Talking 'Skilling up' with Nicolas Lovichi (France, 2019/20)

Likes in the Time of Corona Pt. 2: Learning new technologies: Talking 'Skilling up' with Nicolas Lovichi (France, 2019/20).

Interview transcript

w4rner: In part one of this new theme Likes in the Times of Corona, we had on David J. Smith who gave some quite pointed advice to millennials, Nicolas (Ed: see episode here). What did he say about how we should be using this time now?

Nicolas: I felt like he encouraged a lot of millenial Fulbrighters to document their experience, and to use the technology to do that. It was a call for blogging or podcasting the change, in some way. 

w4rner: Yes, I think he had a very pointed thing to say, by encouraging them to use the maximum of internet’s capability in order to share their stories. And it’s great we’re having you on for Part 2 because you are one of those millennials he was referring to. Can you tell us a bit about where you’re at in your Fulbright journey? A year ago you were a master’s student in France, now you’re coming to the end of your time in the Midwest, what’s next?

Nicolas: What’s next for me is to professionalize myself, and Fulbright has helped me in a way I couldn’t imagine, giving me a chance to skill up in technology, with the podcast I started, and it took me to places I didn’t expect. 

w4rner: Let’s move on to that podcast! You made a post on the Fulbrighter network global feed, calling out to Fulbrighter’s interest, because it’s about intercultural understanding, and overcoming linguistics barriers. Tell us firstly how to pronounce the word… ‘Choúkrüt’ ?

Nicolas: ‘Choúkrüt’ ! It reflects that we are all exploring in some way. It’s a new word, so you couldn’t really pronounce it right the first time, it’s all about experience! It’s a world created from French, Spanish and German, and it’s a melting pot. ‘Choucroute’ is actually the name of a German meal (sauerkraut) pronounced the French way, with Spanish accents. 

w4rner: I love it. It’s wonderful when a name signals what something’s about: ’net:work?A Fulbrighter Conversation’, is questioning on whether the digital transformation of Fulbright could work through these conversations. It’s really eloquent that you managed to capture that in one word ! I hope that people will explore the content in there. You’re in your second series now. Series one was all podcasting. Great stuff in there, with a fellow FLTA from Austria I believe, who started it with you. You had guests from around the world. Now with the second series, you embraced videos. Tell me about how you made the move from audio only to video.

Something similar happened to us within the pandemic context, that had an impact on our way to conceive digital content. We were already in a visual era. We are now in a hyper visual era

Nicolas: As you said, we just moved from to YouTube. In the History field, French scholars refer to the force of circumstances (« la force des choses ») to underline how a chain of events sometimes affects your ways of thinking and doing. Something similar happened to us within the pandemic context, that had an impact on our way to conceive digital content. There is nothing really surprising in there, we were already in a visual era. We are now in a hyper visual era I think. When you reach that kind of end, you want to consider new contexts of reception, and you question your own attractiveness at some point. That’s why the move to videos was tricky. We went from studio recording with professional equipment to our own computer microphones and Zoom. It’s both a material and structural challenge because you also have to rethink your contents. It is a test for your own adaptability but it was interesting and we’re gonna move forward, maybe exploring live streams in the coming weeks or months. 

w4rner: For any Fulbrighters out there that are thinking about creating content that is beyond static texts and photos, it can be very squeamish when it comes to audio and visual, hearing their own voice back or even seeing themselves particularly if it’s on an extended period, like I have to when I watch back episodes of “net:work?”. What advice could you give to folks who never put themselves out in recorded forms in that way? 

Extract: Nicolas on accepting the unexpected

Doing a podcast pushes you to stage yourself in some way

Nicolas: Accept the unexpected. Of course, when you have a background in performing arts, it can help to really listen to your voice or to accept to even see yourself in action doing something that you never did before. Doing a podcast pushes you to stage yourself in some way. Once you focus on the content, you overcome this kind of barrier that you were facing in the first place. You come to learn about yourself as well. My advice would be to not hesitate and post your content in spaces you wouldn’t have thought of in the first place: niche platforms, Fulbrighter has been a good example for me. Where you did not expect a reaction there could actually be multiple reactions.

w4rner: Yes, I think there are really two aspects of content creation, that feed into each other. Firstly the creative spark, and then secondly, who you’re going to reach, but in the end they become synergestic. And sometimes, things can end up in different ways than when you started. For example, for me with the series, it started with me posting statuses, and then it was picked up to be featured in the News & Reflections section, and later on we turned it into a video conversation format. So, I like that you point out the fact that we can’t always expect the way things are going to go, we’ve got to roll with the punches a little bit. My first podcast was It was very niche (it was about a challenge me and my friend started to give up using our smartphones once each week!). Tell us about where Choúkrüt started, when did the idea first come out, and then what do you see as that niche audience to connect with?

When you’re part of a community such as Fulbright, it gives you a lot of experimental possibilities because Fulbright actually is an experimental community in itself

Nicolas: «Choúkrüt » came from the shared experience of an international journey. Basing on this experience and common perceptions, we decided to go further and to create content. The thing is that when you’re part of a community such as Fulbright, it gives you a lot of experimental possibilities because Fulbright actually is an experimental community in itself. And then when it comes to speak about your architectures of visibility on the web, and your ways to create content accordingly, it eases things a bit. I wouldn’t say that we created Choúkrüt « sur mesure » for the Fulbright community but it is a big part of it, because our fellow FLTA’s have been a huge part of the show, being our guests. In some way, the podcast consolidated our pre-existing community. Therefore, for someone who wants to start, I would recommend to start from this: his own experience, his passions. 

w4rner: Yes it makes sense, and frankly you couldn’t really ask for a better niche audience than the Fulbright community for your podcast! With, we were a couple of years ahead of the curve taking of digital wellness seriously, and calling out what we saw as smartphone addiction (that is now a scientific phenomenon recognized over at least a quarter of the Youth population of the developped World). But when we were doing it, we didn’t really know who to share with, and this is also why I wanted this series to focus on engaging with specific communities. You make a really good case that Fulbright community is a great place for Fulbrighters to engage with, by definition. Coming back to David’s call-out for making the most out of this platform, why wouldn’t you tell us about the first post that you made, speaking of experimentation?

Nicolas: When I shared the show on Fulbrighter, I didn’t expect any kind of reaction, or any individual response to what I was posting. And when Rob Ellis reacted, introducing himself as the creator of the platform, I realized how much my experience of social media, along with my notions of visibility and impact were very standardized, based on my use of Facebook or Instagram. Because the social media I use on a daily basis deal with those specific criterias, Rob’s intervention reactivated an awareness of the unexpected in some way in my use of digital platforms. You see, I didn’t know you a few days back, and the fact that we’re even having this conversation proves that Fulbright makes you connect when you didn’t expect to. 

Extract: Nicolas on unexpected connections

w4rner: I love the unexpected connections that can come about when you put yourself out there. To be honest I totally connect with the fear of falling flat, and nothing coming off it. Speaking of that, there is a well observed phenomenon in digital contents, that Instagram influencers demonstrated too, of monitoring the first 10 minutes of interest, deleting a post that’s not on a good path regarding the audience, and publishing only the result that looks good. As a historian, I wanted to specifically ask you about this: what do you think about the claim that everyone on social media is acting as their own curator in the digital exhibition of their life? What do you think it does to someone when they do their self edit in such a rigorous way? Do you think it’s a good practice to amplify the “win” ? Or do you think it can be demotivating to do self editing that much?

The first bloggers were just having a lot of fun, and I think that’s also one of the most beautiful parts of podcasting

Nicolas: It really depends on which level of use you perceive your podcast or digital content. If you have a historian point of view, you’re gonna be tempted to leave it as it is, with as little self editing as possible. Because it becomes a proof for the future, and therefore the podcast itself gains to stay authentic. Then again, you have multiple considerations about this, and when you look at the history of the Web, it’s a singularity. It’s fairly recent, and still contains the biggest number of audio and visual sources. And when you take a look at what first bloggers as Justin Hall did, they all talk about this feeling of exploration. When they did their thing, blogging randomly, typing pioneer HTML tags, not even expecting any feedback of any sort, they were not acting as if they were making history. They were just having a lot of fun, and I think that’s also one of the most beautiful parts of podcasting. 

w4rner: That feeling of having fun and the flow of creation is really important. I think that for some people, knowing that they can delete something or that it will disappear after a certain amount of time can actually free them up, with regards to experimenting more. We’re aware that the historians of the future will be data scientists, dredging through the big data. And they could be more or less fair when they’ll put out snippets, but I hope that everyone will be mature enough to put things in context, recognize the courage it takes not to delete it like in 1984! So I would encourage people to experiment and leave their experiment publicly. And so, a final thing would be: do you have any recommendations for Fulbrighters in terms of what to put out of the box in terms of content? In one recent episode, you guested a musician from Burkina Faso. I think it’s awesome that he performed music! Also, I’m sure Fulbrighters would love to hear about the way you brought your music to your studies before. You did your Master’s Thesis on Bob Dylan’s work, why not tell us about that?

Nicolas: My whole journey has been an attempt to make my academic interests and passions coincide. The Bob Dylan thing started a while back with a friend of mine and me covering a whole album, only with GarageBand, working from different cities and exchanging backing tracks via e-mails. Of course my understanding of this music improved with my academic studies about it. I ended up building myself up creatively from those two experiences. And, by extension, this also gave the podcast: while I was working on this project, I was skilling up with audio editing, and these skills helped me up to start Choúkrüt, so in some way, everything is following a certain path if you make the most of it. 

w4rner:  Fulbright is a useful point of reference both for finding the connections between people in terms of audience, and using this philosophy of finding connections between unexpected things. I think that David J. Smith would be very proud to see a millennial Fulbrighter making the most of lockdown, making the most of these tools, I hope that other young Fulbrighters will be inspired and maybe not so young ones too! It’s been an amazing way to end this two parts piece on lockdown, this may be or may not be the last ‘net:work ?’ conversation, that remains to be seen, but I hope it does continue because these conversations are what that platform should be all about.

Extract: w4rner and Nicolas on the future of the net:work? series

Nicolas: I hope there will be more because this is a great series man: congratulations for that! It placed me in an unexpected place in some way, and we had a really constructive dialogue so I’m happy about it!

Find out more about the Net:work? series

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