There are words, in the world of communication and the media, still capable of sending a few shivers down your spine.
One of these is certainly storytelling. Difficult, at the turn of the first quarter of this century, to pronounce the word narration, or one of its highly inflated synonyms, without an expert putting his hand to the gun.
It's not a good time for stories and their supporters.
The last, illustrious member of the opposing party is the great Jonathan Gottschall: with his successful and very recent The dark side of stories. How storytelling cements societies and sometimes destroys them, released in Italy by Bollati Boringhieri, the American essayist is helping to overthrow a paradigm who already in recent times did not enjoy excellent health.
Among the main arguments supporting the scholar's indictment of the stories - and the new storytellers - is the evidence of a world in which the factory of fake news e conspiracy theories produce fascinating hoaxes at a rapid pace, while those who work to restore the reality of the facts struggle with a scientific approach that struggles to make inroads into the public (and, even sooner, to bring it to the cinema).
"Almost any successful conspiracy story could become a Hollywood blockbuster - summarizes Gottschall - while most of the rebuttals would be at most documentaries for public television" .
In this scene with too many shadows, the explosion of podcasts, a few years ago, immediately seemed much more than a beacon: a kind of polar star able to indicate a road new, starting with the one that leads to liberation from the dictatorship of images established by social networks.
Inspired, more or less openly, by the twentieth century archetype of the radio drama, the podcast resets - or at least tries to - the background noise typical of the media universe and builds the its audience in contrast to the spirit of the times: to the culture of the meme, it responds with the art of rhetoric; to the flood of information - the infodemic that exploded with the pandemic emergency - it reacts by helping us to set the knob of an imaginary analogue radio on the exact frequency: that of stories that is fit to listen to.
Even design has brought its large group of colonists to the podcast planet, helping to grow listeners of formats on the digital audio market in Italy to eleven million in a year .
An Ipsos survey shows an increase in audience of 2 million users in 2022 compared to 2021 and 2.6 million compared to two years ago.
The game has been won, at the moment, not only in terms of numbers: 43 percent of listeners are in fact young under 35, "a difficult segment to keep hooked and considered away from the world of traditional textual communication".
Podcast listeners also stand out for their more accentuated attitudes than the population average, confirming that the format is a powerful identity tool, a way of telling oneself through one's own cultural tastes: "The Podcast users perceive themselves as responsible consumers, explorative with respect to technologies and influence their peer group with recommendations on movies, TV series, apps.
They are early adopters, the first to test a product".
It is no coincidence, therefore, that ambassador companies of Made in Italy in the world such as Poliform, Moroso and Janus et Cie of the group Poltrona Frau find themselves today as the main sponsor of The Grand Tourist, the podcast edited by the architecture and design journalist Dan Rubinstein.
With his format, Dan Rubinstein has already explored themes from the world of design in the last two years in dialogue with personalities such as Bjarke Ingels , David Salle, Martino Gamper or Paola Antonelli.
"Before the pandemic - said the author - I traveled at least two months a year to see the latest museums, visit art fairs and meet designers in their studios. It was not just a way to get out of the office, but the key to developing a deep level of knowledge to share with my readers".
If Covid had interrupted that narrative flow, the podcast served to mend it: "There is something breathtaking about listening directly from Philippe Starck's voice to his debut as a designer.
Audio brings you back to that intimacy that we need right now to feel truly connected and go beyond the dictatorship of images typical of Instagram".
Dan Rubinstein's experiment has reached its fifth season, which is about to end, while the sixth will kick off on January 25 next with a schedule up to the previous ones.
The first episode is dedicated to the trip with Viking Cruises in Antarctica, followed by Zandra Rhodes and Nick Cave among the guests.
All together, the six seasons of The Grand Tourist are a sort of compendium of contemporary planning, declined in a multidisciplinary key, a cross-section of creativity told directly by the protagonists.
Chat and no chatter, sound and no noise. All things we badly need.
Cover photo: ph. Isaac Anthon