The Rights Track – Why podcasts are a great way to raise awareness about human rights

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‘Podcasts embody what is arguably the essential promise of the Internet: a means for surprising, revealing, and above all ennobling encounters with people, things, and ideas we didn’t know.’

Jonah Weiner, blog for Slate ‘Toward a critical theory of podcasting’.

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For the last 25 years I have been working on human rights problems. I have applied theories and methods from the discipline of political science to empirical analyses that have involved single countries, small groups of countries, and all the countries in the world. This work has been underpinned by a commitment to making the best inferences possible with the evidence that has been collected.

I have published widely on how and why comparative methods can and should be applied to the study of human rights. I have examined empirical relationships between the struggle for citizenship rights in authoritarian Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Spain; between the international law of human rights and the protection of human rights; and between different forms of inequality and the violation of certain sets of human rights. My work is now focussed on the ways in which human rights are framed and how that framing affects our readiness to find culpability of alleged perpetrators.

Throughout my pursuit of this research I have had the opportunity to travel to 38 different countries to participate in conferences, workshops, seminars, and training activities where I have worked with a wide range of local, national, and international stakeholders from governments, international non-governmental organisations, inter-governmental organisations, academic institutions, and private sector companies. This work has led to my involvement in a wide network of individuals who are dedicated to producing sound evidence on human rights.

They apply empirical theories and methods to well crafted research questions at different levels of analysis with the intent of making the world a better place. They measure and compare human rights practice; they interview individuals and groups about human rights experiences; they test hypotheses about important relationships between human rights and other explanatory factors; and they try to make their findings relevant and salient to policy makers and practitioners working in the human rights and broader international community.

The research and policy outputs of this work often comes in the form of the written word: articles, books, and reports that set out the aims and objectives of the research, the specification of the research questions, the review and articulation of the relevant theories and literature, the specification of hypotheses, the presentation of data, methods and analysis, and a discussion of the implications of these findings for the advance of human rights. These outputs are a vital part of the pool of knowledge that is being created by human rights scholars and practitioners; however, as a means of communication, they can still remain quite limited in their ability to reach key audiences.

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To address this limitation, I am joined by a great team to bring you an exciting new venture we call The Rights Track. With generous funding from the Nuffield Foundation, The Rights Track will provide a free web resource with podcasts from leading empirical human rights researchers drawn from my own networks and those of others with a view to sharing motivations, findings, and implications of this research for a wider community of interested people. Podcasts are an excellent medium of communication, which capture the human element of knowledge creation, since we can hear scholars and practitioners in their own words talk about why they do what they do, what they do, and why what they do really matters for the world. I enjoyed making my own podcast series and this project is a natural extension of that work.

Podcasts can be downloaded, saved for later, and revisited while you are at home, on the move, and traveling abroad. And as a form of communication, podcasts are now more popular than ever. Last year, Apple said subscriptions of podcasts through iTunes reached 1 billion. RawVoice, which tracks 20,000 shows, said the number of unique monthly podcast listeners has tripled to 75 million from 25 million five years ago so, in that respect it’s clearly a fantastic platform for reaching a wide and diverse audience. I am thus really pleased to post this blog on international podcast day!

I will host the podcasts and engage with this group of human rights analysts in ways that tease out answers to these key questions on motivation, analysis, and impact of their work. My efforts are joined by former BBC journalist and founder of Research Podcasts Christine Garrington who will produce the podcasts, and web designer Paul Groves who will build the platform for the project and support the hosting of all the content in the most accessible formats possible. The podcasts will start being made available to the public on International Human Rights Day on 10 December 2015.

The project is currently working on developing the web resource (CLICK HERE) and inviting leading analysts to participate. It has its first guests lined up who I will interview this autumn in preparation for our launch in December. I am really excited to bring this new and important resource to the public domain! I hope you join me and tune in!

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