those projects and is his attempt to better understand the future.
Micah Saul is an Ontologist at Google. Previously he worked in the tech industry for Metaweb and Electronic Arts. He also plays horns and sings for The Sad Bastard Book Club.
Neil Prendergast is a historian at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.
The website and data visualization were developed by Chris Willard.
If you ever have suggestions, critiques, or questions, please join the conversation. You can email info@the URL or say hi to @aengusanderson on Twitter.