(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.
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.