Perception oftentimes does not represent reality. For instance people who were taking refuge in Germany in the past two years have had a great share of representation in the media, but their collective experience of fleeing a country and migrating to a safe place became their dominant marker. The diversity of the group and, even more so their individuality was lost as they were commonly lumped into the “refugee stream”. Even though, new media creates opportunities for voices to express themselves, they mostly do not break through into the mainstream, and if they do, they mostly function as the carrier of a framed message.
In the transatlantic communication, we face similar challenges. The majority of people experience the other, German as well as US-American, society through a certain lens that excludes voices. News reports focus on current events that are deemed important by the media agencies. Adding to the inherent exclusive structure and the financial pressure of news media, minorities as well as working class people in the US and Europe are greatly underrepresented in journalism. In most cases, we do not get to hear common people’s experiences, but a representation thereof.
As we have witnessed in the last decade or so, individual accounts are more relevant than ever. People have learned to express themselves on social media, Twitter is more direct and quicker than any conventional news outlet, people in similar struggles can find transnational collaborators online, and organized transnational participation in the political process is on the horizon.
So, how can common people get in touch with other common people’s views in order to see shared experiences: good ones as in policies or communal activisms that help progress in society, or bad ones as in policies or market mechanisms that hurt communities. Shared ideas help to develop a sense of we are all in the same boat and we can make a difference if we work together.
For people to experience the perspective of a person first hand, podcasts can be an effective medium. Podcasts have reached 20% of US Americans in 2016, and are growing in popularity in Germany as well, making this medium quite attractive to reach audiences looking for authentic information. Two forms of podcast can be an intriguing new form of transatlantic exchange. In interviews a certain topic can be explored with a person that either has personal or professional experience with the subject matter. As a good way to create understanding, the person’s biography can be explored, which makes the provided information interesting, authentic, and easier to understand. The alternative is a discussion across the pond – today’s technology makes it possible to confer and record the session almost seamlessly. In both cases, people of interest are persons that are mostly neglected by traditional news media, but can provide an inside perspective on a certain issue, as well as people that have had a transatlantic experience or background.
The establishment of an online transatlantic podcast network that provides a space for discussion, exchange of ideas, and networking around the topics presented in the podcasts can be an effort to grow the transatlantic community and diversify its agenda. Podcasts can offer insights to create more understanding for the experiences that inform a political and social belief system. Within this undertaking lays the opportunity to mobilize a base, first online then offline, in order to find support for stronger transatlantic ties through transnationally shared experiences of individuals as well as communities.