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The Conversation's 'Speaking with' podcast
Ideas and analysis from the sharpest minds in the academic and research world.

Latest Episodes

Speaking with: Jason Dittmer on superheroes and fascism

Speaking with Jason Dittmer on superheroes and fascism.

Superhero films are big business. Avengers: Age of Ultron recently passed US$1 billion in box office sales. The first Avengers film is currently third in all-time box office rankings. The popularity and success of Batman, Ironman and the Avengers have contributed to a revival of the American superhero on the big screen. And though the latest films may seem like modern superhero narratives, the themes…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Jason Dittmer

Speaking with: Keith Jacobs on the politics of housing

Speaking with: Keith Jacobs on the politics of housing.

The Reserve Bank cut interest rates to 2% on Tuesday hoping to stimulate business investment and household spending. The RBA's decision was welcomed by Treasurer Joe Hockey, but there are concerns the record-low rate will further inflate the already heated housing markets in Sydney and Melbourne. The Economist magazine recently evaluated Australia’s housing market to be overvalued by more than 25…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Keith Jacobs

Speaking with: Peter Singer on effective altruism

Speaking with: Peter Singer on effective altruism.

Australians are among the most charitable people in the world, donating around A$2.4 billion a year. But how can we ensure the money we donate is used as effectively as possible? There are more than 60,000 registered charities in Australia, ranging from international NGOs to environmental organisations. While most appeal to our emotions when fundraising, someone wanting to have the greatest positive…

2 Hosts: William Isdale and Peter Singer

Speaking with: Cameron McAuliffe on graffiti, art and crime

Speaking with: Cameron McAuliffe on graffiti, art and crime. CC BY-ND21.2 MB (download)

Is graffiti art or crime? The modern form of graffiti made its way to Australia from the US in the 1980s, and it quickly was characterised as a blight on our urban landscapes. Classified as vandalism, many cities adopted tough legal measures to deter graffiti artists from tagging walls and trains. Today, the situation largely remains the same. Graffiti is still illegal. The city of Hobart recently…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Cameron McAuliffe

Speaking with: Joanne Orlando on children and technology

Speaking with: Joanne Orlando on children and technology. CC BY-SA25.7 MB (download)

Is technology bad for kids? As more devices and software applications are made specifically for an increasingly younger audience, there is concern about the appropriateness of children using technology – and debate over when it should be introduced into their lives. Yet at the same time, personal devices and touch screens are everywhere. Kids love them for the same reasons we do, and many argue that…

2 Hosts: Tamson Pietsch and Joanne Orlando

Speaking with: David Tiley on funding Australian films

Speaking with: David Tiley on funding Australian films. CC BY-ND23.2 MB (download)

The Australian Film Commission (AFC) was founded with a budget of A$6.5 million in 1975 with the hope of revitalising the Australian film industry to a point where it could sustain itself without government support. The funding resulted in what is now generally regarded as the "golden age" of Australian cinema in the 1970s and 80s. But even today, most Australian films are still primarily funded through…

1 Host: Vincent O'Donnell

Speaking with: Shanthi Robertson on the changing face of migration

Shanthi Robertson on the changing face of migration.

Immigration is a contentious topic in many parts of the world, and the debate in Australia has been predictably framed around asylum seekers, the burdens on taxpayers and the protection of local jobs. This narrow focus has meant migrants are often divided into categories of "good" and "bad". The reality is a lot more complex and nuanced. For much of Australia's history, most migrants were permanent…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Shanthi Robertson

Speaking with: Tim Jones on child sexual abuse within religious institutions

Speaking with: Tim Jones on child sexual abuse within religious institutions. The Conversation21.6 MB (download)

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse reconvened this week. Announced in 2012, the commission was established due to growing concerns over consistently inadequate responses to child abuse cases by institutions. Although the current Royal Commission is focused on cases within living memory in a wide range of institutions, the hearings reveal that Australian churches…

2 Hosts: Tamson Pietsch and Timothy W. Jones

Speaking with: Kerry Brown on China, Australia and diplomacy

Speaking with: Kerry Brown on China, Australia and diplomacy.

The emergence of China as a 21st-century superpower has already had profound impacts on Australia. As China reshapes the balance of power, not only in the Asia-Pacific region but globally, its influence on Australia is likely to increase. China’s economic and military growth will also challenge the world’s other superpower – and Australia’s traditional security ally – the United States. Caught between…

2 Hosts: Tamson Pietsch and Kerry Brown

Speaking with: Duane Hamacher on Indigenous astronomy

Speaking with: Duane Hamacher on Indigenous astronomy.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander people have between 40,000 and 60,000 years of pre-colonial history that includes stories of constellations they observed in the night sky and traditions that align with the stars and the moon. But until recently, these stories were largely dismissed by the scientific community. Researchers are now finding that Indigenous oral traditions contain vast environmental…

2 Hosts: Tamson Pietsch and Duane W. Hamacher

Speaking with: Nicole Gurran on affordable housing

Speaking with: Nicole Gurran on affordable housing.

Australia’s residential house prices rank among the highest in the world, and an increasing number of aspiring home owners are finding themselves locked out of the property market. While low interest rates and higher wages have somewhat tempered the impact of high house prices, these factors have not helped low-income earners, who continue to struggle to find housing within their budget. One possible…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Nicole Gurran

Speaking with: Sarah Sorial on free speech and democracy

Speaking with: Sarah Sorial on free speech and democracy.

Freedom of speech is often seen as a cornerstone of democracy, but the unfettered right to express opinions can infringe other fundamental rights. Minority groups are especially at risk of verbal attacks and intimidation, and some countries, including Australia, have legislated protections that limit free speech. When Attorney-General George Brandis ordered a review of the Racial Discrimination Act…

1 Host: Tamson Pietsch

Speaking with: Steve Kilbey, lead singer of The Church

Speaking with: Steve Kilbey, lead singer of The Church.

Bassist and lead singer of The Church, Steve Kilbey is one of Australia's most prolific musicians. The band released their 25th album, Further Deeper, in October and will play The Queenscliff Music Festival this Saturday. Kilbey speaks with Andrea Baker about his recently released memoir, Something Quite Peculiar, which describes his rise to fame, his heroin addiction and The Church's resurgence. Please…

1 Host: Andrea Jean Baker

Speaking with: Nick Rowley on democracy in Antarctica

Speaking with: Nick Rowley on democracy in Antarctica.

Antarctica is the coldest, driest and possibly the most inhospitable place on Earth. It is also the only continent designated entirely as a natural reserve, used purely for peaceful and scientific purposes. For many decades, Antarctica has been the final frontier for scientific research, governed by a treaty system signed in 1959, that protects the continent from exploitation and military action. But…

2 Hosts: Tamson Pietsch and Nick Rowley

Speaking with: George Galster on revitalising Detroit

Speaking with: George Galster. CC BY-ND18.9 MB (download)

Detroit is in turmoil, officially bankrupt and home to some of America's poorest citizens. But 50 years ago it was thriving, boasting a booming manufacturing sector and a steadily growing educated middle-class. What happened? Dallas Rogers speaks with George Galster on the fallout from the decline of the automotive industry, and the glimmer of hope new urban projects offer this troubled city. George…

1 Host: Dallas Rogers

Speaking with: Scott McKinnon on LGBTI issues during natural disasters

Speaking with: Scott McKinnon.

When natural disasters strike, the impact varies significantly across different social groups, and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) communities are poorly accounted for in disaster management policy and practice. Dallas Rogers speaks with Scott McKinnon on the different needs of the LGBTI community during a natural disaster event, and how emergency services, policy-makers and…

2 Hosts: Dallas Rogers and Scott McKinnon

Speaking with: journalist Masha Gessen on Putin's Russia

Speaking with: journalist Masha Gessen on Putin’s Russia.

Russian-American writer and LGBT activist, Masha Gessen has covered every major development in Russian politics and culture of the past two decades. She is the author of Words Will Break Cement: The Passion of Pussy Riot (2014), as well as six other books, including the international bestseller The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin (2012). Here, Judith Armstrong talks to Gessen…

1 Host: Judith Armstrong

Speaking with: Robert Picard on democratising the media

Speaking with: Robert Picard. CC BY-ND21 MB (download)

Is social media really delivering on its promise of democratising communication? Or have we just replaced one model that privileges those with power for another? Dr Andrea Carson speaks with Professor Robert Picard, one of the world's leading academics on government communication policies and media economics. Listen to other podcast episodes here.

2 Hosts: Andrea Carson and Robert Picard

Speaking with: singer-songwriter Mark Seymour

Speaking with: Mark Seymour. CC BY-ND22.7 MB (download)

At the Melbourne Writers’ Festival this week, a panel of poets, writers and performers will read and reflect on the poetry of the first world war. Among them is Mark Seymour, the former frontman of Hunters & Collectors and a fixture on the Australian music scene for the past three decades. Here, Andrea Baker talks to Seymour about his life-long fascination with war, the manipulation of language…

1 Host: Andrea Jean Baker

Speaking with: food critic Ruth Reichl

Speaking with: Ruth Reichl. CC BY-ND31.4 MB (download)

Ruth Reichl MWF Ruth Reichl, the former restaurant critic of The New York Times and author of best-selling gourmet memoirs Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples, is known for describing, in vivid detail, how food can define us. While in Australia this week, to discuss her first novel Delicious! at the Melbourne Writers' Festival, Reichl talks with food researcher Isabelle de Solier about why…

1 Host: Isabelle de Solier

Speaking with: mountaineer Andrew Lock

Speaking with: Andrew Lock. CC BY-ND27.4 MB (download)

Andrew Lock is the most accomplished high-altitude mountaineer in Australian history. He is the only Australian, the first person in the Commonwealth, and just the 18th man in the world to climb all 14 of the world’s 8000-metre mountains, including Everest – twice. Here, sports scientist David Bishop talks with Lock about "grit", the psychological and physical stamina required for 24-hour days of climbing…

1 Host: David Bishop

Speaking with: The New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum

Speaking with: Emily Nussbaum. CC BY-ND26.3 MB (download)

Over the past decade we have witnessed the rise and rise of long form television – from The Sopranos to The Wire, Game of Thrones to Orange Is the New Black – and no one has been watching this transformation more keenly than the television critic for The New Yorker, Emily Nussbaum. Here, media researcher Lisa French talks with Nussbaum about bingeing on DVD sets, live-tweeting and delighting in reruns…

1 Host: Lisa French

Speaking with: Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield

Speaking with: Chris Hadfield.

Colonel Chris Hadfield is one of the most famous astronauts on Earth. Through the creative use of social media, he's made space exciting and accessible to new generations of enthusiasts, most notably through his performance of David Bowie's Space Oddity while on board the International Space Station. In this interview, I ask Chris about human-machine relations, lessons for the Australian space program…

2 Hosts: Alice Gorman and Chris Hadfield