How ASU faculty, students tackle zombification

From podcast to broadcast, the Z-team delves into what manipulates daily life

"Have you been zombified?" This is the question ASU faculty members are answering through podcasting and live-streaming, taking a deep dive into what manipulates — or zombifies — our daily lives.

ASU psychology professor Athena Aktipis, chair of the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Alliance, is creating content for Channel Zed, a streaming network dedicated to all things zombie apocalypse.

This isn’t her first experience with zombie-themed media. She has been hosting the educational podcast "Zombified" for three seasons, alongside co-host David Lundberg-Kenrick, a media outreach program manager for ASU's psychology department.

"Zombified" focuses on aspects of daily life that manipulate how we think and act. 

“This idea of zombies and zombification is kind of a way of interrogating all of these forces that influence us,” Aktipis said. 

Episodes of the podcast feature experts on all sorts of topics, explaining how we can be zombified by the world around us. The podcast currently has three seasons and nearly 30 episodes, covering topics such as conspiracies, competition, addiction and more.

According to the podcast's website, zombification can be anything "(f)rom microbes hijacking behavior, to humans influencing each other, to our brains being taken over by social media."

While zombification may sound negative, it isn’t always grim, according to both hosts. Aktipis defines zombification as "a fun way to think about and talk about, essentially, cause and effect and influence and manipulation."

“This can fit with this idea of trying to encourage people to do behaviors that are beneficial for them and beneficial for society as a whole so that's sort of positive zombification,” Lundberg-Kenrick said. 

According to Aktipis, positive zombification can be seen in relationships, families and even pets.

Erica O'Neil, an assistant research professional at the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, runs the Z-Team, a group of undergraduate researchers who help "Zombified" and Channel Zed behind the scenes with tasks such as transcribing podcast episodes and making TikToks.

O'Neil said the groups members of the Z-Team work in are not assigned, giving members a choice of what they want to work on. 

“Instead of saying top-down, ‘here's what we want you to do,’ we like to ask, ‘what do you like to do? What do you prefer to do?’” O'Neil said.

O'Neil also creates content for Channel Zed, hosting a show titled "Eat Prey Run." “It's taking, at its core, that food is a way that we connect as humans in culture,” O'Neil said. 

The show also focuses on cooking in the apocalypse. 

“So, if something catastrophic happens, how do you deal with food, and that is from prepping all the way to food sharing, resource scarcity, how to find yeast in the wild, all sorts of different things like that,” O'Neil said.

The main goal of Channel Zed is education through an entertaining and engaging medium. 

“It is a way for people to interact with and participate in the process as it goes,” Aktipis said.

Viewers can directly interact with guests and hosts during livestreams through commenting on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Aktipis said. 

“To me, that’s a really exciting thing about Channel Zed, it really offers this opportunity to be directly involved in the moment and ask your questions as they come up.”

Channel Zed offers a variety of different shows, focusing on apocalyptic cooking, medicine, movies and more. As Aktipis put it, “It's a whole universe that has come into being from the brains of some very creative people on our team.”


Reach the reporter at rtismine@asu.edu or follow @tisminezky on Twitter.

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