Podcast of the week: 99% Invisible

After last week's old school recommendation -- a compilation of BBC World Service reporting -- this week we're going to turn to one of the hottest new podcasts on the interwebs. 99% Invisible is a model for the new mode of podcast production. It isn't distributed as a radio show, though stations are more than welcome to buy episodes and air them. It has been supported and expanded by several Kickstarter campaigns. And it uses nontraditional editing and sound design to tell its stories, while keeping them immensely appealing and comprehensible.

The show describes itself as being "about design, architecture and the 99% invisible activity that shapes our world." In practice, this has hugely broad interpretations. So it's not a show about people who draw, say, buildings or chairs (though those certainly qualify) -- it's a show about how humans interact with and shape our environments. History comes into it a lot -- host Roman Mars has a special affinity for plaques, which I love. The most recent episode, Good Bread, tells the story of Wonder Bread and white bread in general ... revealing a lot about American social history in the 20th century. Some other episodes I particularly enjoyed: Castle on the Park, about a former cancer hospital in a grand building right on Central Park, and Monumental Dilemma, where I learned the story of Hannah Duston, a Haverhill woman who was captured by Native Americans and escaped ... after killing her captors.

99% Invisible is the flagship show for a PRX initiative called Radiotopia -- which is currently conducting a Kickstarter campaign that has already exceeded its goal ... but is worth supporting anyway, even with a tiny contribution, just to show the breadth of support for the radio revolution.

If you don't already listen to podcasts, the easiest way to do so is via a podcast app on your smartphone. If you don't have a smartphone or don't want to do that, you can subscribe via iTunes or Soundcloud -- or just go to an individual podcast's website and listen there.

Previous recommendations: