"Masterpieces of Western Art" has been a degree requirement at Columbia University since 1947. The long-established course is not your traditional historical survey. Rather, it focuses on a select number of artists and monuments, with the larger goal of helping students think critically about art. Over on iTunes, you can find some videos from the course. They cover the Amiens Cathedral, Raphael, Michelangelo, and Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater. These videos aren't in lecture format. Instead, they're perhaps better described as visual tours. Although the clips don't really form a coherent whole, there are certainly some good nuggets here. For 200 free university courses, see our big list here.
Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina, spends his days (among other things) helping new teachers become technologically and media literate. And he runs a well-established blog -- Open Thinking -- that helps teachers stay ahead of the technology curve. Last week, he pulled together a very handy collection of videos that touch on technology and media literacy. Most of the videos are informative. Some are downright entertaining. Either way, it's a collection well worth perusing. Lastly, I should say that Alec is one of the more dynamic Twitterers that I've come across. So give him a follow, and you can also find us on Twitter here (and Facebook as well).
For those in the US, have a good Memorial Day. For all others, have a good day, and I'll see you tomorrow.
Today we're featuring a piece by Seth Harwood, an innovative crime fiction writer who has used the tools of Web 2.0 to launch his writing career. Below, he gives you an inside look at how he went from podcasting his books to landing a book deal with Random House. If you want to learn more about how writers will increasingly build their careers, be sure to give this a read. Take it away Seth...
Before it ever hit print, my debut novel JACK WAKES UP was a free serialized audiobook. And giving my crime fiction away for free turned out to be the key to becoming a published author—that last piece of the puzzle that eludes so many aspiring writers.
How did it work? Well, I got my MFA from a prestigious writers’ workshop. I got a dozen stories placed in literary journals. In short, I was doing all the things “they” (the literary establishment) tell you you have to do in order to become a successful author. And it wasn’t working. Agents were saying nice things about my crime fiction, but weren’t willing to take me on as a client. Eventually I started looking for another way to drive my own career and put my work in front of people. Having had a little success with a published story online—my friends could read it and I was hearing from strangers who liked it, two things that had never happened with the dozen stories I’d slaved to publish in literary journals—I could see that the web was the way to do this. But I couldn’t imagine anyone reading a novel online, or even on his or her computer. I did have an iPod though, and didn’t I listen to it all the time in the car and at the gym? Wasn’t I taking out books on CD from my local library for my drive to work? Sure I was. So when a friend showed me how he’d been using his iPod and a thing called podcasting to get free audiobooks from an unknown author named Scott Sigler, I knew I had to figure out how this was done.
Turns out that making MP3 files costs nothing. Distributing them costs me less than $10 a month, no matter how many episodes go out. Each week, I release a free episode—usually a couple of chapters—to thousands of subscribers. You can think of this as a throwback to two old forms of crime distribution: either the pulp magazines or the old-time radio plays that introduced detective adventures to early listeners on the radio. (more…)
How do you take [the brain], this piece of meat that runs on 10 watts of electricity, and how do you study it in its actual context, which is that it's not a brain in a vat. It's a brain interacting with other brains. How do you study things like social networks and human interactions?
Just think, for instance, about what’s now the hottest method in cognitive neuroscience: The fMRI machine, the brain scan. Think about the fundamental limitation of this machine, which is that it's one person by himself in what's essentially a noisy coffin. So you give him the stimulus. He's going through the experimental task, whatever it is. Choosing whether or not to buy something, doing a visual memory task. Whatever the protocol is, you're in essence looking at a brain in a vacuum. You're looking at a brain by itself, and we don't think enough about how profoundly abstract that is, and what an abstraction that is on the reality we actually inhabit, the reality of being a human and what human nature is all about.
The question now, and this is a fascinating question to think about, is how can we take this research, which is so rigorous, and how can we make it more realistic.
Neuroscience has contributed so much in just a few decades to how we think about human nature and how we know ourselves. But how can we take that same rigor, which has made this research so valuable and, at the same time, make it a more realistic representation of what it's actually like to be a human. After all, we're a brain embedded in this larger set of structures.
You can watch the rest of the interview here. But make sure you scroll down a little.
There has been a lot of buzz around Wolfram|Alpha, the "computational knowledge engine" that was unveiled earlier this week. To understand what this new engine is all about, you can watch this shorter introductory video, or watch the lengthy talk above by Stephen Wolfram at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society. As you'll see, Wolfram|Alpha isn't really about searching the web. It's more about about answering questions, making computations, or providing "facts about things," as Wolfram says. When it provides answers, it's certainly impressive. When it doesn't (which happens not infrequently), it's less so. If you've played with it, let us know your thoughts.