Podcasts are cool. Government agencies, generally speaking, are not. What happens when you mix the two together?
Judging by Episode 1 of the Department of Energy’s new podcast, Direct Current, the result is surprisingly charming — and not at all like listening to an audio version of the congressional yawn that is C-SPAN.
The episode (listen above) dives into rooftop solar and problems that arise after people install rooftop panels. It contains moments of levity, too, like a spoof of a familiar public radio show (with host “Ira Fiberglass” hosting This American Lightbulb), and an off-the-wall story about Don Quixote discovering a windmill and mistaking it for a giant.
The Verge described this podcast as coming “from out of nowhere” — and granted, when you think of up-and-coming podcast creators, the Department of Energy isn’t a prime suspect. But maybe we shouldn’t be totally surprised that in the post-Serial world, a decade after podcasts became popular, the government is finally catching up. The Department of Energy’s podcast represents a government agency’s attempt to venture outside its jargon-laden domain into a more approachable realm, one in which actual human beings live, listen, and learn.
In the era of thumb-scrolling through Facebook, podcasts are seen as a return to intimacy: a more theatrical medium that allows listeners to engage more slowly and deeply with what’s being said. Any subject is fair game, from concrete to rhino hunters. And now, courtesy of the government, rooftop solar panels.