Open Culture Podcast Directories Viewable in Feed Readers

The only downside to using a feed reader (Bloglines, Google Reader, MyYahoo, etc.) to access Open Culture is that you won't be able to see our podcast directories which reside in our left nav bar. To assist you, we have pasted links below that will give you direct access to the podcast collections. Bookmark & enjoy.

Ali G at Harvard; or How Sacha Baron Cohen Got Blessed by America’s Cultural Establishment

Oodles of print have been written about Sacha Baron Cohen's film, “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan.” And there's perhaps not a great deal more to say about it, other than it's remarkable how well the film has been received by America's cultural establishment. Edgy, shock comedy that uses racial and gender stereotypes to subvert racial and gender stereotypes usually doesn't go down so well with highbrow critics. But, in this case it did. The Washington Post called the film "a perfect combination of slapstick and satire, a Platonic ideal of high- and lowbrow that manages to appeal to our basest common denominators while brilliantly skewering racism, anti-Semitism, ... [and] sexism." (Platonic ideal? Borat?) Of the film, The New York Times said "The brilliance of 'Borat' is that its comedy is as pitiless as its social satire, and as brainy." Then, we heard Terry Gross, of NPR's Fresh Air, gush over the comic in her amusing interview with Baron Cohen. And lastly, the British comic has been nominated for an Oscar by Hollywood's film elite.

If any further proof was needed that Baron Cohen has been embraced by the cultural vanguard, then let this video serve as final witness. In 2004, Harvard invited Baron Cohen to speak at "Class Day," the big traditional event that takes place the day before commencement. And here you get him speaking to students and parents not as Baron Cohen, but as Ali G., all in a light-hearted way. (For more on this visit, see the article in the Harvard Gazette.)


How to Get Started Podcasting on Your Campus

For every university that has started podcasting lectures or courses, dozens have proved slow to take this step. If you're an educator who thinks that your university should go digital at long last, you'll want to take a look at this article appearing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. How to Podcast Campus Lectures overviews the basic questions that you'll need to consider: What software and hardware will your school need to launch this kind of initiative? What's the best way to get faculty involved in the project? How will students use these podcasts? What educational value will they have? And what copyright and contractual issues will your school need to consider? This piece will get you off to a good start. If you want to learn more about the nuts and bolts of making effective podcasts, spend some time with our primer: Making Your Own Podcasts: Resources to Get You Started.

Digital MBA: America’s Best Business Schools on Your iPod

The American Idol for Thinking People: The New Twist on Book Publishing

It was probably only a matter of time before this happened. According to The New York Times, Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, has agreed to publish a work by whichever new writer takes first prize in a contest sponsored by the social-networking site, A la American Idol, everyday people and panel of experts will read and vote on the first chapter of books submitted by everyday people.  And although the winner will need to sign the "standard Simon & Schuster contract," he/she will get their work fast tracked to publication and forgo the  hassle of shopping a book. Also, there's a $5,000 cash prize and the promise of promotion at local Borders' book stores.

The underlying logic behind the contest, called "First Chapters," comes down to this: It's ultimately people who buy books, so why not let a good sample demographic ('s 175,000 older and more mature users) preview the submissions, decide what they like, and save the editor the effort of guessing what will fly. That makes a certain amount of sense if you're a publisher, working in a sluggish industry with narrow margins, who is always looking to maximize the odds of putting out winners. However, whether it will further the publisher's mission of bringing quality books to our culture is an altogether different question, and the jury remains out on this one. You can get more information about the contest by clicking here.

Harvard Now on iTunes: A New Model for University Podcasts?

HarvIt was only a question of when, not if. Harvard has finally carved out a space, albeit a rather small one,
on iTunes. Established by the Harvard Extension School, the iTunes site currently features one free, full-fledged course called Understanding Computers and the Internet, which had previously been issued in other digital formats. (See our previous article.) In addition, you can notably access outtakes from 30 complete courses that the school will offer online for a fee during the spring academic term. (See press release.) These courses fall into three neat categories: liberal arts, management and computer science.

Harvard's iTunes strategy is rather unique. While most major universities are simply giving away podcasts/information, Harvard Extension is evidently using the Apple platform more for business purposes than for public service. In a vacuum, it's not a bad idea. In fact, seen in a certain light, it's innocuous, even savvy. Why not offer teasers to generate more sales for sophisticated online courses? Why not give customers a real sense of what they're getting into? If there's a problem with these ideas, it's simply that they risk clashing with existing expectations -- expectations that universities offer podcasts for free and for the public good. And there's the risk that iTunes users will fail to make a critical distinction between your average free podcast, and a podcast that's really meant to be part of a very well rounded, fee-based online course. One way or another, the business motive will likely raise some eyebrows. But, our guess is that Harvard will be able to clarify the reason for the new model, and they'll find in iTunes, as others will too, a new and potentially powerful way of giving visibility to certain forms of online educational content.

Steve Jobs Presents the iPhone and the Podcast World Reacts

Each year, Steve Jobs kicks off MacWorld with a big address, which either confirms or quashes all the rumors and speculation about the new wave of Apple products. It's usually a big deal, and this year didn't disappoint. Jobs delivered with flair the iPhone, which Apple hopes will revolutionize the cell phone market as the iPod did the portable music player market, if not the entire music market itself. And then there is Apple TV, which will let you wirelessly play your iTunes content (movies, TV shows, music, photos and podcasts) on your widescreen TV.

If you have some downtime, you can check out the video of Jobs' speech on iTunes or via QuickTime. For initial thoughts on the iPhone, you may want to read David Pogue's and Walter Mossberg's early reviews (and also Pogue's iphone FAQ), and for commentary across the podcast world, you can listen in on:

  • GeekBrief.TV's quick survey of announcements iTunes Feed
  • Engadget's podcast commentary of new products iTunes Feed
  • MacWorld's review of the keynote and new products iTunes Mp3 Stream
  • Robert X. Cringley's take on Apple's trademark conflict with Cisco iTunes Feed
  • MacBreak Weekly iTunes Feed
  • Forum on Technology & Society - A panel discussion on the new gadgets and how they affect our society iTunes Feed

Also see Open Culture's Technology Podcast Collection.

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