Pick Up The Slack Abstract

The rise of social networking in the United States has allowed for people to become more immediately connected and therefore be exposed to new experiences. We have seen a subsequent increase in young people using their voices on social media to express disdain for political decisions and bring awareness to various social issues. In kind, companies like Khan Academy and Kahoot! are using their digital platforms as a means of providing access to education on a variety of subjects.

My honors project, “Pick Up The Slack” is an original, four-episode podcast series that aims to serve those inclined toward civic engagement and social justice through a digital medium. With the growing popularity of podcasts, “Pick Up The Slack” is intended to continue the conversations surrounding social justice and activism. This four-part podcast series, each episode about a half hour in length, explores different social issues in the greater Rhode Island area, empowering adolescents and young adults to become more civically involved.

The four issues, sexual health, climate change, substance abuse, and power-based personal violence, are all timely in the media and thus important to my targeted audience. Each episode features two expert interviews, provides an exclusive look into how these fields are actually treating these issues, and expands on how listeners can get more involved. Episode one features infectious disease physician Dr. Phil Chan and AIDS Project Rhode Island’s Ryan White Program Director Mikel Wadewitz. The climate change episode calls on Assistant Professor Austin Becker, PhD in the Department of Marine Affairs from the University of Rhode Island and social science researcher and coastal management extension specialist Dawn Kotowicz, PhD from the Rhode Island Sea Grant and Coastal Resources Center. The third episode discusses substance abuse with Kelley Ryan, the Assistant Director of Substance Abuse prevention for the University of Rhode Island, and Community Engagement Coordinator Diego Arene-Morley at RICares. The final episode in this series unpacks power-based personal violence with the URI Violence Prevention, and Advocacy Services Coordinator Racine Amos.

A paid Facebook marketing campaign promotes the launch of the series and the link to each episode. A total of $300 was used to pay for these ads. A social media following was built over a few months, and listeners are engaged regularly on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. After each episode, the Pick Up The Slack Facebook page aims to engage listeners in a continued dialogue on the topic with a series of questions relating to the episode content. The success of the series can measured in how productively it adds to the existing conversations online as opposed to producing quantitative data. By empowering the audience with the knowledge to participate more in dialogues surrounding these issues, it creates a more strongly civically-minded community.