The City Road Podcast is at the centre of a network of public conversation and academic research conducted by Associate Professor Dallas Rogers. From producing for ABC National Radio to the upcoming Festival of Urbanism, Rogers’ work provides a template for making public impact.
As Head of Urbanism at the University of Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning, Dallas Rogers works on a wide range of topics with a particular interest on how poverty and wealth manifest in cities. Alongside his teaching and research, Rogers also produces the City Road Podcast – in fact, it’s a forum that he uses to bring academic and public life into regular and meaningful contact.
One of the defining features of Rogers’ way of working is its multidisciplinarity. To focus on urbanism in the first place means having an appreciation of the hybridity and messiness of public space, so it stands to reason that his own practice prioritises public discourse.
“I’ve had a long interest in the public engagement side of academia,” says Rogers. “The podcast, for example, is not aimed at the technocrat – it’s actually aimed at starting a conversation about challenges in the city, to open up the complexity and sit with the dilemmas that come with not knowing the solution.”
It’s an approach that dignifies the public realm by bringing expertise into the debate without doing so in an elitist manner. City Road Podcast discusses issues in urbanism in their full complexity and in a spirit of open conversation, perhaps the opposite of professionalised advocacy that closes itself off from public discussion.
The podcast, established six years ago, is ultimately about telling stories. It’s malleable and Rogers uses it as way to move between the various spheres of his work. The focus right now is a five-part series on the Infrastructure Governance Incubator, a collaborative research project funded by the Henry Halloran Trust and led by Associate Professor Tooran Alizadeh.
“It’s an example where you have a multidisciplinary research concentration with people working on a complex thing that involves a lot of moving parts – the City Road Podcast is how we tell that story to a wider audience in a way that’s engaging and useful,” explains Rogers. “Our series is going to take some of the key findings of the Incubator and have a conversation about them.”
The Festival of Urbanism has provided a similar focus in the past and returns in September 2023. It’s another space that straddles academic and wider city life, a public-facing series of events that brings ideas out of university to make an impact in the public domain. Rogers’ work in relation to the festival involves curating a book club and podcast episodes based on panel discussions taking place in the city.
With a background in digital content production specialising in radio, Rogers continues to work across and engage with a wide array of media platforms and audiences. An upcoming exhibition at the Tin Sheds Gallery, for example, will be about community radio while he also produces content for The Conversation and The Philosopher’s Zone on ABC National Radio.
The diversity of practice, experience and dialogue with people across public life achieves two broad things. First, the academic work is strengthened by contact with other streams of expertise and debate. Second – and crucially – that very same academic research finds a way to make an important impact in life across the city. It stands to reason that an urban scholar should want to engage in ideas across all areas of public space and, with the City Road Podcast and more, Dallas Rogers is providing a model for doing just that.