Invasion of the Pod People
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Jon Ronson is a documentary maker, journalist and comic storyteller beloved by many. His books have explored psychopathy, psychological warfare, internet shame culture and more. As a reporter, he meets his subjects with empathy and softly spoken humour – often revealing the deep, surprising motivations and desires at the heart of apparently absurd situations.
In his seven-part 2017 podcast, The Butterfly Effect, Ronson explores an unlikely collection of stories, loosely connected – each emanating from a young German man’s lucrative idea for a free online porn site. Pornhub (and its ilk) would go on to transform the entire industry, upending its economics. The series follows the sweet and strange and human consequences of this single idea.
Ronson says he was drawn to the story by an apparent hypocrisy of modern society – porn, by now, is a commonplace and mundane indulgence for many, yet its protagonists are routinely met with moralistic, judgemental dismissal. This April at St Kilda Town Hall, join Jon Ronson as he delivers a sad, funny and affecting audio-visual performance about The Butterfly Effect.
Readings will be our bookseller for this event.
Jon Ronson is an award-winning non-fiction writer and documentary maker. He is the author of four bestsellers, Them: Adventures with Extremists, The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Psychopath Test and Lost at Sea: The Jon Ronson Mysteries, and two collections, Out of the Ordinary: True Tales of Everyday Craziness and What I Do: More True Tales of Everyday Craziness. His latest book is the short story Frank: The True Story that Inspired the Movie. His first fictional screenplay, Frank, co-written with Peter Straughan, has been directed by Lenny Abrahamson and stars Michael Fassbender. He lives in London and New York City.
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In the last few years, podcasts have matured into the storytelling format du jour – with a little help from a certain sensationally popular true crime serial (ahem). Yet the surge of interest and excitement around audio features and podcasts has been gaining momentum for even longer, propelled by a diversity of formats.
Take the narrative artisanship of This American Life or the sonic vivacity of Radiolab; the topical deep dives of Slate’s Culture Gabfest or Phillip Adams’s Late Night Live; the animated storytelling of The Moth or Sum of All Parts; or the intimate conversations found in Death, Sex and Money or WTF with Marc Maron. The influence of these and countless other shows can be felt in today’s most interesting podcasts (insert shameless plug for the Wheeler Centre’s own successful forays into richly-produced feature-making, including Andrew Denton’s Better Off Dead, and The Messenger, here).
Beloved for their sense of proximity, their active listenership, portability and in some cases, ambitiously-crafted audio, podcasts have a unique ability to keep listeners in the company of their own choosing – and to render mundane tasks bearable. And since design show 99% Invisible’s record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns – podcasts have also shown promise in otherwise dim times for media businesses. What’s next for podcasting – and how could it be done better?
In celebration of all things audible, we’re bringing you some of podcasting’s best and brightest to share their thoughts and insights on the art (and business) of listening.