Control : The Stanford Prison Experiment

In 1971, Dr. Philip Zimbardo created a mock prison in the basement of Jordan Hall, the psychology building at Stanford. Mentally healthy college students were randomly assigned the roles of prisoner and guard. Dr. Zimbardo was trying to test how situations control human behavior, but within days, the situation spun out of control.


In this special episode, Drs. Philip Zimbardo and Christina Maslach tell the story of what ended up being one of the most infamous psychology studies in history – where young, mentally healthy participants turned brutal and desperate in only a few days. You’ll learn surprising details of what inspired the Stanford Prison Experiment and how it ended, and hear how the experiment helped contribute to understanding the relationship between individuals and the situations they find themselves in.

Host: Bojan Srbinovski

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Bojan Srbinovski, Mischa Shoni, Charlie Mintz, Natacha Ruck, Victoria Hurst

Featuring: Dr. Philip Zimbardo, Dr. Christina Maslach

Additional production help from: Justine Beed, Kate Nelson, Will Rogers

Original Music by Rob Voigt

Other music: Chris Zabriskie, Billy Gomberg, Gillicuddy, Tearpalm

Audio clips of the Stanford and Toyon Prison Experiments are from The Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University ArchivesThe Philip G. Zimbardo Papers at the Stanford University Archives.


Note: The original version of this episode mis-identified the location of the pilot study that inspired the Prison Experiment. The Stanford Storytelling Project regrets this error.


Photo credit: Chuck Painter



Today, we generate data with every mouse click, phone call, and even every breath. This week on State of the Human, you’ll hear about how an 18th century historian, a poet, a computer scientist, a composer, and a mysterious future being are all trying to interpret that data to understand something about the human experience. We’re asking: what do we learn from seeing ourselves as data? And what is lost in translation?


Host: Kate Nelson

Producers: Rachel Hamburg, Miles S, Charlie Mintz, Kate Nelson, Rosie La Puma

Featuring: Dr. Daniel Rosenberg, Naomi Shihab Nye, Jonathan Berger, Raven Jiang, Alec Glassford

Release Date: 18 June 2014

Music used during transitions: Aboombong (Drag Along Behind), Chuzausen, Koona (Starkey), Kai Engel

image via wikimedia



Story 1: Straws on the River of Time

Joseph Priestley was an 18th Renaissance man who helped discover oxygen. But he also invented something: the Chart of Biography. Here’s why he shouldn’t get too much credit for doing either of those things. It’s a story about one of the first times that people were turned into data.


Producers: Jess Peterson and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: Dr. Daniel Rosenberg

Music: Jared C Balogh, Ergo Phizmiz, Dexter Britain, and Circus Marcus



Story 2: Exposed

Kyle is on a mission to scrape every last piece of his data off the internet. He’s devoted to navigating cyberspace without leaving a trace – but privacy has a cost.


Producers: Niuniu Teo and Charlie Mintz

Featuring: “Kyle”

Music: Rod Hamilton (Bird); Pork Secret (Cool Crocs); Podington Bear (Operatives, Clouds Pass Softly); Marcel Pequel (Seven)

Image via wikimedia



Story 3: Search Terms Leading to a Bigger Life

Naomi Shihab Nye is a novelist, songwriter, and wandering poet. She tells a story about staring at people on planes, and how googling strangers can lead to a bigger life.


Producers: Justine Beed and Will Rogers

Featuring: Naomi Shihab Nye

Music and Sounds: Podington Bear (Deep Pools, Respiration), Airport Ambience

Image via wikimedia



Story 4: Breathing Data

Jonathan Berger, a composer, teams up with a radiologist who needs to figure out a way to help calm anxious patients. His solution – have patients listen to their own data.


Producer: Kate Nelson

Featuring: Dr. Jonathan Berger

Music and Sounds: Advent Chamber Orchestra, SJ Mellia, deef, Plurabelle, ZOE.LEELA, Gustav Landin, Coffee Shop, Deep Breath

Image via flickr



Story 5: A Single Lifetime

A new consciousness has just emerged – a product of all data and the interactions between it. That consciousness exists as a detached force, until falling in love teaches it to be human.


Producer: Alec Glassford and Rachel Hamburg

Featuring: Alec Glassford, Raven Jiang

Music and Sounds: YACHT (Ring the Bell (Instrumental), The Afterlife), Podington Bear (Rythn), The Shivers (Kisses, Only Mine), Owl (Uppsala Streetbusker accordion 1.wav), Damsteegt (Thai Island Beach II), hanstimm (URSU01.ffB.m7.f2.ed.aiff)

Image via wikimedia




The Comfort of Consistency

On the occasional days I got out of class early in high school, I would listen to The Writer’s Almanac, a minuscule daily segment that ran from 2:55 to 3 p.m. on my local public radio station. The Writer’s Almanac, narrated by Garrison Keillor, whose melodious and calming voice is better known for the menagerie that is A Prairie Home Companion, follows a very rigid structure: a song, an array of histories, a poem, and a mantra.

The familiar consistency of this format imbues each new episode with a sense of a nostalgia. Even as I learn new stories each time I listen to the Almanac, the ritualistic elements of its craft always make me feel like I am returning home. Even in the experiencing of something so brief, my understanding of the show’s unchanging structure makes me feel snugly nestled in cozy and literary microcosm.


Every episode opens with an elegant piano version of a Scandinavian folk song called “Ge Mig En Dag ” (Give Me a Day), over which Keillor recites the introduction, “And here is the Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, the fourth of May, two-thousand-fourteen”—or whatever the correct day may be for the given show; episodes date all the way back to 1993. The main portion of the Almanac follows, with Keillor describing the significance of the current day in history. He then reads a poem, sometimes related to the content of the main section—for example, he recently read an excerpt of Anne Frank’s diary on the anniversary of its first publishing in English—but more often than not, a piece that stands completely alone. Finally, a reprise of “Ge Mig En Dag” rises up from the moment of silence following the poem, and over this Keillor reads the brief credits for the show and closes with the incantation, “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

Most of the tiny stories that comprise the Almanac are biographies of writers whose birthdays occur on the day of the show, but other events are recognized and brought to life as well: The birthdays of Duke Ellington and Leland Stanford, the founding of the United States Post Office and the ending of the Civil War, the discovery of DNA, the first performance of Amazing Grace—basically anything that could be deemed notable in the grand scheme of the world. The Writer’s Almanac makes this variety of content accessible by marrying it with a familiar and consistent framework.

The consistencies of the show give it a personal and familiar mood; it easily becomes a sort of aural comfort food. “Ge Mig En Dag” now triggers a Pavlovian nostalgia in me whenever I hear it: I feel like I’m in my car, driving home from school and unwinding after a long day, and also like I’m sitting by a warm fireplace with good friends on a winter day; the former feeling is a product of the actual circumstances in which I’ve heard the song so many times, the latter a product of the perfectly languid and cozy composition and performance of the music itself. Moreover, Keillor’s voice has a tranquil and hypnotic tone, and he reads with an experienced patience that entices and holds the listener’s attention. Finally, the initiation and completion of each episode with exactly the same flowery, non-perfunctory language every time gives the Almanac an air of ritual and sacredness. By creating a mood of peace and respite, The Writer’s Almanac takes a very simple concept and makes it into a cathartic ritual with a unique aesthetic.

There is certainly a lot to be said for novelty—for inventive storytelling and for surprising one’s audience. And the idea of repetition, of doing something the same way every time, does not seem like it would be very engaging. Nevertheless, if you embed your narratives with consistent idiosyncrasies—a song to open, a proverb to end, a constant tempo—you will create tiny traditions for your audience to hold on to, little anchors that tie their hearts to your stories.

Article written by: Alec Glassford on 6/6/2014



Sometimes you’re in your own country, your own home, and you know in your bones you don’t belong. That feeling pushes you to change something. This week we bring you four stories of people who don’t quite belong in the world where they live, and who take matters in their own hands to construct their own belonging. A very young girl finds a sense of belonging while running away from an angry mob. A student creates a bridge between the Jewish and Irish sides of her family. Seven gender-defying divas share what it means to belong to yourself. And a young man discovers how to prove you belong, when the numbers are against you.


Host: Leslie Nguyen-Okwu

Producers: Will Rogers and Natacha Ruck

Featuring: Justine Beed, Carla Lewis, Eileen Williams, Josh Hoyt, Winona Azure, Raya Light, Macy Rodman, Peaches Christ, Alexis Blair Penney, Heklina, Sissy Spastik, Mathu Andersen, and Cher Noble.

Release Date: 3 June 2014

Music used during transitions: Welcome Wizard, Monk Turner, Johnny Ripper, Zachary Cale, Mighty Moon, & Ethan Schmid, Blue Ducks

image via flickr



Story 1: Owning It

Carla Lewis grew up in the baptist south, feeling very much like an outsider. As a child, Carla knew she didn’t believe in God, but she still believed in something bigger than herself and the world she grew up in. This is the story of the day she shared her beliefs with her classmates, and how violently they reacted. Carla reflects on this event in her life with wisdom and grace and she shows how to achieve a sense of belonging from within.


Producer: Justine Beed

Featuring: Carla Lewis

Music and sounds: Kids Laughing, Books Hitting Floor, Pages Flipping, Church Bells, Transition Piano, Backflip Woosh, Synth Music, Retimbrage, Noah’s Stark  by krackatoa (build-up Soundtrack), Water Splash 1, Water Splash 2, Organ, Kids YellingAmbient drone, Chimes, Breeze, Sounds of Me by Malt. Tabulated Sounds, (Rough) sketch for Autumn by Freiband (running soundtrack), Bought an old twelve string anno 2009 by BeatMeister (main soundtrack), Fire burning, Wild horses running, Kids yelling, Mob yelling, Throwing books

Image courtesy of Carla Lewis


Story 2: In on the Joke

In this story, we’ll travel from broom closets to carousels and witness a public arrest and the destruction of an expensive Lexus. Associate Producer Eileen Williams explores how these shenanigans come to pass–and how they helped her to belong.


Producer/Featuring: Eileen Williams

Links: Ligandal

Music: Podington Bear, Jaze Baqti, Sláinte, Steffen Basho-Junghans, Kevin MacLeod, Zoe Leela, Markus Strübbe

Image via flickr



Story 3: Beyond the Rainbow

What is the trajectory from misfit to show-stopper, fringe to the spotlight, boy to beautiful woman or creature? Is drag the sparkling manifestation of an less-pretty past, the alchemy of the alienated? Brittany Newell has sought to record the oral history of 7 dazzling American queens and gender-artists working today. This is a tale of the other, the queer, the blunt, and the brave. Their stories investigate how to belong against the grain and beyond the rainbow.


Narrator: Raya Light

Producer: Brittany Newell

Featuring: Macy Rodman, Peaches Christ, Alexis Blair Penney, Heklina, Sissy Spastik, Mathu Andersen, & Cher Noble.

Special thanks: to all the beautiful people and amazing artists who made this possible! The Braden Grant for the Study of Oral Narrative, the Stanford Storytelling Project, Ziva Schatz, and Eric Eich

Image via Ziva Schatz (of drag queen Alaska Thunderf*ck)



Story 4: Blood Quantum

How do you prove you belong when the numbers are against you? Producer for State of the Human Joshua Hoyt Investigates what makes him a true Native American, beyond blood culture, family and language. He discovers that belonging sometimes means to long, and to be.

Producer: Joshua Hoyt

Featuring: Winona Azure

Music: Bensound (Better Days, Funky Suspense), Podington Bear,Vavrek, The Architect, and Jahzza