After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.Philip Pullman
Engineering is full of stories. It’s about people facing challenges and digging deep to overcome them. Unlike conventional action heroes, however, it is not how far they can jump or climb that saves the day. It’s how they apply scientific knowledge and practical expertise. Unfortunately, the technical depth that lets engineers achieve what they do, is also a barrier to public appreciation. The Inventive Podcast will use storytelling to overcome this barrier and encourage listeners to dream about Engineering and what they do.
The challenge we set ourselves is to create a podcast that reaches beyond those already interested in engineering. Unfortunately, the narrative approaches that the media uses for engineering are often limiting. Historic narratives are common, but that reinforces the idea that the subject is about heavy engineering from a bygone era; it ignores the current engineers who are transforming our modern world. Storytelling often focuses on the biggest, longest, tallest – a sort of “boy’s toys” approach to the subject – but this has a limited appeal. Another common tactic is to set-up some unconvincing jeopardy, patronising the audience and overlooking the fact that engineering is all about designing out risks and failure. To reach a broader audience, engineering needs to tell better stories with people at the centre. It also needs content that engages with the interests and concerns of a diverse listenership.
This is why in Inventive we explore different narrative approaches. We interweave factual interviews with engineers who have great stories to tell, with pieces of fiction that we commission. For example, what superpower does a particular engineer wish they had to make their job easier, and what engaging fictionalisation could build on that premise? This allows us to explore in a fun way something that is central to engineering practice: finding ingenious ways to get around limitations.
Podcasting has gone mainstream, with millions now tuning into shows such as Science Friday, RadioLab and Stuff You Should Know. Unfortunately, most engineering remains relatively invisible in this growing market with mostly small-scale niche podcasts. When engineering is mentioned, it is usually badged as ‘Science’. The Inventive podcast showcases engineering, exploiting the space in the podcast market.
Read Host Trevor Cox’s blog about how engineering is currently portrayed in the media, and what narratives our writers have produced.