Invisibilia and the Podcasting Renaissance

Podcasting, it seems, is undergoing a renaissance. And my favourite of the new crop is Invisibilia from NPR, a podcast (and, apparently, also a radio program) that “explores the intangible forces that shape human behavior.”

They are four episodes in now, and I’ve been fascinated by something – and usually more than one something – on every episode I’ve listened to.

Their description of the three schools of psychotherapy – who knew! – in The Secret History of Thoughts and the part of the Entanglement episode discussing how distant atoms can somehow at once be the same atom, are the highlights for me so far.

I encourage you to listen.

My podcast-listening application of choice (thank goodness “podcatcher” never took off as a noun) is Pocket Casts, which is available for both iOS and Android and here’s what you’ll find in my subscription list these days (the links are the podcast subscription links that you can add to your, er, podcatcher):

  • Planet Money — also from NPR, I enjoy their approach to money and the economy; it’s a sweet spot between lowbrow and highbrow.
  • 99% Invisible — design, architecture, curiousities.
  • Transom — seldom updated, but the back catalogue of independent documentaries is rock-solid.
  • Invisibilia — as above!
  • CANADALAND — hyperbolic, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Slate’s Working — where did it go? I hope it returns, as each episode’s focus on the quotidian aspects of a different profession was gripping.
  • Reply All — technology with a humanist bent.
  • Radiolab — arguable the grandfather of Invisibilia, and a pioneering user of what might be called “cinematic” techniques in radio.
  • Longform — a collection of interviews with writers about the craft (sort of like “Working,” but broader in scope but limited to a single profession).
  • Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews — I can’t imagine going anywhere else for film reviews; my longest-standing subscription.
  • StartUp — a podcast about starting a podcasting company; I love it.
  • TravelCommons — much less regular in recent years, but I keep listening because of the focus on the quotidian aspects of business travel.
  • This American Life — the classic.

It appears, as I write those thumbnails, that “quotidian” is my passion of choice.

Here’s an OPML file of all of the above that you can import into your podcast-listener if you want to slurp them all into your life too.


Ashley's picture
Ashley on February 4, 2015 - 13:54 Permalink

My favourite podcast is the Peace Revolution. The main themes are history and intelectual self defense. Or how to protect your mind and how people in the (distant) past have tried to get around those protections.

Jonas's picture
Jonas on February 4, 2015 - 15:34 Permalink

I've recently started listening to podcasts again, after a long hiatus. I will give Invisibilia a go.

Have you listened to Serial?

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on February 4, 2015 - 17:07 Permalink

I subscribed to, but never listened to, Serial for months and kept promising myself to listen to it but never did, most likely because its episodic nature required that I pay attention more and keep track of where I was in the episode list, and that was too much of a challenge.  I need to plan for a cross-country road trip and break it out again.

Oliver Rukavina's picture
Oliver Rukavina on February 4, 2015 - 17:54 Permalink

I also like TWIT's Podcasts and also not scary podcasts that scare me.

Todd's picture
Todd on February 4, 2015 - 19:53 Permalink

I recently subscribed to Invisibilia, and have been listening to 99% Invisible and Radiolabe for a few years now. Serial was pretty good, and I'd recommend it. Curious to hear your thoughts when you've listened.

I subscribe to 23 podcasts in all, and tend to binge-listen to shows to catch up. Currently 55 unlistened-to eps in Downcast, MY app of choice (iOS).

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on February 22, 2015 - 16:31 Permalink

Thanks for the recs, Peter.

Oliver B's picture
Oliver B on March 22, 2015 - 15:58 Permalink

I bet you'd like Home of the Brave too, Peter.