10 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube (Smart Video Collections)

in Google, Video - Arts & Culture | December 30th, 2007

(UPDATED: See 70 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube)

It’s been a constant lament that YouTube offers its users scant little intellectual content. And that content is itself hard to find. Just visit YouTube’s so-called Education Section, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything actually educational. But the good news is that we’re seeing some recent signs of intelligent life at YouTube. The video service hosts an increasing number of intellectually redeemable video collections. And so we figured why not do some heavy lifting and bring a few your way. If YouTube won’t make them easy to find, then we will. (Also see 10 Ways to Make Your iPod a Better Learning Gadget.)

1.) UC Berkeley: We have mentioned this collection before, but we might as well mention it again. UC Berkeley launched in October a YouTube channel that contains over 300 hours of academic programming. And, most notably, you’ll find here a series of university courses that can be watched in their entirety (for free). It’s a deep collection worth starting with.

2.) @GoogleTalks: Many big names end up speaking at Google. That includes political figures and cultural figures such as Paul Krugman, Steven Pinker, Joseph Stieglitz, Jonathan Lethem and more. Since Google owns YouTube, it’s good to see that they’re making an effort to record these talks and raise the intellectual bar on GooTube just a bit. Have a look.

3.) The Nobel Prize: TheNobelPrize channel presents current and past Nobel Laureates — courtesy of Nobelprize.org, the official web site of the Nobel Foundation. The collection features official Nobel Prize Lectures and also more casual presentations. It looks like talks by the 2007 winners are being added slowly.

4.) TED Talks: Every year, a thousand “thought-leaders, movers and shakers” get together at a four-day conference called TED (which is short for Technology, Entertainment and Design). In recent years, the list of speakers has ranged from Sergey Brin and Larry Page to Bill Gates, to Herbie Hancock and Peter Gabriel, to Frank Gehry, to Al Gore and Bill Clinton. In this collection, you’ll find various talks presented at the conference. They usually run about 20 minutes.

5.) FORA.tv: In case you don’t know about it, FORA.tv is a web service that hosts videos featuring important thinkers grappling with contemporary cultural, social and political questions. It’s like YouTube, but always intelligent. You can find extended videos on FORA’s site, and a decent sampling of their content on YouTube.

6.) Philosophers and Theorists: The European Graduate School (or EGS) hosts a video collection on YouTube that includes talks by some very important theorists/philosophers of the past generation — for example, Jacques Derrida and Jean Baudrillard. There are also some filmmakers mixed in — take for example, Peter Greenaway and John Waters.

7.) Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting: This channel promotes coverage of international affairs, “focusing on topics that have been under-reported, mis-reported – or not reported at all.” Most of these videos were featured on the public television program “Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria.”

8.) BBC Worldwide: The leading British broadcaster is now live on YouTube, and there’s some good content in the mix, although it won’t leap off of the homepage. The trick is to look at their playlist where you will find more educational pieces of video: documentaries, science, drama, travel, and more. The notable downside is that the videos typically fall within YouTube’s customary 10 minute video limit. (Many others cited here run longer.) Too bad more couldn’t have been done with this opportunity.

Other smart media properties that have opted for the soundbite strategy here include National Geographic and PBS.

9.) UChannel: Formerly called the University Channel, this video service presents talks on international/political affairs from academic institutions all over the world. It’s spearheaded by Princeton University, and you can find an even more extensive video collection on their web site.

10.) Other University Channels on YouTube: UC Berkeley launched the biggest channel on YouTube, but there are some others out there. Unfortunately, finding them is something of a crapshoot. We’ve managed, however, to pull together a good list of ten. See 10 University Collections on YouTube

Bonus: We cobbled together our own playlist of smart YouTube videos that will grow over time. Have a look.

In putting together this list, one thing became clear: YouTube has enough quality content to keep you busy, and there’s clearly more that I don’t know about (again, because they don’t make it easy to find). If you want to add other good YouTube collections to our list, please list them in the comments and I can add them selectively to the list.

Want more smart media? Check out our big list of free university courses available via podcast.

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Comments (23)

  1. Ben says . . .
    December 27, 2007 / 6:31 am

    May I add that there are great videos that National Geographic offers on their channel at youtube, http://youtube.com/user/NationalGeographic

  2. Pierre says . . .
    December 27, 2007 / 7:08 am

    Don’t forget all the wonderful videos of late, great performers: Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Clara Nunez, Manolete, Segovia, etc.

    Discover the amazing drum work of Joe Morello on Dave Brubeck’s 1961 “Take Five”.

    And talented unknowns: Adam Fulara, Peo Kindgren.

    Better than TV.

  3. vrmdr123 says . . .
    December 27, 2007 / 10:24 am

    Excellent collection. Great Job.

    You can also see some interesting books and few mor eintersting links at the following blog;


  4. Miss Cellania says . . .
    December 27, 2007 / 4:49 pm

    Thanks for this! It’s going to keep me (and the kids) busy for a while.

  5. cyenobite says . . .
    December 27, 2007 / 5:06 pm

    How about C-span and C-span 2 which hosts “BookTV”. I wish their navigation and user interface were redone, but you can sometimes stumble upon some great video for the mind here.

    I’d also like to see them get away from realmedia and windows media, but for free I guess I can’t complain.

  6. Jessica Clark says . . .
    December 28, 2007 / 11:46 am

    Hi, thanks for this list! These are great examples, but they’re all pretty top-down. Over at the Center for Social Media, we’re on the hunt for smart online projects that involve citizen media and public participation. You can learn more at http://www.centerforsocialmedia.org/blogs/future_of_public_media/

  7. Lee A. Arnold says . . .
    December 28, 2007 / 12:03 pm

    Please have a look at:


    for an animated systems flowchart language applied to various subjects.

  8. George says . . .
    December 28, 2007 / 9:30 pm

    How about the great how-to videos from http://www.youtube.com/casttv ?

    These guys have made some great beginning computer video tips.

  9. ANARCHY-TV.COM says . . .
    December 30, 2007 / 8:30 am

    I like psychetruth videos, a guy who in his spare time interviews various people with expertese in some particular area with a message to tell the public: http://youtube.com/profile_videos?user=psychetruth

  10. scorpio says . . .
    December 30, 2007 / 10:21 pm

    Here is huge collection

  11. Josh says . . .
    December 31, 2007 / 1:44 am

    There’s also the classic archive.org.

  12. Trogdor says . . .
    January 3, 2008 / 8:34 am

    NASA has a YouTube channel called “ReelNASA” with lots of insightful videos:

  13. Andrew says . . .
    January 4, 2008 / 7:55 pm

    For the computer minded, the Computer History Museum has some good videos of talks and suchlike: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=ComputerHistory

  14. studenthacks says . . .
    January 30, 2008 / 7:00 pm

    What a great collection of links to some valuable educational resources on YouTube! It’s nice to know this stuff exists on YouTube.

  15. Steven Aitchsion says . . .
    February 3, 2008 / 10:17 pm

    This is a great collection, must have taken a while to compile this. Thanks for sharing it.

  16. Mike Gordon says . . .
    April 20, 2008 / 2:57 am

    This is a great collection of independent indie talent, must have taken a while to compile this. Thanks for sharing it.

  17. ADN says . . .
    July 10, 2008 / 9:27 am

    Here is some more intelligent health videos on youtube.


  18. Gary says . . .
    October 12, 2008 / 11:28 am

    This a good collection of channels and I’m a subscriber of many of these channels but please add these channels to the list: New Scientist, UC television, and the Research channel. They’re all great.

  19. youtube says . . .
    October 28, 2008 / 3:56 pm

    Youtube tüm dünyanın kullandığı ve içinde milyonlarca video olan bir görüntü arşivi. Bir kütüphane. Siz 3-5 video için 3 yüz milyon videoyu kapatıyorsunuz. youtube gibi siteler ile başka video siteleri üzerinden yayınlar yapılıyor ama en geniş video arşivi youtube üzerindeydi. Bugün siteleri kapat, yarın televizyonlar ertesi günü neyi kapatacaklr merak ediyorum.

  20. January 29, 2009 / 8:29 am

    […] möchte ich auf die Liste “10 Anzeichen für intelligentes Leben auf Youtube” von Openculture […]

  21. ledude says . . .
    February 3, 2009 / 1:33 pm

    for those interested in the art world and its nexus New York City I recommend http://www.youtube.com/user/jameskalm

  22. August 16, 2009 / 7:53 am

    […] 10 Signs of Intelligent Life at YouTube (Smart Video Collections) Share and […]

  23. Lorencopub says . . .
    December 11, 2010 / 3:49 pm

    What do you think about WIKILEAKS?
    Hih you hear me??

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