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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Maria Franzoni interviews Kari Nixon.

Adept at pairing qualitative and quantitative data into moving narratives that guide audiences through difficult conversations and social dilemmas, Kari Nixon’s expertise in public health adoption and debate came into broader relevance than ever in March 2020, when the COVID-19 Pandemic swept the globe.

She is an Assistant Professor of English at Whitworth University, where she regularly teaches about zombies, medical ethics, the problematic pressures on the health care system, and social justice issues for marginalized races and genders.

Episode #217

Zombies and Data Science

Maria Franzoni

00:00:17 – 00:01:04

Welcome back to The Speaker Show with me, your host, Maria Franzoni. In today’s show, we will be talking about social reactions to infectious diseases. And I’m always going to be talking about zombies. More about that later, before we get started, let me tell you that The Speaker Show is brought to you by Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau for the world’s most successful organisations providing keynote speakers for events, conferences and summits. My guest is adept at pairing qualitative and quantitative data into moving narratives that guide audiences through difficult conversations and social dilemmas. Her expertise in public health, adoption and debate came into broader relevance than ever in March 2020 when the Covid 19 pandemic swept the globe.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:04 – 00:01:35

She is an Assistant Professor of English at Whitworth University, where she regularly teaches about zombies, medical ethics, the problematic pressures on the health care system and social justice issues for marginalised races and genders. Her new book, Quarantine Life From Cholera to Covid, what Pandemics? Teach us about Parenting, Work, Life and Community from 1700 to Today was published in June 2021. Please welcome my guest today, Dr Kari Nixon.

Maria Franzoni

00:01:35 – 00:01:40

Kari, it is wonderful to have you here. How are you today?

Kari Nixon

00:01:40 – 00:01:45

Doing great. W, Watching the sunrise over the mountains, out my window, and

Maria Franzoni

00:01:45 – 00:02:09

Fantastic. Lovely. We were just talking about the time difference. So my day is coming to an end. Yours is beginning. So it’s going to be interesting. So listen. Kari, before we get into all of the details, we’ve had a very interesting introduction describing fascinating areas that you cover. So you teach Victorian Literature and medical humanities, but I don’t know what medical humanities is. Could you enlighten me, please?

Kari Nixon

00:02:09 – 00:03:10

Right. And, you know, I think before 2020 very few people knew what it was, and it’s sort of making a surge onto the world stage. So, theoretically, the way I describe medical humanities is something like an umbrella discipline under which you’ll find things like medical ethics, that we’re all familiar with, or history of medicine, which many of us have probably read a book on at some point. And so medical humanities is any and all of those most people don’t really know. I think that a modern day literary studies are sort of a combination of history, philosophy, textual analysis. In many ways, I tell some of my students that it’s like a qualitative version of sociology without the statistics. And in fact, a lot of my students double major now in literary studies with a specialisation and medical humanities

Kari Nixon

00:03:10 – 00:04:06

and sociology. But pragmatically, what it looks like in the real world is the way I describe it is, it’s an adjacent field to science, many people, when they first hear the term and they first glance at some titles of research in the field think, well, this is about science denial, or this is about debunking science. But in fact, what we aim to do is to help researchers shape their scientific questions properly from the get go, using our understandings of how research can go wrong, how it’s gone wrong in the past, what blind spots it had in the past and then helping researchers to catch those mistakes. Now, as they are developing a research protocol as they’re developing a grant proposal

Kari Nixon

00:04:06 – 00:04:37

so that we don’t have to look back 100 years later and say, Oh, you know that didn’t that actually wasn’t true. That certain races were more evolved than others, which is something that science vehemently believed for many, many years, and it’s all well and good now to look back at something that seems laughable now. But medical humanists say humans are humans, and we’re probably doing similar things right now. It just doesn’t seem as silly to us because it’s our normal.

Maria Franzoni

00:04:37 – 00:04:45

Wow, that’s amazing. That really is amazing. And how long ago did we believe this is it that far in the past?

Kari Nixon

00:04:45 – 00:05:31

Well, that’s just one example, of course. Scientific racism is what we call it now. It really came around the 1850s when Darwin, proposed his model of the development of this evolution of the species. Excuse me. And the Victorians, I always tell my students I draw them the silly little map where the Victorians always they had these forks in the road where they could say, Oh, you know, that’s great. We evolve and we can get better. Or sometimes they doubled down on their problematic views. So when Darwin published the idea of evolution, Victorian said, Oh, okay, great. We could also de-evolve and that, to avoid de-evolution, we must make hierarchies.

Kari Nixon

00:05:31 – 00:05:57

That is, sort of support are pre existing biases, and they developed this whole theory of how I mean you can find charts. I don’t show them to my students because I don’t want to replicate that sort of hateful discourse. But, I mean, they could tell you which races they thought were more and less evolved, and they certainly thought women were less evolved. And we see things. Do you mind if I give you another example more?

Maria Franzoni

00:05:57 – 00:05:59

No. I’ll be delighted. I’ll be delighted.

Kari Nixon

00:05:59 – 00:07:01

My favourite one, most recently is that pretty much all of us in our twenties, thirties, forties, fifties, I think, probably learned at some point in high school or college that as a woman gets older, her risk of a pregnancy with trisomy 21 down syndrome increases with age. And the logic there is pretty much most of us know is that all a woman’s eggs are developed from the moment she was born. And so, as they sort of sit on the shelf there and don’t get used, they degrade. And there’s more chances for mutations. It wasn’t until about 2014. I believe that somebody thought to ask for grant funding to research whether or not paternal age also mattered. And shockingly, they found that it does matter as much, if not more, the reason being, apparently, that since a man’s sperm are created throughout his life,

Kari Nixon

00:07:01 – 00:07:58

the older he is, the more prone all cells are to mutations as they’re created. This is why cancer risk increases over age. And so it turns out that both parents age mattered equally. And so think about the cost to society, not only the cost to women who perhaps took on some form of responsibility or worried about this, but also, um, couples who maybe would have made different choices. But the research led them to believe only one factor mattered, and we just see this all the time. I mean, I just read another article in the Scientific American about how the human genome projects essentially only mapped the white genome, and we have really good evidence that African, people of African descent

Kari Nixon

00:07:58 – 00:08:37

have better immunity to covid. But we don’t know why, and we can’t know why. Because we’ve mapped almost none of the human genome of African descent, which has far more variability than the white genome and therefore far more potential for life changing world saving cures that the people in charge don’t think about that, you know. So this is what the medical humanist is there to be to say not to say science is wrong, but to say, Let’s walk hand in hand and make better science. So that perhaps we have these cures. Perhaps we can tell people how pregnancy risk really works.

Maria Franzoni

00:08:37 – 00:08:56

That is absolutely fascinating. I can see why you’re interested in that area. And I was going to ask you, we know what kind of literary professor tell us about medicine and epidemiology, but I think you’ve already shown us that. It’s an interesting mix to have the two together. So what else can you tell us about medicine and epidemiology as a literature professor?

Kari Nixon

00:08:56 – 00:09:53

Yeah, let me. I’m thank you for giving me a chance to talk more about the literary analysis side. Where I come in besides just sort of my deep philosophical training. And that would be true of anybody in the medical humanities. As an English Professor, we specialise in rhetoric. So and that means classic Aristotelian methods of persuasion, ethos, pathos, logos, and I have my students go on to Twitter and break down politicians’ tweets and show me where they’re using emotional appeals. Logical appeals. Appeals to your ethical credibility, and we’ve even we’ve done it with Donald Trump. I tell them I don’t care about your political persuasion. It behooves everybody on this planet to understand how he did what he did and became so popular. And I think the secret is in his Twitter. So we have that rhetorical ability.

Kari Nixon

00:09:53 – 00:10:50

For instance, the thing that I have my students do in one of our labs, and I try to structure my class the way a science class would be structured. Because for me, numerical data and linguistic data are just different ways of representing stories. And so I have my students analyse anti-vax memes and then pro-vaccination memes and see which Aristotelian persuasive methods are each using. And therefore, where’s the communication gap. They usually find that anti-vaxxers use emotional appeals to fear and pro-vaxxers use data and logic. And so then I have them develop a media campaign that bridges those gaps because they’re talking at cross purposes, and that’s why I think we continue to get nowhere in these debates because pro data people of which I am one,

Kari Nixon

00:10:50 – 00:11:41

think well, if I just bombard them with more data, that’s the answer. But with the literature professor can say as well, it has as much to do with how you’re presenting that narrative. And if anybody is sceptical of my anecdotal claims about that, we do have good quantitative data in the field of science communication studies that says this too, that it’s all about the narrative and framing. So some examples are that I work with a team of engineers and scientists to try to explain to the public what antibiotic resistance is and how why they should care, why your stay at home Mom should care as much as your farmer and we develop commercials that I’ve helped storyboard, and we use the science of rhetoric

Kari Nixon

00:11:41 – 00:12:14

to figure out how to appeal to people best. I’ve also written a book about public health recommendations to mothers, and in that book, I actually had to figure out how to cite in a bibliography a for an infant formula can because we were quoting the language directed at mom on that formula can and talking about whether that was effective in promoting different, different ends that the company had or the WHO for instance.

Maria Franzoni

00:12:14 – 00:12:27

That is totally fascinating. What an amazing job you have. It’s really interesting. How has coronavirus changed things for you in your work and career? It must have had a bit of an impact.

Kari Nixon

00:12:27 – 00:12:43

Yeah, I don’t. I guess we haven’t really said this outright yet, but my specialty, historically, I’ve named a lot of them, but my specialty has always been, collective anxiety about epidemic disease outbreak.

Maria Franzoni

00:12:43 – 00:12:45

How apt.

Kari Nixon

00:12:45 – 00:13:38

It’s so funny when I, it’s just so bizarre because, you know, all academics have this very narrow, narrow niche that they do. I mean, if you want to get specific about mine. It was my dissertation was about the popularisation in newspapers in the 1880s about bacteriological science. I mean, we all have a niche, but even among academics, people used to say, like, that’s really weird. Why do you study and then covid hit and it’s I don’t want to say it was validating because it’s a huge tragedy, and I would rather never have happened than anything good for my career happened. But where I feel that I’ve been screaming into the void for a decade, that the humanities has something to offer us

Kari Nixon

00:13:38 – 00:14:27

in understanding science and understanding why we do and don’t understand science in understanding why we fear disease. What is it that we fear and why does that make us argue about things? It was about two or three months into the pandemic, so about March or June 2020 that suddenly all the news articles about statistics and numbers and growth ratios that stopped being enough for the public. The public said, that’s great. I’ve seen the numbers. I’ve seen the numbers, I’ve seen the numbers, and now I need to know what to do and how to feel and how to act to protect my family. And so there was this natural move towards asking philosophers, historians, rhetoric scholars like myself

Kari Nixon

00:14:27 – 00:14:39

for help, which that, that didn’t feel a little bit validating. But it also just felt really fulfilling. I’ve got my book here. I hope you don’t mind if I just show it. I love the cover

Maria Franzoni

00:14:39 – 00:15:03

I mentioned it in the introduction as well. It’s brilliant. Absolutely so just to give the title again. It is Quarantine Life from Cholera to COVID-19: What Pandemics Teach Us About Parenting, Work, Life, and Communities from the 1700s to Today. And I hope you can share some of those learnings with us. Actually, that would be really valuable.

Kari Nixon

00:15:03 – 00:15:49

Yeah, it was. Honestly, this sounds a bit cheesy, but it was the honour of my life to be able to write something for average people, regular people. I don’t mean that disparagingly, but I mean, outside of just the Ivory Tower, my first academic book. I mean, probably five people have read it. You know, it’s I trained on it, and that’s where my research began. And I love it, but your average person isn’t going to get much out of that. This book each chapter covers a different historical epidemic. There’s 10 chapters, and each chapter has three enumerated lessons that the reader can take right now. I’m a very low attention span person, so I need like, quick and dirty tips.

Maria Franzoni

00:15:49 – 00:15:49

Absolutely.

Kari Nixon

00:15:49 – 00:15:56

So I tried. I tried to have empathy for busy people reading this book, and

Kari Nixon

00:15:56 – 00:16:53

I also hate it when I read, you know, a lot of the books about COVID out there while fantastic are these sort of, political exposes of why this shouldn’t have ever happened and that I think there’s a lot of merit to that. But it also can leave you feeling really gutted. I’m just OK, great. You know, I kind of knew this shouldn’t have happened. I knew it sucks. And you’re just leaving me with that, right? So each of these lessons has three tips that usually are about how to have conversations with people that disagree with you that are more productive and get your point across better or how to navigate your anxiety and uncertainty about covid. And, you know, the probably the most surprising audience fans that I found are anxious people. That is

Kari Nixon

00:16:53 – 00:17:38

I mean, I was writing the book about risk and uncertainty and how to understand it, but I’ve been surprised at just the very, very touching outpouring of people saying it was the first thing that allowed them to get on with their life. Oh, and I’ve had several people who have lost loved ones to COVID that said my book was the first thing that gave them hope again, which meant so much because I do take a bit of a little bit. I take a nonpartisan approach in spite of the fact that I’m heavily political. To me, I wanted to write something that everybody could benefit from. And so, you know, I feared if somebody was reading this, who had lost somebody. Those are very raw feelings, and they’re not going to like this idea of a middle road.

Kari Nixon

00:17:38 – 00:18:00

But in fact, even my voice, my audiobook reader who was my college roommate, she told me she had to stop when she was reading my conclusion because she was just weeping and it gave her, like, hope again. And I mean that just everything you could want is to go into a career you love and then finally get a chance to really make a difference, even if it’s just for a few people.

Maria Franzoni

00:18:00 – 00:18:33

Oh, that’s wonderful. And the whole hope is what we all need really, as we find ourselves still, we’re still living with this and battling with this. We’re not through it yet. I love the fact that anxious people have had help from you because actually, you started in your twenties studying public anxiety related to epidemic disease. How does a 20-year-old even think that okay, that’s what I’m going to study? I mean, it would never have crossed my mind.

Kari Nixon

00:18:33 – 00:18:41

I love the way you phrased that because, you know, as a professor, I’m now thinking of my 20-year-old, and I’m like, huh, that wasn’t normal.

Maria Franzoni

00:18:41 – 00:18:50

I didn’t know. I don’t think it is. So, what led you to that in your twenties? I mean, seriously, I’m trying to understand here.

Kari Nixon

00:18:50 – 00:19:43

Yeah. Well, and I love kind of talking about my background because I do think we have such an emphasis on STEM education right now, which again is all well and good. But I do think sometimes there can be some scepticism still about well, a humanistic professor doesn’t have the data. My story began in data science. I was in originally a clinical psychology PhD programme. I didn’t stay there long, but it was a very competitive programme. Very hard to get in. And I was specialising in psychometrics, which is the development statistical development of psychological testing. So IQ testing, personality testing, that sort of thing and I’d wanted to do that since I was 16. So no, not really. A normal thing.

Maria Franzoni

00:19:43 – 00:19:46

You started. Yeah. You started young, didn’t you? Really did.

Kari Nixon

00:19:46 – 00:20:09

It’s so funny. Like sometimes when you talk, you have to in teaching, you’re so extemporaneous that I’ll be they’ll ask a question like this and I’ll just be like, Well, you know, it started when I was 16 and spending my Fridays writing psychological research papers to myself. And then it comes out of your mouth and you think, Whoa, I just revealed a really odd part of my life.

Maria Franzoni

00:20:09 – 00:20:11

Love it, love it, love it, love it.

Kari Nixon

00:20:11 – 00:21:09

So how I got into psychology is perhaps a story for another day. I came from an abusive home, and I think in hindsight, I was probably trying to understand that subconsciously. But when I got into the actual programme and I was studying statistical data science, I was I think you put it really well, data mad. I am, sometimes I disparagingly say I was a little bit immature because I look at my students today. I don’t think they would think this way. But also, times have changed. We have more information circulating. I deeply, deeply, deeply believe that we could create a utopia on Earth if I could get the math right. I specialise in personality testing and so my feeling, personality testing and diagnostics, so making tests that could diagnose anxiety disorders or personality disorders better. And I felt that

Kari Nixon

00:21:09 – 00:21:26

if you could quantify personality, then all you have to do is do that better and better and better. And we could quantify everybody and put them in the right jobs and find them the right 1000. I mean, it sounds so silly now, but anyway, I would have been a benevolent dictator.

Maria Franzoni

00:21:26 – 00:21:40

It may sound silly, but I mean, a lot of organisations do that. I mean, the internet dating apps use a lot of these tests. You can use these tests now on social media to before you contact someone so you can analyse their personality. The AI is help us to do that.

Kari Nixon

00:21:40 – 00:21:40

Wow!

Maria Franzoni

00:21:40 – 00:21:58

Yes, so and in fact, what a speaker that I worked with recently use ai to analyse the audience before he prepared the speech so that he could ensure that it was going to it would land with their expectations and deliver what they want so all of this is happening. So, actually, maybe, just

Maria Franzoni

00:21:58 – 00:22:01

maybe you were just ahead of your time.

Kari Nixon

00:22:01 – 00:22:04

Maybe I missed my career as a benevolent dictator.

Maria Franzoni

00:22:04 – 00:22:08

Possibly. There’s still time. You’re still young enough.

Kari Nixon

00:22:08 – 00:22:55

Well, yeah, and we do it with jury selection now, too. There’s all these algorithms and so very quickly into this programme. They, you know, responsibly taught us that statistics are only as good as the user. And the test development. They’re only as good as the questions we’re asking or think back to the the down syndrome risk story. If we’re never asking this question, doesn’t matter how good our statistics are over here. And I guess I had had such high expectations of data science as the salvation of this world. I mean, I cried for three days. I remember walking my dog around my neighbourhood and just weeping that

Kari Nixon

00:22:55 – 00:23:45

that there wasn’t this answer to certainty in the world. In some ways, I think this is every 20 something year old goes through this sort of who am I in the world? What’s it all mean? And data had been my answer. So instead of doing what I might do now, which is make my peace with the usefulness but limitations of data science. I left the field entirely. I said, I can’t if I can’t fully quantify these things. I don’t see how partially quantifying personality is helping anyone, And I felt kind of betrayed by this field I had put up on a pedestal. So I went the complete opposite direction and decided to get a PhD in English. And

Kari Nixon

00:23:45 – 00:23:52

I had always read the Victorians. I grew up on Thomas Hardy, which again looking back is not very typical.

Maria Franzoni

00:23:52 – 00:23:57

You’re not normal, Kari. You are, yes, unusual.

Kari Nixon

00:23:57 – 00:24:55

Oh, man obsessed with Thomas Hardy. To this day, every two years we go to Dorset and I have, like, my pubs that I go to endorse it, that were in his books. So when I was reading the Victorian literature that I just happened to love and I was in this new PhD programme and I was leaving the life of data behind me. What I found was this very, very touching society in the 1800s in Britain, where science was in a major revolution. And it’s not the scientific revolution we typically speak of in the Renaissance. But truly every version of science we know today had its first baby step in the Victorian era. The second law of thermodynamics is a Victorian concept germ theory, of course, which is what I study. Evolution and

Kari Nixon

00:24:55 – 00:25:54

let’s see Petri dishes. Petrie was a Victorian who studied under one of pastors rivals pasteurisation, vaccination. So they were encountering the idea of geologic versus biblical time properly dating the universe. Palaeontology started then properly. And so I saw this whole society that was becoming less and less religious and having more and more science. And there’s this fervour in the 1850s that science was going to save them all. And by the 1880s, pretty much they realised that wasn’t true. They understood more like they might have understood the germs that we’re killing them, but they didn’t have any cures. They just got to look death in the face a little bit sooner as they were dying. And so I saw my exact situation. You know, this

Kari Nixon

00:25:54 – 00:26:41

beautiful, beautiful hope and this gutting disillusionment with science and then just having to pick up the pieces, I think it was C. S. Lewis That said once we read to feel that we’re not alone. And I felt that somebody had been through what I’ve been through, but nobody was talking about it. And so that’s why I set out to research how the Victorians made sense of this disillusionment. And now that’s sort of what I talk about quite a bit historically more than literarily about how we can learn from them and these things that they’ve already discovered and missteps. They already made that if we were listening, if we were more attuned to this history, we could be avoiding those mistakes. And we could have saved time during COVID.

Maria Franzoni

00:26:41 – 00:27:06

Wow, brilliant. And I mean the other areas that you have talked about. I mean, you featured as an expert on topics such as nutrition, science, zombies. I’m gonna have to come back to the zombies. True crime. How are these related to your expertise of medical humanities? How does that? How is it? How do they all fit together? Especially the zombies?

Kari Nixon

00:27:06 – 00:28:01

Zombies is funny. It’s one piece I wrote once. I mean, obviously, I guess you write something once, but it’s just one article I wrote that has become possibly the most popular thing I’ve ever done. I feel like I don’t know. I feel like you often hear that from artists or something like musicians that they’re like, I didn’t even like I just everybody took this and ran with it. And so I’ve done more and more work on zombies just because people have loved it, and it got me thinking about it. I guess you could say that my specialisation is certainly reactions to disease, but I’m really fascinated with just the fact of being a body. Well, we don’t exist with a lot of awareness that we have this body that has needs and limits. And,

Kari Nixon

00:28:01 – 00:28:58

disability studies and disability theorists will say, for instance, that we’re all temporarily able-bodied. Nobody. Nobody goes around thinking that way. Right? But disease highlights that. We have this moment where our body fails, and it forces us to confront that we are basically a sack of meat filled with water, wandering around with some synapses and cognition. And so, for me, anything that’s about the body under pressure and the anxiety that causes is what I want to think about. And so zombies are I mean, they are literally the most horrific thing there, the human body. But they’re not human. It’s that uncanny valley that you hear talked about in robotics, but it’s in sort of fantasy. So the value there is that we can look at what we’re fantasising about

Kari Nixon

00:28:58 – 00:29:42

and learn about our culture, like what are we saying is monstrous and scary and how are we portraying. So the article I’ve written is all about how the American healthcare enterprise and how there’s many, many people that just can’t go to the doctor in America. And so I talk about zombies being this almost like the safe way to have this other population that we can justify treating a certain way. And I tell my students like we would never treat somebody with Alzheimer’s that way, who is nonverbal or even somebody with rabies, I mean, even if they were trying to bite you, you would hold them. You tie them down, you wouldn’t just shoot them in the

Maria Franzoni

00:29:42 – 00:29:50

Very true that sentence there, you temporarily able-bodied that just made me stop and think, that’s quite powerful.

Kari Nixon

00:29:50 – 00:30:49

Yes, and this is why I think the body is so fascinating. It sounds sort of so basic. But we all have one. And I think we all live in a society that increasingly asks us to not think that we have one, and we work more than ever. We eat at our desks, at least in America. I think Swedish people call that an American lunch. Yeah. So in nutrition science that what I’ve done on those podcasts just goes back to how we can ask the research questions better. So a lot of times in health humanities they’ll call health sciences. They’ll call these social determinants of health, and I do study those sorts of things. For instance, how are restaurants placed versus grocery stores in impoverished areas in America that impact access to different foods?

Kari Nixon

00:30:49 – 00:31:37

But again, what I would ask nutrition scientists to do is to think about how they’re formulating the research. And there’s lots of great studies about how food becomes a valuable item, more or less, depending on how wealthy you are. So a really wealthy person may not value giving their kid a lollipop as much as somebody who’s living at the poverty line, who can’t afford violin lessons and soccer practice. But they can afford a lollipop to make their kid happy. So we need to think about how those factors influence what, like it’s not just the physical where the food is. It’s also how people are contextually situated to think about those goods and values and services.

Maria Franzoni

00:31:37 – 00:31:58

Brilliant. That’s really interesting. I will never look at a lollipop in the same way again. Kari, tell me there’s so much knowledge you have and I can see you being able to talk about so many different things. What are organisations bring you in specifically to help them with and to speak about at their events? What is it they’re asking you for?

Kari Nixon

00:31:58 – 00:32:52

I get asked by a lot of science, labs to talk with their grad students about science communication to understand that there is more than just shouting the data at people, that it matters how we frame it. You mentioned maybe sharing a lesson from quarantine life. I know we’re running out of time, so I’ll just quickly say I have a whole chapter on the man that discovered handwashing was good and he was fired for his realisation and so just sort of learning these things about that. These things are not brand new, that we’re fighting about public health recommendations. Also, the same guy that discovered handwashing was kind of a juror. And so you know how many lives were lost? I’m not saying to just be nice to people for the sake of being nice,

Kari Nixon

00:32:52 – 00:33:45

but how many more lives might he have been able to save if he hadn’t been offending everyone. And so a lot of labs bring me in for that kind of consultation, as well as for consultation on messaging. So how to produce websites pamphlets, video campaigns that get their message across the way they want, how to communicate very complicated data to non-experts is another thing I consider myself quite good at. And then ethicists panels have used me at times to look carefully at the language of, for instance right now, how we’re developing protocols about what to do if we run out of hospital beds. How do we make sure that that language isn’t disadvantaging certain groups without people realising it?

Maria Franzoni

00:33:45 – 00:34:32

Absolutely. And I can see you being very valuable to anybody who actually deals with data. And you made the point about asking better questions at the very beginning, which I think is so important, and the hope of the whole communication and the persuasion piece and they understand meeting in the middle piece. I think all, I think it’s not just for science. I think for any audiences, these are so important and the lessons and the hope to come out of the of your book, I think also really valuable. One last question before I let you go. And it’s coming back to your experience without academics and your experience in academia. What advice would you give other academics wanting to cross over into the public realm should we call it that the public realm itself, and not the universe, isn’t it? What advice would you give?

Kari Nixon

00:34:32 – 00:34:34

Crossing over to Narnia?

Maria Franzoni

00:34:34 – 00:34:35

Yeah.

Kari Nixon

00:34:35 – 00:35:22

Yeah. So it’s a lesson that I also give my students. I try to teach what sociologists and anthropologists called ethnographic methods, which just simply means basically shut up and listen. And the academic fields, we become so expert at what we do that it’s a little bit humbling to step back and realise that there’s this whole other world out there that you know nothing about. Even in so far as publishing, it might as well not be the same. It’s not the same industry at all as academic publishing. And so, for me, what was helpful is reaching out networking on LinkedIn and Twitter, in particularly, is where you’ll see the intellectual business book publishing, speaking crowd and just listening

Kari Nixon

00:35:22 – 00:35:58

and following along and learning the ropes. And also sort of the buzz words and the way to frame yourself instead of just assuming you know how to do it. Because I guess I learned this by not shutting up and listening. So now I’m learning that I should practise what I preach or I have learned that and that just listening to what others are doing as they make this shift is really important for maybe 3 to 6 months before you jump in and try to start pitching articles to popular news journals or trying to find an agent et cetera.

Maria Franzoni

00:35:58 – 00:36:08

You know that is excellent advice to anybody to listen for six months. I think that’s genius advice. Kari, thank you so much for your time. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself.

Kari Nixon

00:36:08 – 00:36:11

Yes, it’s so nice to meet you, Maria.

Maria Franzoni

00:36:11 – 00:36:47

Lovely. Well, listen, thank you to everybody for listening to The Speaker Show. If you enjoyed this episode, please leave a rating on Apple Podcasts. And you can keep up with future episodes on the Speakers Associates website, which is speakers associates dot com or your favourite podcast app. Don’t forget to order a copy of Kari’s book Quarantine Life and be sure to contact Speakers Associates in plenty of time to book her for your next event. I will see you all next week. Thank you very much. Bye-bye for now.

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Maria Franzoni is an established and recognised speaking industry expert and one of the most experienced speaker bookers in Europe.

As well as working with speakers, Maria also hosts live shows and podcasts. She currently hosts The Speaker Show podcast for Speakers Associates.

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