James Jennings brings SPUnK to life

James Jennings

Curiosity meets creativity in new podcast

ERIN MAIROSE

elmairose13@ole.augie.edu

If you tune into senior James Jennings’ new podcast series, SPUnK, you may learn a few things you’ve never thought of before, such as who came up with the idea of pencils, the benefits a flag can provide a community and what phenology is.

SPUnK, short for the Society for the Preservation of Unnecessary Knowledge, is all about promoting knowledge that some might cast aside as useless or simply unnecessary. Jennings started the club two years ago before deciding to create a podcast modeled after the club for an independent study project.

“I like the idea of creating something enjoyable for people to listen to and to cover topics that basically go unnoticed or unheard of,” Jennings said.

SPuNKHe then sought the advice of Hugh Weber; creator of the The Potluck Society podcast, segment that airs on South Dakota Public Radio. Jennings was featured as a guest on the program’s first episode, which aired this past February.

“When he shared he was thinking [about creating] a podcast, I was so excited that I literally gave him a mic,” Weber said.

Advisor David O’Hara also liked the project proposal. He said it’s similar to the ancient school of philosophy called stoicism that believes  philosophy ought to be in the “marketplace and done in public in a way that makes it relevant for people,” O’Hara said. “It’s not the only way of doing philosophy, but I like James’ approach.”

In his first podcast Jennings talked about philosophers Abraham Flexner and Henry David Thoreau, who sought knowledge that at the time was considered useless. But part of Thoreau’s diaries about plants species and growing seasons in Massachusetts is now being used by climate change sciences.

“So it’s kind of an interesting story of how unnecessary knowledge can be necessary and how necessary knowledge can be, to an individual, unnecessary,” Jennings said.

Following Jennings’ train of thought, it’s all about exploring random ideas or pieces of information that sound intriguing. He’s done three podcasts so far, but future topics include why we should all live like hobbits and the concept of infinity and math.

The podcast can be found on iTunes, and also on Jennings’ Facebook page.

Fellow club member Noah Sundstrom, a junior, said he thought the idea was a great outlet to continue SPUnK’s discussions. He describes Jennings as “aggressively British, in the kindest, most thoughtful and inviting way possible,” he said.

With curiosity acting as the inspiration behind the club, and now the SPUnK podcast, learning how to record and create the podcast has come with the territory.

“I had basically no idea how to start a podcast, and within a short period of time I’ve managed to purchase a domain name, set up a website and stuff like that,” Jennings said.

But what O’Hara has enjoyed watching develop is Jennings’ ability to be his own teacher.

“It allows him to take the questions that he’s got and then turn them into questions that other people can share,” O’Hara said. “He loves to learn, and that makes me happy.”