The Best of Open Culture — January

Here’s a quick recap of Jan­u­ary’s read­er favorites in case you missed them.

Lifehack for Learning Foreign Languages

langsam.jpgSee our com­plete col­lec­tion How to Learn Lan­guages for Free: Span­ish, Eng­lish, Chi­nese & 37 Oth­er Lan­guages,

Here is a quick “life­hack” for you. You can now learn for­eign lan­guages and stay cur­rent on pol­i­tics all at once. How so? By tak­ing advan­tage of a smart pod­cast con­cept being used by French and Ger­man broad­cast­ers. Radio France Inter­na­tionale (RFI) issues a dai­ly pod­cast called Le Jour­nal en français facile (iTunesfeedweb site), which deliv­ers the night­ly inter­na­tion­al news in slow and easy-to-under­stand French. Along the same lines, the Ger­man media com­pa­ny Deutsche Welle (which puts out many great lan­guage and music pod­casts) also has its own night­ly news pro­gram Langsam gesproch­ene Nachricht­en (iTunesfeedweb site). It’s essen­tial­ly the same con­cept: infor­ma­tive news pre­sent­ed in very sim­ple Ger­man, and, in this case, it’s spo­ken very slow­ly.

Now, what’s very nice about these pro­grams is that they also pro­vide a writ­ten tran­script of the spo­ken word. So you can read along as you lis­ten and make sure that you’re real­ly com­pre­hend­ing. (See tran­scripts in French and Ger­man). Even cool­er, with the Ger­man ver­sion, if you have a video iPod, you can read the tran­script on your lit­tle portable screen. (See direc­tions).

Final­ly, check out this off­beat sug­ges­tion sent our way by a read­er: Nun­tii Lati­ni (mp3web site) is “a week­ly review of world news in Clas­si­cal Latin, the only inter­na­tion­al broad­cast of its kind in the world, pro­duced by YLE, the Finnish Broad­cast­ing Com­pa­ny.”

Relat­ed Resource: See our arti­cle called “Cof­fee Break Span­ish & The Threat to Tra­di­tion­al Media

Harvard Now on iTunes: A New Model for University Podcasts?


HarvIt was only a ques­tion of when, not if. Har­vard has final­ly carved out a space, albeit a rather small one,
on iTunes. (See yes­ter­day’s press release.)  Estab­lished by the Har­vard Exten­sion School, the iTunes site cur­rent­ly fea­tures one free, full-fledged course called Under­stand­ing Com­put­ers and the Inter­net, which had pre­vi­ous­ly been issued in oth­er dig­i­tal for­mats. (See our pre­vi­ous arti­cle.) In addi­tion, you can notably access out­takes from 30 com­plete cours­es that the school will offer online, for a fee, dur­ing the spring aca­d­e­m­ic term. These cours­es fall into three neat cat­e­gories: lib­er­al arts, man­age­ment and com­put­er sci­ence.

Har­vard’s iTunes strat­e­gy is rather unique. While most major uni­ver­si­ties are sim­ply giv­ing away podcasts/information, Har­vard Exten­sion is evi­dent­ly using the Apple plat­form more for busi­ness pur­pos­es than for pub­lic ser­vice. In a vac­u­um, it’s not a bad idea. In fact, seen in a cer­tain light, it’s pret­ty savvy. Why not offer teasers to gen­er­ate more sales for sophis­ti­cat­ed online cours­es? Why not give cus­tomers a real sense of what they’re get­ting into? If there’s a prob­lem with these ideas, it’s sim­ply that they risk clash­ing with exist­ing expec­ta­tions — expec­ta­tions that uni­ver­si­ties offer pod­casts for free and for the pub­lic good. And there’s the risk that iTunes users will fail to make a crit­i­cal dis­tinc­tion between your aver­age free pod­cast, and a pod­cast that’s real­ly meant to be part of a com­plete, fee-based online course. One way or anoth­er, the busi­ness motive will like­ly raise some eye­brows. But, our guess is that Har­vard will be able to clar­i­fy the rea­son for the new mod­el, and they’ll find in iTunes, as oth­ers will too, a new and poten­tial­ly pow­er­ful way of giv­ing vis­i­bil­i­ty to cer­tain forms of online edu­ca­tion­al con­tent. Cer­tain­ly, ven­tures like the Teach­ing Com­pa­ny should be giv­ing this mod­el a seri­ous look.

For more pod­casts, see our uni­ver­si­ty pod­cast col­lec­tion and also our com­plete pod­cast col­lec­tion here.

45 Free Cutting-Edge Books … Courtesy of Creative Commons

Yes­ter­day, we alert­ed you to the free audio and text ver­sions of Lawrence’s Lessig’s book, Free Cul­ture: How Big Media Uses Tech­nol­o­gy and the Law to Lock Down Cul­ture and Con­trol Cre­ativ­i­ty. Today, we’re point­ing you to a larg­er col­lec­tion of high-qual­i­ty books (45 in total) that you can down­load legal­ly thanks to Lessig’s Cre­ative Com­mons. The trove includes a good mix of gen­res. In fic­tion, you’ll find three works by sci-fi writer and blog­ger Cory Doc­torow — East­ern Stan­dard Tribe, Some­one Comes To Town, Some­one Leaves Town and Down and Out in the Mag­ic King­dom. Under non-fic­tion, you can freely access Gamer The­o­ry by McKen­zie Wark (Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty Press), Democ­ra­tiz­ing Inno­va­tion by Eric von Hip­pel (MIT Press), Yochai Ben­kler’s The Wealth of Net­works (Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press), and Dan Gilmor’s We the Media: Grass­roots Jour­nal­ism by the Peo­ple, For the Peo­ple. Final­ly, on the “how-to” side of things, you’ll stum­ble upon titles along the lines of 55 Ways to Have Fun With Google. Not a bad col­lec­tion of works, and cer­tain­ly worth the price.

Most of these books are issued in tra­di­tion­al print ($$$) and free down­load ver­sions, which rais­es the obvi­ous ques­tion: does this make any busi­ness sense for pub­lish­ers, let alone authors? Lawrence Lessig, who ini­ti­at­ed the con­cept, asserts that it does, not­ing that more read­ers who access the free down­load copy will ulti­mate­ly buy the print ver­sion than those who don’t. Or, put more sim­ply: the con­verts will exceed can­ni­bals, which results in a win-win-win-win sit­u­a­tion. The read­ers win one way or anoth­er; the authors and pub­lish­ers win; soci­ety wins; and so does the free flow of infor­ma­tion. What more can you want?

Norman Mailer’s Fuhrer in MultiMedia


Mailer
Nor­man Mail­er, now 84 years old, has just pub­lished his first nov­el in a decade. And what becomes imme­di­ate­ly clear is that age has done lit­tle to stop Mail­er from tak­ing his trade­mark lit­er­ary risks. Just as he felt free to inhab­it the mind of Jesus in The Gospel Accord­ing to the Son (1997), he has now dared to get deep inside anoth­er world-his­tor­i­cal fig­ure, the anti-Christ fig­ure of the last cen­tu­ry, Adolph Hitler. Nar­rat­ed by a min­ion of Satan, who oth­er­wise masqua­rades as a for­mer SS offi­cer named Dieter, The Cas­tle in the For­est takes a Freudi­an look at Hitler’s youth and his tan­gled famil­ial rela­tion­ships. But how well Mail­er pulls it off is open to debate. Up front, it’s worth men­tion­ing that you can freely access the first chap­ter of the new book and start judg­ing for your­self. And, for that mat­ter, you can also get Mail­er’s own take on the book in this NPR inter­view. How­ev­er, if you want some guid­ance before decid­ing whether to plunge into this lengthy book (450+ pages), you can check out the reviews that have start­ed rolling out. So far, assess­ments are mixed: The audio pod­cast issued by The New York Times Book Review (which is itself based on a thought­ful review appear­ing in print) con­sid­ers Mail­er’s lat­est to be among his best. But it’s an opin­ion that stands some­what alone, at least so far. The reviews in The Wash­ing­ton Post and the Eng­lish ver­sion of Ger­many’s Spiegel Online take less glow­ing posi­tions, and, as you’d expect, the crit­i­cism is more stri­dent and polit­i­cal­ly-charged over in Europe, Ger­many in par­tic­u­lar.

Final­ly, we leave you with this — Mail­er read­ing from his new work, describ­ing the con­cep­tion of Hitler, as told from the dev­il’s per­spec­tive, in some­what racy terms. (NOTE: the video qual­i­ty is very Youtube-esque, but it gets the job done):
 

Digital MBA: America’s Best Business Schools on Your iPod

WhartonIs it some­thing of an odd­i­ty to see the words of famous philoso­phers and his­to­ri­ans get­ting dig­i­tized

and down­loaded to iPods every­where? Sure it is, and that’s why we gen­er­al­ly like talk­ing about human­i­ties pod­casts. But is it strange to think of Amer­i­ca’s lead­ing busi­ness schools carv­ing out a space on iTunes and bring­ing their ideas to an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence? Hard­ly. For schools whose suc­cess depends on being close­ly tied to the pulse of Amer­i­can and glob­al audi­ences, get­ting involved with pod­cast­ing is a no brain­er.

Let’s take a brief tour of what Amer­i­ca’s top b‑schools are up to these days, start­ing with The Whar­ton School of The Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia. Launched about a year ago, this pod­cast col­lec­tion (iTunesFeedWeb Site) is an off­shoot of the school’s online busi­ness jour­nal called “Knowledge@Wharton.” And what you get here are “audio arti­cles” that fea­ture high-pro­file exec­u­tives and fac­ul­ty, includ­ing sev­er­al that high­light stock mar­ket guru Jere­my Siegel. Some of these pod­casts focus on time­less b‑school issues (strat­e­gy, inno­va­tion, merg­ers, alliances, etc.). Oth­ers explore more time­ly ques­tions: New Mod­els for TV and Inter­net, What Makes an Online Com­mu­ni­ty Tick?, and Which New Tech Com­pa­nies Are Inno­vat­ing Most?. Most are worth your time.

From Philadel­phia, we move to Har­vard in Cam­bridge. This pod­cast col­lec­tion, known as HBR Idea­Cast (iTunes  Feed), is also close­ly aligned with the school’s busi­ness jour­nal, the famed Har­vard Busi­ness Review. And, here again, you get well-pro­duced audio seg­ments that offer insights on key issues in today’s busi­ness world, whether it’s how to do busi­ness in Chi­na, how to be an effec­tive and resilient leader, or how to adapt to very new trends in e‑commerce.

Mov­ing south to the Research Tri­an­gle, we vis­it Duke’s Fuqua School of Busi­ness (iTunesWeb Site), which has the begin­nings of what promis­es to be a strong audio col­lec­tion. While you’ll want to give the most time to the fair­ly robust Dis­tin­guished Speak­er Series, you may want to peruse the MBA Lead­er­ship and Mar­ket­ing Expe­ri­ence series as well. Also in the same gen­er­al vicin­i­ty is anoth­er col­lec­tion worth a good look. It’s from the Dar­d­en School of Busi­ness at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Vir­ginia (iTunesFeedWeb Site)

By now, you prob­a­bly have a good sense of what you can gen­er­al­ly expect to find in these col­lec­tions. So let’s briefly leave you with two last ones. First, the com­pi­la­tion assem­bled by The Uni­ver­si­ty of Chica­go Grad­u­ate School of Busi­ness (iTunes  Feed  Web Site). Among oth­ers, you’ll encounter talks by Nobel Prize win­ner Gary Beck­er and also Steven Levitt, the co-author of the recent best­seller Freako­nom­ics. Last­ly, we end at Stan­ford and its series called “Entre­pre­neur­ial Thought Lead­ers,” which gives you access to what Sil­i­con Val­ley has in no short sup­ply — entre­pre­neurs, includ­ing ones from Google, Genen­tech, and Juniper Net­works. Click. Down­load. Sync. And you’ll be in busi­ness.

For more pod­casts, see our uni­ver­si­ty pod­cast col­lec­tion and also our  com­plete pod­cast col­lec­tion here.

The Sundance Film Festival on iTunes and YouTube


It’s old news that the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val has gone cor­po­rate. Some still protest that fact.
Oth­ers accept it, see­ing it as an unavoid­able real­i­ty in an era when even our sports sta­di­ums bear cor­po­rate names. And yet still oth­ers choose to focus on the good that comes along with the bad. One upside to the cor­po­ra­ti­za­tion of Sun­dance is the slick media that the fes­ti­val orga­niz­ers have made freely avail­able on iTunes this year. Since the fes­ti­val start­ed on Jan­u­ary 18th, Sun­dance has released a series of video pod­casts on iTunes that fea­ture direc­tors and screen­writ­ers talk­ing can­did­ly about their new­ly released films. Most of these videos run 3–4 min­utes in dura­tion. How­ev­er there are a cou­ple offer­ings that last a good hour. Gen­er­al­ly speak­ing, you’ll want to have a nice broad­band con­nec­tion to make these down­loads fair­ly quick and pain­less, and, from there, you can either sync them to your iPod, or just watch them on your desk­top with iTunes (you can down­load iTunes for free here).

Sep­a­rate­ly, iTunes is also mak­ing avail­able for a small fee ($1.99 each) a total of 32 short films that have been pre­sent­ed at this year’s fes­ti­val. But, let us offer you this small tip: these videos can be streamed at no cost from the Sun­dance web site.

Final­ly, on to YouTube. The poster child of the Web 2.0 move­ment, YouTube has cre­at­ed a chan­nel ded­i­cat­ed to the Sun­dance fes­ti­val. And here vis­i­tors can find dai­ly video cov­er­age of the fes­ti­val, inter­views with film­mak­ers, and video blogs that cap­ture the fes­ti­val expe­ri­ence from the van­tage point of inde­pen­dent film­mak­ers. To give you a feel for what you’ll find in the YouTube chan­nel, we’ve post­ed a sam­ple video, which fea­tures film­mak­er Arin Crum­ley review­ing (with some salty lan­guage, hence caveat emp­tor) the short films shown on Day 2 of the fes­ti­val:

Enlightenment on iTunes: The Philosophy of Immanuel Kant

KantFor those who dug our recent piece on UC Berke­ley’s 59 cours­es avail­able on iTunes, here’s anoth­er lit­tle item for you. Susan Stu­art, a lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Glas­gow, recent­ly taught a course on the epis­te­mol­o­gy (or the­o­ry of knowl­edge) of the great Ger­man philoso­pher, Immanuel Kant. And fig­ur­ing that it might help her stu­dents if she record­ed these lec­tures, she put on a lapel mic and did her thing. Then, as fate would have it, her lec­tures were loaded onto iTunes (iTunesrss feedweb site) and, not unlike Lars Brown­worth’s lec­tures on the Byzan­tine World, they went viral and became iTunes’ #1 edu­ca­tion­al pod­cast for a while. The record­ings have a home­grown feel to them. But they get the job done if you’re up for grap­pling with Kan­t’s dif­fi­cult but foun­da­tion­al phi­los­o­phy.

If you want more infor­ma­tion on these pod­casts, here’s the writ­ten pref­ace that comes along with the taped course.

“Kant wrote exten­sive­ly on all major top­ics of intel­lec­tu­al inter­est. In terms of the pub­li­ca­tion of major texts his most pro­lif­ic peri­od was 1781 to 1790. In the domains of epis­te­mol­o­gy and meta­physics he pub­lished the Cri­tique of Pure Rea­son in 1781, with a sec­ond edi­tion in 1787. In the domain of ethics he pub­lished the Ground­work of the Meta­physics of Morals in 1785 and the Cri­tique of Prac­ti­cal Rea­son in 1788. In the domain of asthet­ics he pre­sent­ed his the­o­ry in 1790 in the form of the Cri­tique of Judg­ment. As a form of short­hand the three Cri­tiques are known as the First, Sec­ond, and Third, respec­tive­ly. In the first Cri­tique Kant deals with how we come to under­stand our world; in the sec­ond Cri­tique he deals with prac­ti­cal rea­son and how we act in our world; and in the third Cri­tique he attempts to show a sys­tem­at­ic con­nec­tion between the first two. So, the first deals with how we think about our sen­si­ble world, the sec­ond deals with how we act in it, and the third sup­plies a link between the two in terms of felt judge­ment. In the first he draws togeth­er our inner expe­ri­ence with our nec­es­sary per­cep­tion of an exter­nal world. He com­bines per­cep­tion and under­stand­ing through the appli­ca­tion of the pro­duc­tive imag­i­na­tion in such a way as to make judge­ments pos­si­ble. He links the First and the Third Cri­tiques by argu­ing that aes­thet­ic judg­ments, that is, judge­ments about what is beau­ti­ful or sub­lime, derive from our deter­mi­na­tion to impose order on our sen­so­ry expe­ri­ence. Thus, aes­thet­ics is just like math­e­mat­ics: it attempts to find uni­ty in expe­ri­ence. So, each of the Cri­tiques is con­cerned with judge­ment, judge­ments of rea­son, moral judge­ments, and aes­thet­ic judge­ments.”

See our com­plete list of uni­ver­si­ty pod­casts here, and our larg­er pod­cast col­lec­tion here.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.