New Handbook for Educators Explains How to Produce & Distribute Free Video for the World


The chicken-and-egg, forest/trees question for those who produce educational and public service media is really who are we producing our content for. MIT’s Director of Digital Learning Sanjay Sarma has said that “we” – universities in particular (but also museums, libraries, and other educational and cultural institutions) – “are all sort of Disney, and Sony, and MGM – we produce movies.” But who are we producing our movies for?

The answer is – perhaps obviously – that we are producing for multiple stakeholders, but that many of us are really producing these productions for the world. At a time when so much crap is happening around the globe, it is ever more clear that our real responsibility is to improve the planet while we are on it, and if we can help effect that by sharing our knowledge, so much the better.

Much as U.S. and other national industries of research and scholarly publishing have begun to mandate some form of open or free licensing for the output of grant-funded written work, so now the question arises should video and educational video in particular find its way, too, into the commons. Here, too, the answer is: of course.

On the occasion of the third LEARNING WITH MOOCS conference at the University of Pennsylvania, Intelligent Television is releasing a new guide: MOOCs and Open Educational Resources: A Handbook for Educators. The guide is a step-by-step manual to how to produce and distribute educational video content under the freest of licenses, with an emphasis on Creative Commons.

The Handbook situates educational video production in the context of more than 100 years of moving-image work at universities and beyond. Indeed, the booklet draws on the work of educational producers from the early 1900s – works such as Charles Urban, The Cinematograph in Science, Education, and Matters of State and the 1920s journal Visual Education.

The impulse to share knowledge in a free environment also is not new. In many ways MOOCs and Open Courseware and Wikipedia and Creative Commons and Google/YouTube are all part of the same project – envisioned by visionaries such as Richard Stallman, media producers behind the start of public broadcasting here and abroad, much earlier, even, by publishers active centuries ago in the Enlightenment, and even earlier, in ancient Alexandria under the Ptolemaic kings. The vision? A giant rich resource: a gigantic global encyclopedia, or Encyclopédie, or library or museum, contributing to universal access to human knowledge. With the Internet upon us now, we can help realize it.

Does the rest of the world have any right to the knowledge that we produce at universities and other cultural and educational institutions? And do we have any obligation to share it? We live once, but our problems live on. And if the work of Richard Hofstadter (an expert on "anti-intellectualism" and what he called "the paranoid style in American politics”) and Edward Said (so wise on the collapse of colonialism and media bias), just to pick two Columbia University examples, could have been recorded and shared – and shared openly – we’d be the richer for it. Disseminating knowledge now through the world’s most powerful medium could be our highest calling.

Start reading MOOCs and Open Educational Resources: A Handbook for Educators here.

Peter B. Kaufman is an author, educator, and film producer and the founder of Intelligent Television in New York. Twice serving as associate director of Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning, he produces films and educational video in close association with universities, museums, and archives, and he publishes, produces, and organizes numerous projects at the intersection of video, education, and open educational resources. He is executive director of a foundation to promote Russian literature and culture and runs a summer documentary filmmaking institute for high school students every year in Connecticut.

Photographer Bill Cunningham (RIP) on Living La Vie Boheme Above Carnegie Hall

New York City lost some of its charm this weekend, with the news that Bill Cunningham, the Times’ beloved, on-the-street fashion photographer, had passed away at the age of 87.

Much has been made over the fact that he was designated a living landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy. It's an honor he earned, hitting the streets daily in his usual mufti of khakis, sneakers, and bleu de travail cotton jacket to hunt his quarry by bicycle, but one could never accuse him of courting it.

His employer frequently sent him to cover the elite, but he had no interest in joining their ranks, despite his own growing celebrity. His "Evening Hours" column documented the dressed up doings on the “party circuit.” (This living New York landmark never shook his Boston accent, one of the chief delights of his weekly video series for the Times.) A recent installment suggests that shooting the likes of actress Nicole Kidman and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour during tony private functions at MoMA and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (“aht”) was far less exciting than encountering colorfully clad Himalayan dancers and a children’s craft table at an entirely free Sunday afternoon street fair sponsored by the Rubin Museum of Art.

Playwright Winter Miller shared this anecdote the morning Cunningham’s death was announced:

…he didn't give a fk about who was famous or not. I once met Bill Murray in the lobby of the old New York Times building. He’d shown up to see if he could track down a photo of him and his then-wife that Bill had shot. I brought one Bill to the other, but Bill (Cunningham) was out on the streets with his blue jacket, white bike and camera. When he returned, I explained how I'd come to take Bill Murray under my wing to help him track down this photo. Bill had no idea who Bill Murray was and not unkindly told me (that) none of his photos were digital, so it would involve him personally digging through old files and he didn't have time. I admired that he knew his priorities and never strayed from his task. I had been eager to get Bill Murray the thing he'd wanted and would have combed though vast files myself… but I never looked. Bill Cunningham's files were impenetrable to an outsider.

One likes to think that Murray, who’s known for using his fame as his ticket to hang with ordinary mortals, would find much to love about that.

In fact, Murray strikes me as the perfect candidate to play Cunningham in a biopic covering the six decades spent living and working in a studio over Carnegie Hall. As far as I know, Bill Cunningham New York, a feature length documentary, is the only time his story has been captured on the silver screen. How can it be that no one has thought to make a movie centered on the lost bohemian period Cunningham recalls so fondly in the slideshow above? It sounds like an American spin on the Lost Generation---sneaking down to the unlocked stage for photographer Editta Sherman’s impromptu amateur performances of The Dying Swan, an elderly circus performer and her dog roaming the halls on a unicycle, someone always in a state of undress…

Perhaps Murray’s frequent collaborator, Wes Anderson, could be enlisted to set these wheels in motion. The colorful cast of characters seem tailor-made for this director, already a fashion world favorite.

The hats alone!

Prior to acquiring an Olympus Pen D half-frame camera from a friend in 1966, Cunningham worked as a milliner. Marilyn Monroe used to crack herself up, trying them on in between classes at the Actor’s Studio. The wife of a Carnegie Hall neighbor and Cunningham’s boss, fashion photographer Ray Solowinski, served as his model. After he was established as a fashion expert in his own right, Cunningham admitted that his designs were “a little too exotic – you know, for normal people”.


I think they’re wonderful, and hopefully, Bill Murray, Wes Anderson and you will agree. See below. I think they’re wonderful, and hopefully, Bill Murray, Wes Anderson and you will agree. Hats off to the inimitable Bill Cunningham, as much a fixture of New York as Carnegie Hall.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

How to Spot Bullshit: A Primer by Princeton Philosopher Harry Frankfurt

We live in an age of truthiness. Comedian Stephen Colbert coined the word to describe the Bush administration’s tendency to fudge the facts in its favor.

Ten years after the American Dialect Society named it Word of the Year, former president Bush’s calendar is packed with such leisure activities as golf and painting portraits of world leaders, but "truthiness" remains on active duty.

It’s particularly germane in this election year, though politicians are far from its only practitioners.

Take global warming. NASA makes a pretty rock solid case for both its existence and our role in it:

97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

In view of such numbers, its understandable that a suburban Joe with a freezer full of factory-farmed beef and multiple SUVs in his garage would cling to the position that global warming is a lie. It’s his last resort, really.

But such self-rationalizations are not truth. They are truthiness.

Or to use the old-fashioned word favored by philosopher Harry Frankfurt, above: bullshit!

Frankfurt--a philosopher at Princeton and the author of On Bullshit--allows that bullshit artists are often charming, or at their very least, colorful. They have to be. Achieving their ends involves engaging others long enough to persuade them that they know what they’re talking about, when in fact, that's the opposite of the truth.

Speaking of opposites, Frankfurt maintains that bullshit is a different beast from an out-and-out lie. The liar makes a specific attempt to conceal the truth by swapping it out for a lie.

The bullshit artist’s approach is far more vague. It’s about creating a general impression.

There are times when I admit to welcoming this sort of manure. As a maker of low budget theater, your honest opinion of any show I have Little Red Hen’ed into existence is the last thing I want to hear upon emerging from the cramped dressing room, unless you truly loved it.

I’d also encourage you to choose your words carefully when dashing a child’s dreams.

But when it comes to matters of public policy, and the public good, yes, transparency is best.

It’s interesting to me that filmmakers James Nee and Christian Britten transformed a portion of their learned subject’s thoughts into voiceover narration for a lightning fast stock footage montage. It’s diverting and funny, featuring such ominous characters as Nosferatu, Bill Clinton, Charlie Chaplin’s Great Dictator, and Donald Trump, but isn’t it also the sort of misdirection sleight of hand at which true bullshitters excel?

Frankfurt expands upon his thoughts on bullshit in his aptly titled bestselling book, On Bullshit and its followup On Truth.

Related Content:

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Young T.S. Eliot Writes “The Triumph of Bullsh*t” and Gives the English Language a New Expletive (1910)

Stephen Colbert Explains How The Colbert Report Is Made in a New Podcast

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

The British Library’s “Sounds” Archive Presents 80,000 Free Audio Recordings: World & Classical Music, Interviews, Nature Sounds & More

Online archives, galleries, and libraries offer Vegas-sized buffets for the senses (well two of them, anyway). All the art and photography your eyes can take in, all the music and spoken word recordings your ears can handle. But perhaps you’re still missing something? “Geordies banging spoons” maybe? Or “Tawang lamas blowing conch shell trumpets… Tongan tribesmen playing nose flutes…,” the sound of “the Assamese woodworm feasting on a window frame in the dead of night”?

No worries, the British Library’s got you covered and then some. In 2009, it “made its vast archive of world and traditional music available to everyone, free of charge, on the internet,” amounting to roughly 28,000 recordings and, The Guardian estimates “about 2,000 hours of singing, speaking, yelling, chanting, blowing, banging, tinkling and many other verbs associated with what is a uniquely rich sound archive.”

But that’s not all, oh no! The complete archive, titled simply and authoritatively “Sounds,” also houses recordings of accents and dialects, environment and nature, pop music, “sound maps,” oral history, classical music, sound recording history, and arts, literature, and performance (such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s short discourse on “Wireless,” animated in the video below).

The 80,000 recordings available to stream online represent just a selection of the British Library’s “extensive collections of unique sound recordings,” but what a selection it is. In the short video at the top of the post, The Wire Magazine takes us on a mini-tour of the physical archive’s meticulous digitization methods. As with all such wide-ranging collections, it’s difficult to know where to begin.

One might browse the range of unusual folk sounds on aural display in the World & Traditional music section, covering every continent and a daunting metacategory called “Worldwide.” For a more specific entry point, Electronic Beats recommends a collection of “around 8,000 Afropop tracks” from Guinea, recorded on “the state-supported Syliphone label” and “released between 1958 and 1984.”

Edison Disc Phonograph

Other highlights include “Between Two Worlds: Poetry & Translation,” an ongoing project begun in 2008 that features readings and interviews with “poets who are bilingual or have English as a second language, or who otherwise reflect the project’s theme of dual cultures.” Or you may enjoy the extensive collection of classical music recordings, including “Hugh Davies experimental music,” or the “Oral History of Jazz in Britain.”

The category called "Sound Maps" organizes a diversity of recordings---including regional accents, interviews with Holocaust survivors, wildlife sounds, and Ugandan folk music---by reference to their locations on Google maps.

Not all of the material in “Sounds” is sound-based. Recording and audio geeks and historians will appreciate the large collection of “Playback & Recording Equipment” photographs (such as the 1912 Edison Disc Phonograph, above ), spanning the years 1877 to 1992. Also, many of the recordings---such as the wonderful first version of “Dirty Old Town” by Alan Lomax and the Ramblers, with Ewan MacColl and Peggy Seeger (below)---feature album covers, front and back, as well as disc labels.

The recordings in the Archive are unfortunately not downloadable (unless you are a licensed member of a UK HE/FE institution), but you can stream them all online and share any of them on your favorite social media platform. Perhaps the British Library will extend download privileges to all users in the future. For now, browsing through the sheer volume and variety of sounds in the archive should be enough to keep you busy.

Related Content:

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1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die: Stream a Huge Playlist of Songs Based on the Bestselling Book

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

How to Make Sure You Get Open Culture in Your Facebook Newsfeed: Now You Can Take Control

For the longest time, Facebook gave you no ability to control what content you see in your Facebook newsfeed. Some 378,000 people have "liked" our Facebook page. But only a fraction actually see Open Culture posts in their newsfeed. That's because a Facebook algorithm started making the decisions for you, showing you material from some people/publishers, and not others.

Now, Facebook has finally introduced a new feature that will let you control what you see. Please check out the instructions below. When you're done reading them, consider giving us a Like on Facebook, and then set your newsfeed accordingly. (You get bonus points if you Follow us on Twitter too!)

  • If you're using a mobile phone, open the Facebook app, click the "More" icon along the bottom of the app, then scroll down and click "Newsfeed preferences," then click "Prioritize who to see first," and make your picks. (You can select more than one item.)
  • If you're using Facebook on a computer, click on the downward facing arrow on the top nav bar, then click "Newsfeed preferences," locate one of the people or publishers you follow, and change the setting from "Following" to "See First."

Hope all of that makes sense.

The Visionary Thought of Marshall McLuhan, Introduced and Demystified by Tom Wolfe

Marshall McLuhan and Tom Wolfe: both writers, both astute observers of modern humanity, and both public figures whose work has, over the years, enjoyed high fashionability and endured high unfashionability. You might think the connection between them ends there. But when the 100th anniversary of McLuhan's birth and the centennial-celebrating site Marshall McLuhan Speaks came about, whose eloquent introduction to the thinker (who famously declared the world a "global village" where "the medium is the message") got used there? Why, the man in white's.

In the 20-minute video above, Wolfe lays out not just a précis of the insights that made McLuhan "the first seer of cyberspace," but gets into his biography as well: his humbly respectable origins in Edmonton, his background as a literary scholar, his conversion to Catholicism, the beginnings of his teaching career in Cambridge and Wisconsin, his "extracurricular gatherings devoted to the folklore of industrial man," his struggle to reconcile his interest in the writings of philosopher-paleontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin with his own religious convictions, and the considerable fame he accrued making pronouncements on the media in the media.

"No doubt the internet would have delighted him," says Wolfe. "He would have seen it as a fulfillment of prophecies he had made thirty years before it was born, as an instrument for the realization of his dream of the mystical unity of all mankind. [Watch him predict the world would be knitted into a global village by digital technology in some vintage video.] Here, in a specific, physical, electronic form, was the seamless web of which he had so often spoken. Today thousands of young internet apostles are familiar with Marshall McLuhan, and are convinced his light shines round about them. From the editors of Wired magazine to the most miserable dot-com lizards of the chat room, they have made him their patron saint."

To get an even deeper sense of how much Wolfe has thought about McLuhan, have a look at his first annual Marshall McLuhan Lecture, delivered at Fordham University in 1999. And unlike many intellectuals who only turned back to re-examine McLuhan after the age of the internet had retroactively validated even some of his wildest-sounding speculations, Wolfe has been tuned in to McLuhan's frequency since way back. In 1970, the two even got together for a televised chat in McLuhan's back yard (a clip of which you can watch just above), which revealed that, for all the fascination Wolfe had with McLuhan, the interest was mutual.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The New Yorker Presents: Watch the 30 Minute Pilot of the New Docu-Series from The New Yorker

Note: Anyone with an Amazon account (at least in the US) can watch this pilot in HD for free here.

This week, The New Yorker officially celebrates its 90th anniversary with an expanded edition that revisits its many accomplishments since it first printed copies on February 21, 1925. Led by David Remnick, only the magazine's fifth editor, The New Yorker has a rich past. But it has a future to consider too. Recently, the magazine launched the pilot of The New Yorker Presents -- a "docu-series" that brings The New Yorker aesthetic to film. The 30-minute pilot (above, and also free on Amazon here) "features a doc from Oscar winner Jonathan Demme based on Rachel Aviv's article 'A Very Valuable Reputation,' writer Ariel Levy interviewing artist Marina Abramovic, a sketch from Simon Rich and Alan Cumming, poetry read by Andrew Garfield, and cartoons by Emily Flake."

If you like what you see, you're in luck. The show, produced by Amazon Studios, has been greenlit for a full season. According to Real Screen, the new episodes will debut exclusively on Amazon Prime's video-on-demand service in the U.S., UK and Germany later this year. When the episodes are out, we'll let you know.

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