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Conference presentation: "Slow Listening and the Unsettling Ethics of Attention in Curtain the podcast"

I will be presenting a paper at the International Australian Studies Association (InASA) to be held 3-5 December 2018 in Brisbane.  The theme of this year's conference is "Unsettling Australia"

Presentation abstract:

Drawing on Lauren Berlant's (2007) notion of 'slow death' and the ethical framework of 'slow journalism', I develop a theory of slow listening as both unsettling and transformative through an examination of the Indigenous podcast Curtain. Curtain is an investigative podcast series made by Darumbal and South Sea Islander journalist Amy McQuire and Yuin man, Martin Hodgson, an activist and senior advocate with Foreign Prisoner Support Service and produced on a shoestring budget.  The series is explicitly committed to finding justice for Kevin Henry, an Aboriginal man imprisoned for over twenty-five years for murder and who has steadfastly maintained his innocence; and Lynda (last name withheld for cultural reasons), an Aboriginal woman, for whose murder Henry was tried and convicted.  To date, it has aired forty-eight episodes since October 2016, over twenty hours of podcast listening.

Beyond being an impressive piece of ongoing investigative journalism, I argue that Curtain must also be understood as an active intervention into the uneven economies of attention at work in a diversified and fragmented broadcasting (and podcasting) landscape.  Listening to Curtain demands an unsettling ethics of attention that disrupts an appetite for ‘binge’, ‘on demand’ and serialised media forms that sensationalise injustice.  Its open-ended commitment justice for the victims means that listeners used to narrative-driven, easily consumable, slickly produced media forms are not as easily engaged.

Slow listening then - in the case of Curtain - reflects a commitment from non-Indigenous audiences in particular to First Nations sovereignty and justice, while also refusing the logic of desire and consumption at the heart of the attention economy.