How Jane Austen Changed Fiction Forever

Though Jane Austen has­n’t pub­lished a nov­el since 1817 — with her death that same year being a rea­son­able excuse — her appeal as a lit­er­ary brand remains prac­ti­cal­ly unpar­al­leled in its class. This cen­tu­ry has offered its own film and tele­vi­sion ver­sions of all her major nov­els from Sense and Sen­si­bil­i­ty to Per­sua­sion, and even minor ones like San­di­tion and Lady Susan. As for the loos­er adap­ta­tions and Austen-inspired works in oth­er media, it would be dif­fi­cult even to count them. But to under­stand why Austen endures, we must go back to Austen her­self: to nov­els, that is, and to the enter­tain­ing­ly inno­v­a­tive man­ner in which she wrote them.

At the begin­ning of her very first book says Evan Puschak, Austen “did some­thing that changed fic­tion for­ev­er.” Puschak, bet­ter known as the Nerd­writer, has in his lat­est video cho­sen Sense and Sen­si­bil­i­ty as an exam­ple with which to explain the key tech­nique that set its author’s work apart. When, in the scene in ques­tion, the dying Hen­ry Dash­wood makes his son John promise to take care of his three half-sis­ters, the younger man inward­ly resolves to him­self to give them a thou­sand pounds each. “Yes, he would give them three thou­sand pounds,” Austen writes. “It would be lib­er­al and hand­some! It would be enough to make them com­plete­ly easy. Three thou­sand pounds! He could spare so lit­tle a sum with a lit­tle incon­ve­nience.”

What, exact­ly, is going on here? Before this pas­sage, Puschak explains, “the nar­ra­tor is describ­ing the thoughts and feel­ings of John Dash­wood.” But then, “some­thing changes: it’s sud­den­ly as if we’re inside John’s mind. And yet, the point of view does­n’t change: we’re still in the third per­son.” This is a notable ear­ly exam­ple of what’s called “free indi­rect style,” which lit­er­ary crit­ic D. A. Miller describes as a “tech­nique of close writ­ing that Austen more or less invent­ed for the Eng­lish nov­el.” When she employs it, “the nar­ra­tion’s way of say­ing is con­stant­ly both mim­ic­k­ing, and dis­tanc­ing itself from, the char­ac­ter’s way of see­ing.”

In his book Jane Austen, or The Secret of Style, Miller pays a good deal of atten­tion to the lat­er Emma, with its “unprece­dent­ed promi­nence of free indi­rect style.” When, in Austen’s hand, that style “mim­ics Emma’s thoughts and feel­ings, it simul­ta­ne­ous­ly inflects them into keen­er obser­va­tions of its own; for our ben­e­fit, if nev­er for hers, it iden­ti­fies, ridicules, cor­rects all the secret van­i­ties and self-decep­tions of which Emma, pleased as Punch, remains com­i­cal­ly uncon­scious. And this is gen­er­al­ly what being a char­ac­ter in Austen means: to be slapped sil­ly by a nar­ra­tion whose con­stant bat­ter­ing; how­ev­er sat­is­fy­ing — or ter­ri­fy­ing — to read­ers, its recip­i­ent is kept from even notic­ing.” Austen may have been a nov­el­ist of great tech­ni­cal pro­fi­cien­cy and social acu­ity, but she also under­stood the eter­nal human plea­sure of shar­ing a laugh at the delu­sion­al behind their back.

Relat­ed con­tent:

An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to Jane Austen

Down­load the Major Works of Jane Austen as Free eBooks & Audio Books

15-Year-Old Jane Austen Writes a Satir­i­cal His­to­ry Of Eng­land: Read the Hand­writ­ten Man­u­script Online (1791)

This Is Your Brain on Jane Austen: The Neu­ro­science of Read­ing Great Lit­er­a­ture

Jane Austen Writes a Let­ter to Her Sis­ter While Hung Over: “I Believe I Drank Too Much Wine Last Night”

The Jane Austen Fic­tion Man­u­script Archive Is Online: Explore Hand­writ­ten Drafts of Per­sua­sion, The Wat­sons & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The US Postal Service to Release Stamp Collection Featuring the Photography of Ansel Adams

The US Postal Ser­vice will be class­ing up the joint, with the planned release of 16 stamps fea­tur­ing the pho­tog­ra­phy of Ansel Adams. They write:

Ansel Adams made a career of craft­ing pho­tographs in exquis­ite­ly sharp focus and near­ly infi­nite tonal­i­ty and detail. His abil­i­ty to con­sis­tent­ly visu­al­ize a sub­ject — not how it looked in real­i­ty but how it felt to him emo­tion­al­ly — led to some of the most famous images of America’s nat­ur­al trea­sures includ­ing Half Dome in California’s Yosemite Val­ley, the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, and Denali in Alas­ka, the high­est peak in the Unit­ed States.

Due to be unveiled on May 15th, the stamps will fea­ture icon­ic US land­scapes, includ­ing Half Dome in Yosemite Nation­al Park, Mon­u­ment Val­ley in Ari­zona, the Grand Tetons, the Snake Riv­er and more. Find more infor­ma­tion on the stamps here.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent

Ansel Adams Reveals His Cre­ative Process in 1958 Doc­u­men­tary

The Cap­ti­vat­ing Sto­ry Behind the Mak­ing of Ansel Adams’ Most Famous Pho­to­graph, Moon­rise, Her­nan­dez, New Mex­i­co

200 Ansel Adams Pho­tographs Expose the Rig­ors of Life in Japan­ese Intern­ment Camps Dur­ing WW II

Learn to Become a Digital Marketing Analyst with Unilever’s New Certificate Program

Unilever, the con­sumer goods com­pa­ny head­quar­tered in Lon­don, owns over 400 brands. Dove, Lip­ton, Ben & Jer­ry’s, Hell­man­n’s and Knorr–you know and use many of Unilever’s prod­ucts. The same goes for many peo­ple liv­ing across the globe. An esti­mat­ed 3.4 bil­lion peo­ple use Unilever prod­ucts every day. How has Unilever estab­lished such vast reach? Through mar­ket­ing. Like oth­er con­sumer prod­ucts com­pa­nies, Unilever depends on mar­ket­ing to build brand aware­ness for each prod­uct and to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them from com­peti­tors. Mar­ket­ing is part of the lifeblood of the orga­ni­za­tion, and dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing par­tic­u­lar­ly allows the com­pa­ny to thrive here in the 21st cen­tu­ry.

Hap­pi­ly, for any aspir­ing mar­keters out there, Unilever has just launched a new Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst cer­tifi­cate pro­gram. Offered on the Cours­era plat­form, the pro­gram con­sists of four cours­es (each tak­ing an esti­mat­ed 20 hours to com­plete) that focus on help­ing stu­dents build job-ready skills in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing ana­lyt­ics. The cours­es include:

  • Cus­tomer Under­stand­ing and Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Chan­nels
  • Mea­sure­ment and Analy­sis
  • Cam­paign Per­for­mance Report­ing, Visu­al­iza­tion, & Improve­ment
  • Advanced Tools for Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyt­ics

As stu­dents move through the pro­gram, they will “learn in-demand skills like data analy­sis, cus­tomer seg­men­ta­tion, and SEO opti­miza­tion.” They will also start “col­lect­ing and inter­pret­ing data to eval­u­ate the per­for­mance of dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing efforts, improve strate­gies, and con­tribute to achiev­ing mar­ket­ing goals and objec­tives.”

Stu­dents can audit each course for free, or sign up to earn a share­able cer­tifi­cate. Stu­dents who select the lat­ter option will be charged $49 per month. So, if you spend 10 hours per week, you can com­plete the 80-hour cer­tifi­cate pro­gram in two months, and pay about $100 in total.

Sign up for the Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Ana­lyst cer­tifi­cate pro­gram here.

Note: Open Cul­ture has a part­ner­ship with Cours­era. If read­ers enroll in cer­tain Cours­era cours­es and pro­grams, it helps sup­port Open Cul­ture.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Gen­er­a­tive AI for Every­one: A Free Course from AI Pio­neer Andrew Ng

Google Unveils a Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing & E‑Commerce Cer­tifi­cate: 7 Cours­es Will Help Pre­pare Stu­dents for an Entry-Lev­el Job in 6 Months

Google & Cours­era Cre­ate a Career Cer­tifi­cate That Pre­pares Stu­dents for Cyber­se­cu­ri­ty Jobs in 6 Months

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Watch the Film That Invented Cinema: Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory in Lyon (1895)

The broth­ers Auguste and Louis Lumière are often referred to as pio­neers of cin­e­ma, and their 45-sec­ond La Sor­tie de l’U­sine Lumière à Lyon, or Work­ers Leav­ing the Lumière Fac­to­ry in Lyon (1895), is often referred to as the first film. But his­to­ry turns out to present a more com­pli­cat­ed pic­ture. As pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture, Louis Le Prince’s Round­hay Gar­den Scene pre­dates the Lumière broth­ers’ work by six and a half years. But it is La Sor­tie that cin­e­ma his­to­ri­ans regard as the more impor­tant pic­ture, and indeed, as “the inven­tion of movies for mass audi­ences.”

So writes Ryan Lat­tanzio at IndieWire, who goes on to explain that “the Lumière broth­ers were among the first film­mak­ers in world his­to­ry, pio­neer­ing cin­e­mat­ic tech­nol­o­gy as well as estab­lish­ing the com­mon gram­mar of film.”

In an essay re-print­ed on Sens­es of Cin­e­ma, the direc­tor Haroun Faroc­ki frames La Sor­tie as hav­ing estab­lished the grand sub­jects like reg­i­men­ta­tion and indi­vid­u­al­i­ty with which motion pic­tures have dealt ever since. “For over a cen­tu­ry cin­e­matog­ra­phy had been deal­ing with just one sin­gle theme,” he writes. “Like a child repeat­ing for more than a hun­dred years the first words it has learned to speak in order to immor­tal­ize the joy of first speech.”

Faroc­ki also draws an anal­o­gy with “painters of the Far East, always paint­ing the same land­scape until it becomes per­fect and comes to include the painter with­in it.” And just as Hoku­sai paint­ed sev­er­al dif­fer­ent ver­sions of his famous The Great Wave off Kana­gawa, the Lumière broth­ers did­n’t shoot just one La Sor­tie, but three. Though each one may look the same at first glance to the eyes of twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry view­ers, they’re actu­al­ly dis­tin­guished by many sub­tle dif­fer­ences, includ­ing the sea­son-reflect­ing attire of the work­ers and the num­ber of hors­es draw­ing the car­riage. And so, if we choose to cred­it the Lumière broth­ers with invent­ing cin­e­ma as we know it, we must also cred­it them with  a more dubi­ous cre­ation, one we’ve come to know all too well in recent decades: the remake.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Watch the Films of the Lumière Broth­ers & the Birth of Cin­e­ma (1895)

Icon­ic Film from 1896 Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Watch an AI-Upscaled Ver­sion of the Lumière Broth­ers’ The Arrival of a Train at La Cio­tat Sta­tion

Pris­tine Footage Lets You Revis­it Life in Paris in the 1890s: Watch Footage Shot by the Lumière Broth­ers

See 21 His­toric Films by Lumière Broth­ers, Col­orized and Enhanced with Machine Learn­ing (1895–1902)

The Ear­li­est Known Motion Pic­ture, 1888’s Round­hay Gar­den Scene, Restored with Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

The His­to­ry of the Movie Cam­era in Four Min­utes: From the Lumière Broth­ers to Google Glass

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.


Kino Lorber Lets You Stream 146 Films on YouTube: Tilda Swinton, Samuel L. Jackson, Steve Buscemi, Buster Keaton & More

The film dis­tri­b­u­tion com­pa­ny Kino Lor­ber now allows you to stream com­plete films on YouTube for free. Since we first men­tioned this ini­tia­tive back in 2022, the list of stream­able films has grown. Among the now 146 films, you will find a mix­ture of doc­u­men­taries and cin­e­mat­ic works, includ­ing Derek Jar­man’s Blue; Fela Kuti: Music Is The Weapon (a doc­u­men­tary explor­ing the life and work of the African musi­cian); The Search for One-Eye Jim­my with Steve Busce­mi, Samuel L. Jack­son, and John Tur­tur­ro; Buster Keaton’s Three Ages; Gary Coop­er in A Farewell to Arms; Genius With­in: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould; and War Requiem with Til­da Swin­ton, Derek Jar­man and Lau­rence Olivi­er.

Find the list of 146 films here, or stream them all above.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

How to Watch Hun­dreds of Free Movies on YouTube

Watch 70+ Sovi­et Films Free Online, Cour­tesy of Mos­film, the Hol­ly­wood of the Sovi­et Union

Watch Free Cult Films by Stan­ley Kubrick, Fritz Lang, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi & More on the New Kino Cult Stream­ing Ser­vice

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The Armored-Knight “Robot” Designed by Leonardo da Vinci (circa 1495)

Image by Erik Möller, via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Those of us who were play­ing video games in the nine­teen-nineties may remem­ber a fun lit­tle plat­former, not tech­ni­cal­ly unim­pres­sive for its time, called Clock­work Knight. The con­cept of a clock­work knight turns out to have had some his­tor­i­cal valid­i­ty, or at least it could poten­tial­ly have been jus­ti­fied by the then-cur­rent state of Leonar­do da Vin­ci stud­ies. Back in the fifties, writes Roy­al Mont­gomery at Unchained Robot­ics, “a team of schol­ars at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia were por­ing over a num­ber of Leonar­do da Vinci’s note­books, specif­i­cal­ly the Codices Atlanti­cus and Madrid.” There they found plans for what turned out to be “a life-size mechan­i­cal knight inside a fif­teenth-cen­tu­ry Ger­man suit of armor.”

More than one gen­er­a­tion of enthu­si­asts and robot­ics spe­cial­ists have since set about re-cre­at­ing Leonar­do’s “automa­ton.” Before 2007, writes Mont­gomery, “most recon­struct­ed plans includ­ed a mechan­i­cal device in the bel­ly of the knight. It was lat­er deter­mined that this device had noth­ing to do with the knight at all — it was actu­al­ly part of a clock!”

Even if it did­n’t run on lit­er­al clock­work, Leonar­do’s knight would’ve made quite a spec­ta­cle. It “appears to have been assem­bled and dis­played for the first time at a cer­e­mo­ny held by the Prince of Milan, Ludovi­co Sforza in 1495,” and in this sole appear­ance “could sit and stand, lift its own visor, and move its arms. It was stiff, sure, but you try mov­ing grace­ful­ly in 15th cen­tu­ry armor.”

How­ev­er much it amused its aris­to­crat­ic audi­ence, Leonar­do’s sur­rep­ti­tious­ly pul­ley-and-cable-oper­at­ed “robot” would also have offered work­ing, inte­grat­ed proof of the kind of mechan­i­cal sys­tems to which he’d long put his for­mi­da­ble engi­neer­ing mind. And today, as point­ed out at the site of the Robot­ic Online Short Film Fes­ti­val, “we are fas­ci­nat­ed and ter­ri­fied in equal parts by humanoid robots for mil­i­tary pur­pos­es like Atlas, cre­at­ed by the com­pa­ny Boston Dynam­ics for DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the Unit­ed States). They are all heirs, with twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry tech­nol­o­gy, to the robot­ic sol­dier designed by Leonar­do.” The ques­tion of whether he also did any pio­neer­ing work on robot ani­mals who could dance remains a mat­ter of inquiry for future Leonar­do schol­ars.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Explore the Largest Online Archive Explor­ing the Genius of Leonard da Vin­ci

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Ele­gant Design for a Per­pet­u­al Motion Machine

The Inge­nious Inven­tions of Leonar­do da Vin­ci Recre­at­ed with 3D Ani­ma­tion

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

The Amaz­ing Engi­neer­ing of Gauntlets (Armored Gloves) from the 16th Cen­tu­ry

200-Year-Old Robots That Play Music, Shoot Arrows & Even Write Poems: Watch Automa­tons in Action

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

When the Berlin Philharmonic Performed John Cage’s Iconic Piece 4′33″, Capturing the Solitude of the Pandemic (2020)

In late Octo­ber 2020, amidst anoth­er surge of the COVID-19 virus, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment asked the Berlin Phil­har­mon­ic to close down for a month. On the eve of their clo­sure, the Phil­har­mon­ic per­formed John Cage’s mod­ernist com­po­si­tion, 4′33″, which asks per­form­ers not to play their instru­ments through­out the entire dura­tion of the piece, allow­ing the audi­ence to expe­ri­ence the some­times awk­ward, some­times unex­pect­ed sounds of silence. In this par­tic­u­lar moment, the Berlin Phil­har­mon­ic offered a poignant com­men­tary on the silence and iso­la­tion expe­ri­enced dur­ing the pan­dem­ic.

The web­site, Clas­si­cal Voice North Amer­i­ca, breaks down the per­for­mance as fol­lows: The con­duc­tor Kir­ill Petrenko “defined each of the three move­ments in 4’33” with a par­tic­u­lar affect. In the first move­ment, he seemed to be con­duct­ing a con­ven­tion­al piece that wasn’t there. In the sec­ond move­ment, his hands were posi­tioned near his face, as if ask­ing for qui­et or like a priest pro­nounc­ing a bene­dic­tion. In the third move­ment, his hands stretched toward the orches­tra, fin­gers splayed in one hand, with a search­ing facial expres­sion. He was near tears with sor­row and grief. ‘What is this? What is hap­pen­ing?’ he seemed to ask. ‘I don’t under­stand!’ ” We all felt that way at some point.

Watch the per­for­mance above.

Relat­ed Con­tent 

Watch John Cage Play His “Silent” 4′33″ in Har­vard Square, Pre­sent­ed by Nam June Paik (1973)

The Curi­ous Score for John Cage’s “Silent” Zen Com­po­si­tion 4′33″

Watch John Cage’s 4′33″ Played by Musi­cians Around the World

The Life & Work of Richard Feynman Explored in a Three-Part Freakonomics Radio Miniseries

Here at Open Cul­ture, Richard Feyn­man is nev­er far from our minds. Though he dis­tin­guished him­self with his work on the devel­op­ment of the atom­ic bomb and his Nobel Prize-win­ning research on quan­tum elec­tro­dy­nam­ics, you need no spe­cial inter­est in either World War II or the­o­ret­i­cal physics to look to him as an intel­lec­tu­al mod­el. In the years after his death in 1988, his leg­end grew as not just a sci­en­tif­ic mind but even more so as a ver­i­ta­ble per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of curios­i­ty, sur­round­ed by sto­ries (delib­er­ate­ly cul­ti­vat­ed by him in his life­time) of safe-crack­ing, bon­go-play­ing, and nude mod­el-draw­ing, to the point that Feyn­man the man became some­what hard to dis­cern.

In the view of Freako­nom­ics Radio host Stephen Dub­n­er, Feyn­man’s pub­lic pro­file has late­ly fall­en into an unfor­tu­nate desue­tude. It seems that peo­ple just don’t talk about him the way they used to, hard though that is to imag­ine for any of us who grew up read­ing col­lec­tions of anec­dotes like Sure­ly You’re Jok­ing, Mr. Feyn­man!.

Oper­at­ing on the sup­po­si­tion that we could all use more Feyn­man in our lives, Freako­nom­ics Radio has, over the past month, put out a three-part series cov­er­ing his life and work, from his recruit­ment to the Man­hat­tan Project and lat­er pub­lic analy­sis of the Chal­lenger dis­as­ter to his years teach­ing at Cal­tech to his late-in-life exper­i­men­ta­tion with psy­che­del­ic sub­stances (fur­ther explored in a fourth, bonus episode).

“The Curi­ous, Bril­liant, Van­ish­ing Mr. Feyn­man” (also avail­able on Apple and Spo­ti­fy) includes a vari­ety of inter­views with its sub­jec­t’s friends, rel­a­tives, col­lab­o­ra­tors, and suc­ces­sors. All speak high­ly of him, though some com­pli­cate the leg­end by look­ing at the down­sides of his idio­syn­crat­ic atti­tudes toward both sci­ence and the social world: his insis­tence on under­stand­ing every­thing by fig­ur­ing it out him­self from scratch may have led to him mak­ing few­er dis­cov­er­ies than he would have, had he made more use of the research of oth­ers, and his enthu­si­asm for wom­ankind, shall we say, man­i­fest­ed in ways that would prob­a­bly gen­er­ate calls for “can­cel­la­tion” today. But just as Feyn­man eschewed the label of “genius,” he nev­er claimed to be a per­fect human being. And besides, it isn’t his social incli­na­tions or even his bon­go skills we should admire, but his ded­i­ca­tion to defeat­ing “lousy ideas” — which, as he no doubt expect­ed, have only pro­lif­er­at­ed since he left us.

Relat­ed con­tent:

What Made Richard Feyn­man One of the Most Admired Edu­ca­tors in the World

The Feyn­man Lec­tures on Physics, The Most Pop­u­lar Physics Book Ever Writ­ten, Is Now Com­plete­ly Online

How Richard Feynman’s Dia­grams Rev­o­lu­tion­ized Physics

Watch a New Ani­ma­tion of Richard Feynman’s Ode to the Won­der of Life, with Music by Yo-Yo Ma

The “Feyn­man Tech­nique” for Study­ing Effec­tive­ly: An Ani­mat­ed Primer

“The Char­ac­ter of Phys­i­cal Law”: Richard Feynman’s Leg­endary Course Pre­sent­ed at Cor­nell, 1964

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

How French Artists in 1899 Envisioned What Life Would Look Like in the Year 2000

Atom­ic physi­cist Niels Bohr is famous­ly quot­ed as say­ing, “Pre­dic­tion is very dif­fi­cult, espe­cial­ly if it’s about the future.” Yet despite years of get­ting things wrong, mag­a­zines love think pieces on where we’ll be in sev­er­al decades, even cen­turies in time. It gives us com­fort to think great things await us, even though we’re long over­due for the per­son­al jet­pack and moon colonies.


And yet it’s Asi­mov who appar­ent­ly owned the only set of post­cards of En L’An 2000, a set of 87 (or so) col­lectible artist cards that first appeared as inserts in cig­ar box­es in 1899, right in time for the 1900 World Exhi­bi­tion in Paris. Trans­lat­ed as “France in the 21st Cen­tu­ry,” the cards fea­ture Jean-Marc Côté and oth­er illus­tra­tors’ inter­pre­ta­tions of the way we’d be living…well, 23 years ago.

The his­to­ry of the card’s pro­duc­tion is very con­vo­lut­ed, with the orig­i­nal com­mis­sion­ing com­pa­ny going out of busi­ness before they could be dis­trib­uted, and whether that com­pa­ny was a toy man­u­fac­tur­er or a cig­a­rette com­pa­ny, nobody seems to know. And were the ideas giv­en to the artists, or did they come up with them on their own? We don’t know.



One of the first things that stands out scan­ning through these prints, now host­ed at The Pub­lic Domain Review, is a com­plete absence of space trav­el, despite Jules Verne hav­ing writ­ten From the Earth to the Moon in 1865 (which would influ­ence Georges Méliès’ A Voy­age to the Moon in 1902). How­ev­er, the under­wa­ter world spawned many a flight of fan­cy, includ­ing a whale-drawn bus, a cro­quet par­ty at the bot­tom of the ocean, and large fish being raced like thor­ough­bred hors­es.


There are a few inven­tions we can say came true. The “Advance Sen­tinel in a Heli­copter” has been doc­u­ment­ing traf­fic and car chas­es for decades now, fed right into our tele­vi­sions. A lot of farm work is now auto­mat­ed. And “Elec­tric Scrub­bing” is now called a Room­ba.


For a card-by-card exam­i­na­tion of these future visions, one should hunt out Isaac Asimov’s 1986 Future­days: A Nine­teenth Cen­tu­ry Vision of the Year 2000, which can be found on Ama­zon right now. (Or see the nice gallery of images at The Pub­lic Domain Review.) And who knows? Maybe next year, your order will come to your door by drone. Just a pre­dic­tion.

Note: Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1922, a Nov­el­ist Pre­dicts What the World Will Look Like in 2022: Wire­less Tele­phones, 8‑Hour Flights to Europe & More

Author Imag­ines in 1893 the Fash­ions That Would Appear Over the Next 100 Years

In 1900, Ladies’ Home Jour­nal Pub­lish­es 28 Pre­dic­tions for the Year 2000

Isaac Asi­mov Pre­dicts the Future in 1982: Com­put­ers Will Be “at the Cen­ter of Every­thing;” Robots Will Take Human Jobs

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at and/or watch his films here.

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A Preview of Sora, the New OpenAI Tool That Creates Remarkable AI-Generated Videos

A lit­tle over four years ago, we fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture a set of real­is­tic images of peo­ple who don’t actu­al­ly exist. They were, as we would now assume, whol­ly gen­er­at­ed by an arti­fi­cial-intel­li­gence sys­tem, but back in 2018, there were still those who doubt­ed that such a thing could be done with­out furtive human inter­ven­tion. Now, after the release of tools like Ope­nAI’s Chat­G­PT and DALL‑E, few such doubters remain. In recent weeks, anoth­er Ope­nAI prod­uct has caused quite a stir despite hav­ing yet to be prop­er­ly released: Sora, which can use text prompts to cre­ate not just replies in kind or still images, but minute-long video clips.

“This is simul­ta­ne­ous­ly real­ly impres­sive and real­ly fright­en­ing,” says Youtu­ber Mar­ques Brown­lee in his intro­duc­tion to Sora above. He exam­ines some of the demo videos released so far by Ope­nAI, high­light­ing both their strengths and weak­ness­es.

It would be dif­fi­cult not to feel at least a lit­tle aston­ish­ment at the result Sora has pro­duced from the fol­low­ing prompt: “A styl­ish woman walks down a Tokyo street filled with warm glow­ing neon and ani­mat­ed city sig­nage. She wears a black leather jack­et, a long red dress, and black boots, and car­ries a black purse. She wears sun­glass­es and red lip­stick. She walks con­fi­dent­ly and casu­al­ly. The street is damp and reflec­tive, cre­at­ing a mir­ror effect of the col­or­ful lights. Many pedes­tri­ans walk about.”

There’s some­thing Blade Run­ner going on here, in more sens­es than one.  The not-quite-human qual­i­ties about this “footage” do stand out on clos­er inspec­tion, and in any case make the whole thing feel, as Bown­lee puts it, “a lit­tle bit… off.” But as he also empha­sizes, repeat­ed­ly, it was just a year ago that the bizarre AI-gen­er­at­ed Will Smith eat­ing spaghet­ti made the social-media rounds as a rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the state of the art. The under­ly­ing tech­nol­o­gy has clear­ly come a long, long way since then, and though the mate­r­i­al so far released by Ope­nAI may feel faint­ly awk­ward and “video-gamey,” they clear­ly show Sora’s capa­bil­i­ty to cre­ate videos plau­si­ble at first and even sec­ond glance.

This may spell trou­ble not just for those cur­rent­ly in the stock-footage busi­ness, but also for those who hap­pen to believe every­thing they watch. Brown­lee calls the impli­ca­tions “insane­ly sketchy dur­ing an elec­tion year in the US,” but he may take some com­fort in the fact that Sora is not, at the moment, avail­able to the gen­er­al pub­lic. There are also explain­ers, like the one from the Wall Street Jour­nal video above, in which AI-indus­try pro­fes­sion­al Stephen Mess­er points out the tell­tale glitch­es of AI-gen­er­at­ed video, many of which have to do with the fin­er details of physics and anato­my. And if you find your­self pay­ing unusu­al atten­tion to the con­sis­ten­cy of the num­ber dig­its on Mess­ner’s hands, just tell your­self that this is how it feels to live in the future.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Will AI Change the World?: A Cap­ti­vat­ing Ani­ma­tion Explores the Promise & Per­ils of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Cre­ates Real­is­tic Pho­tos of Peo­ple, None of Whom Actu­al­ly Exist

A New Course Teach­es You How to Tap the Pow­ers of Chat­G­PT and Put It to Work for You

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, Art & the Future of Cre­ativ­i­ty: Watch the Final Chap­ter of the “Every­thing is a Remix” Series

DALL‑E, the New AI Art Gen­er­a­tor, Is Now Open for Every­one to Use

How Peter Jack­son Used Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence to Restore the Video & Audio Fea­tured in The Bea­t­les: Get Back

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

A Walking Tour of Los Angeles Architecture: From Art Deco to California Bungalow

When archi­tec­tur­al his­to­ri­an Reyn­er Ban­ham wrote Los Ange­les: The Archi­tec­ture of Four Ecolo­gies (1971), quite pos­si­bly the most influ­en­tial book pub­lished about the South­ern Cal­i­forn­ian metrop­o­lis, he saw fit to dis­miss the cen­ter of the city with what he called “a note on down­town.” He con­cedes that it has its land­marks, like the Cathe­dral of San­ta Vib­iana and the much-filmed Brad­bury Build­ing, “one of the most mag­nif­i­cent relics of nine­teenth-cen­tu­ry com­mer­cial archi­tec­ture any­where in the world.” But he finds the urban scene that sur­rounds them hope­less­ly deplet­ed: “Many US cities have had their down­town areas fall into this kind of desue­tude,” but “in none of the oth­ers does one have quite such a strong feel­ing that this is where the action can­not pos­si­bly be.”

Things have changed since The Archi­tec­ture of Four Ecolo­gies came out more than half a cen­tu­ry ago. After count­less abort­ed attempts at revival, down­town Los Ange­les seems final­ly to have found its way to becom­ing a true city cen­ter once again.

This has to do with a num­ber of fac­tors, includ­ing its posi­tion­ing as the hub of the rail tran­sit that’s been open­ing in stages since the ear­ly nineties, its lev­els of com­mer­cial and res­i­den­tial den­si­ty at which today’s zon­ing laws make dif­fi­cult or impos­si­ble to build, and the sheer diver­si­ty of its built envi­ron­ment. In the Archi­tec­tur­al Digest video above, Los Ange­les archi­tect Valéry Augustin pro­vides a walk­ing tour of that diver­si­ty, intro­duc­ing a strik­ing build­ing from each era of the city’s devel­op­ment.

Ban­ham and Agustin agree on the impor­tance of Los Ange­les’ City Hall and Union Sta­tion. But Augustin also high­lights the Art Deco East­ern Colum­bia Build­ing, the Chur­rigueresque Mil­lion Dol­lar The­ater, and a cou­ple of major struc­tures that Ban­ham did­n’t live to see, the Broad Muse­um and Ramon C. Cortines School Of Visu­al And Per­form­ing Arts. (Notably absent is Frank Gehry’s Walt Dis­ney Con­cert Hall, whose once-shock­ing metal­lic curves have per­haps been over­ex­posed over these past cou­ple of decades.) But what­ev­er the won­ders of down­town, it’s long been argued that Los Ange­les’ has more of a pri­vate archi­tec­tur­al her­itage than a pub­lic one; to under­stand the city’s archi­tec­ture, in oth­er words, you can’t ignore its hous­es.

Hence Archi­tec­tur­al Digest’s hav­ing also put out a video in which Augustin breaks down the five most com­mon types of Los Ange­les home. These include exam­ple of the roman­ti­cized Mis­sion Revival style, the idyl­lic Cal­i­for­nia bun­ga­low, the board­walk beach house (as seen in ocean enclaves like San­ta Mon­i­ca and Venice), and more cul­tur­al­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive hous­ing forms such as bun­ga­low courts (as seen in Par­ty of Five) and post­war ding­bat apart­ments. With their broad car­ports, their play­ful­ly exot­ic names, and their box­like con­struc­tion front­ed, as Ban­ham observes, by a range of styles from “from Tacoburg­er Aztec to Wavy-Line Mod­erne, from Cod Cape Cod to un-sup­port­ed Jaoul vaults, from Gourmet Mansardic to Poly­ne­sian Gabled and even — in extrem­i­ty — Mod­ern Archi­tec­ture,” they may well be the most Los Ange­les build­ings of all.

Relat­ed con­tent:

The Sto­ry of Goo­gie Archi­tec­ture, the Icon­ic Archi­tec­tur­al Style of Los Ange­les

That Far Cor­ner: Frank Lloyd Wright in Los Ange­les – A Free Online Doc­u­men­tary

1,300 Pho­tos of Famous Mod­ern Amer­i­can Homes Now Online, Cour­tesy of USC

Take a Dri­ve Through 1940s, 50s & 60s Los Ange­les with Vin­tage Through-the-Car-Win­dow Films

Watch Randy Newman’s Tour of Los Ange­les’ Sun­set Boule­vard, and You’ll Love L.A. Too

Based in Seoul, Col­in Marshall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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