You see the first thing we love is a scene. For love at first sight requires the very sign of its suddenness; and of all things, it is the scene which seems to be seen best for the first time: a curtain parts and what had not yet ever been seen is devoured by the eyes: the scene consecrates the object I am going to love. The context is the constellation of elements, harmoniously arranged that encompass the experience of the amorous subject...
Love at first sight is always spoken in the past tense. The scene is perfectly adapted to this temporal phenomenon: distinct, abrupt, framed, it is already a memory (the nature of a photograph is not to represent but to memorialize)... this scene has all the magnificence of an accident: I cannot get over having had this good fortune: to meet what matches my desire.
The gesture of the amorous embrace seems to fulfill, for a time, the subject's dream of total union with the loved being: The longing for consummation with the other... In this moment, everything is suspended: time, law, prohibition: nothing is exhausted, nothing is wanted: all desires are abolished, for they seem definitively fulfilled... A moment of affirmation; for a certain time, though a finite one, a deranged interval, something has been successful: I have been fulfilled (all my desires abolished by the plenitude of their satisfaction).
Podcasts are an audio-based genre. As someone who works with gesture, and often talks about gesture on podcasts, I’m acutely aware of the lack of visuals in podcasting. Audio-only communication is a radical departure from the way humans have communicated for most of human history, and while it is possible to communicate just using speech, this doesn’t mean that gestures are not contributing; people podcasting, doing radio or speaking on the phone will still gesticulate as they speak.
Occasionally I’ll notice that gestures ‘break through’, and will be explicitly mentioned as the person is talking. I’ve given three examples that I’ve noticed in podcasts, but I’m sure there are many more. I also have a hunch that gestures that are specifically mentioned during a podcast are of a specific kind, in that they’re important enough in the mind of the speaker to be worthy of comment. My guess is that these are gestures that are particularly illustrative, or they’re backchanneling gestures done by the other participants in the conversation.
If you also hear examples of people speaking about gesture in a podcast, let me know! I’ve set up a very short google form to collect examples: https://forms.gle/f1LbWEAWUTcX9uFq5
One of the biggest challenges of collecting examples of this is the fact that many podcasts still don’t make transcripts available, so it’s hard to pull together a large corpus to search. I hope to eventually do something with this, but if you’d like to use this as a research project, please get in touch!
Example 1: The Culture
Episode: The Kardashians: Saying goodbye to America’s Royal Family (July 2nd 2021)
Brodie Lancaster, while talking about the mutual rise of the Kardashian family and the popularity of Kimye: "I'm making a motion of like braiding something together" (timecode: 28:54) [no transcript]
Listening to this episode of The Culture on a long walk, it was this example that made me realise this was a thing I’d been thinking about long enough that it was time to turn it into a post.
Example 2: The Vocal Fries
Episode: Between Iraq and a Hard Place Transcript (12th December 2019)
Zach Jaggers: “We also see cases where there’s a loanword from another language used in a borrowing language where it’s not because there was some kind of, quote – hand quotes. Sorry, I gesture a lot. [Laughs]” [transcript]
In this episode there’s a string of examples where Jaggers uses tone of voice to indicate quotation, but also overtly marks that he’s doing handquotes as well. I like the reflexivity of acknowledging the limits of podcasting in this example.
Example 3: Lingthusiasm
Episode: Why spelling is hard — but also hard to change (June 20th 2019)
Gretchen McCulloch: “This is what the primary function of the French accent circonflexe, which is the one that looks like a little hat – I’m making the little hat sign with my hands as I say this because that was how we always talked about it in school is you have to make the hat sign with your hands” [transcript]
Gretchen and I gesture all the time while we’re recording Lingthusiasm, but here Gretchen felt particularly compelled to share her gesture with everyone, because it’s so much a part of the story of the circonflexe for her.
Thoughts for now
Each of these examples shows the person who is speaking feels compelled to draw attention to what their gestures are contributing to the content of what they are saying. I’m sure there are other ways in which gestures manifest themselves in the final product of a podcast. There are also other features of face-to-face communication that have the potential to make themselves known in podcasts and other voice-only media. Liveshow audiences are something that particularly come to mind, especially since there has been so little opportunity for live recordings in the last 18 months.
Cite this blog post
All original content on Superlinguo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. If this post has inspired you to think and write about gestures in podcasts, please let me know! You can also cite this blog post:
Gawne, Lauren. 2021. Gestures in podcasting. Superlinguo. https://www.superlinguo.com/post/659622302480318464/gestures-in-podcasting Accessed DATE.
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Roller skating gesture studies to recharge over the weekend ~ I miss doing these studies, but I’ve just been so emotionally drained 😔
I also miss roller skating... I just haven’t been up to it lately. However after this study, I feel a bit inspired again ~ maybe one day I’ll be brave enough / good enough to venture out to skate parks 🙃😷
referenced from a YT Moxi Skates video “Roller Skating Skate Park Session with Vanna”
Drawn in Storyboardpro
"How would you count to 10 on your fingers? Do you start with the thumb or the index finger? Left hand or right? Dactylonomy (counting on your hands) seems like such a simple and natural thing to do that you might assume it's nearly the same everywhere.
After all, it's no coincidence that we have 10 digits on our hands and the most common number systems have 10 digits. This way of counting (called a base 10 system) probably arose because we have 10 fingers. If we had evolved with 8 or 12 fingers, our number system might be quite different. And the word "digit" in the sense of numerals comes from the Latin digitus, meaning finger or toe – because of the way we use them to count.
But it turns out that people around the world have vastly different techniques for keeping track of numbers on their hands."
A lovely longform article from William Park at the BBC, on gesture and meaning and time. It features quotes from some gesture researchers I admire, and I’m also in there talking about one of my areas of research overlap at the moment, emoji and gesture. From the piece:
No hand gesture is ever read in isolation, with the exception of one kind: emoji.
The Internet has opened up this explosion of informal written communication and there's been this gap in what we can express in informal writing – Lauren Gawne
If you have ever struggled to express sarcasm in text you might have resorted to using emoji to help you out. Gawne says that our written language is distinctly lacking in ways to express sentiments like sarcasm because informal writing is a relatively new idea. For millennia, she says, informality was restricted to speech.
"The Internet has opened up this explosion of informal written communication and there's been this gap in what we can express in informal writing," she says, "An emoji is one of the resources people have taken to fill that gap."
This gesture has various meanings in different cultures, but the wider context can give us clues to deciphering it (Credit: Emmanuel Lafont/BBC)
Gawne has worked with linguist Gretchen McCulloch and Jennifer Daniel from Unicode to include a greater diversity of hand gestures in the official Unicode dictionary of emoji. What excites Gawne about encoding hand gestures in the Unicode dictionary is that they are so versatile. The fact that (like real hand gestures) their meanings can change is useful, she says. An image of a starfish is a starfish to everyone, but a hand shape can have whatever meaning the users want to ascribe to it.
Read the full piece: The hand gestures that last longer than spoken languages