This American Life as Audio Ethnography
Ira Glass opens up an entirely new field of what I would call audio ethnography. Anthropologists regularly use tape recorders in the field for data collection. Anthropologists interested in folk studies and other ethnologists also use tape recorders to study ritual interaction and mythmaking. But Ira Glass goes one step further, using the tape recorder to present us with diverse and profound aspects of contemporary American culture.
Some linguistic and cultural anthropologists come close to this aspect of thick audio description, although the rules of academia limit their publications to the printed word. If you have some time, read some of Abu Lughod's work on Bedouin love poetry or Geneva Smitherman's books on African-American Vernacular English. Both women share a love for the individuality, vitality, and language of the people they talk to.
I'd love to see what the Society for Visual Anthropology thinks of the possibility of audio ethnographies. With the increase of podcasting, this is also an area of ethnography that more laypeople could get involved in although the issue of translation may limit it to only domestic audiences. Comments and suggestions are, as always, very welcome.