Weekly Wrap Up — March 23

Here’s a quick recap of this week’s pieces:

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Oxford University Takes to iTunes

Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty now has an offi­cial pod­cast­ing pres­ence on iTunes, albeit a small one. It’s hard to know whether this is part of a wider uni­ver­si­ty ini­tia­tive, or whether it’s just one aca­d­e­m­ic pro­gram act­ing on its own (it seems to be the lat­ter), but you can now lis­ten to a series of four Oxford lec­tures on Old Eng­lish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture in his­tor­i­cal con­text. In short, we’re talk­ing about things medieval. Cap­tured straight from the class­room, the lec­tures are pre­sent­ed in a live­ly way by Dr. S. D. Lee. Give a lis­ten here.

Also be sure to check out our com­plete list of Uni­ver­si­ty Pod­casts.

Oodles of Google Video Documentaries

Last week, we talked about how it can be logis­ti­cal­ly dif­fi­cult to find smart videos on Google Video and YouTube. Then, this week, we stum­ble upon this: a no-frills web site called Best Online Doc­u­men­taries that aggre­gates, yes, you guessed it, high-qual­i­ty online doc­u­men­taries, almost all from Google Video. The video seg­ments are divid­ed into broad cat­e­gories (Biogra­phies, His­to­ry, Reli­gion, Sci­ence, etc), and, with­in them, you’ll find some items that deserve your time — includ­ing a his­to­ry of Byzan­tium, a biog­ra­phy of Mal­colm X, a look at Alfred Hitch­cock and his films, a pro­gram called The God Delu­sion fea­tur­ing the Oxford sci­en­tist Richard Dawkins, and, at the oth­er end of the spec­trum, a coun­ter­point British pro­gram, The Trou­ble with Athe­ism. If these pro­grams are up your alley, you can start perus­ing the larg­er col­lec­tion here.

Oth­er doc­u­men­taries and films can be found in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Movies.

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Mr. Gore Goes Back to Washington

Al Gore made a much pub­li­cized trip back to Wash­ing­ton yes­ter­day. As The New York Times describes it, “It was part sci­ence class, part pol­i­cy wonk par­adise, part pol­i­tics and all the­ater as for­mer Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore came to Con­gress … to insist that glob­al warm­ing con­sti­tutes a “plan­e­tary emer­gency” requir­ing an aggres­sive fed­er­al response.” You’ll prob­a­bly agree that it’s bet­ter to watch a speech itself than to read a report about it. So here it goes. Give your­self 37 min­utes to watch:

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The YouTube Threat to iTunes?

Medi­aShift, the PBS blog which “tracks how new media—from weblogs to pod­casts to cit­i­zen journalism—are chang­ing soci­ety and cul­ture,” has just post­ed a new piece that you’ll want to check out. The arti­cle, giv­en the snap­py title “Will Video Kill the Audio Pod­cast­ing Star? Not Exact­ly,” takes a good look at how audio pod­casts are far­ing against YouTube-style video. Right now, YouTube is all the rage, so much so that “pod­casts” almost seem passé, despite being declared the “Word of the Year” by the New Oxford Amer­i­can Dici­tionary at the end of 2005. But accord­ing to Medi­aShift’s Mark Glaser, audio pod­casts are doing just fine, in part because they’re more ver­sa­tile. And as I explain in the arti­cle, audio pod­cast­ing should gain only more trac­tion in the com­ing years.

This point deserves per­haps a bit of elab­o­ra­tion. Audio pod­casts are at an inher­ent tech­no­log­i­cal dis­ad­van­tage vis-a-vis online video. Video stream­ing takes place with­in a famil­iar web envi­ron­ment. You call up a web page (on YouTube, for exam­ple), see the video, and click play. Peo­ple know how to do that. Mean­while, access­ing a pod­cast is some­what more involved. You have to own an iPod, be famil­iar with iTunes, and know how to sync pod­casts to your iPod. Or, even more com­pli­cat­ed, you have to get com­fort­able work­ing with RSS feeds, which is no easy feat. None of this is very straight­for­ward, and that is why we recent­ly cre­at­ed a Pod­cast Primer.

Now, as I men­tioned in the arti­cle, I do fore­see the gap clos­ing, at least some­what. The iPod has been a block­buster gad­get.  It’s quick­ly pen­e­trat­ing our soci­ety, and the com­fort lev­el of work­ing with iPods and relat­ed soft­ware is ris­ing. And that means that audio pod­casts should expe­ri­ence some good growth ahead. But will audio pod­casts ever com­pete with web video? I don’t think so, and that’s because we been liv­ing in a video cul­ture for some time, and that won’t be chang­ing any­time soon.

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The New Psychology of Success

The lat­est issue of Stan­ford Mag­a­zine fea­tures an intrigu­ing arti­cle worth a lit­tle bit of your time. Car­ol Dweck, a psy­chol­o­gy pro­fes­sor at Stan­ford, has spent much of her career look­ing at the psy­cho­log­i­cal under­pin­nings of suc­cess, and her research has point­ed to one broad con­clu­sion: Those who believe their intel­li­gence is fixed — who think they’ve either got it or they don’t — tend to have dif­fi­cul­ty over­com­ing adver­si­ty and reach­ing their full poten­tial, where­as those who see their intel­li­gence and abil­i­ty as flu­id, as being the by-prod­uct of effort, end up being more resilient and bet­ter able to excel. And this applies just as much to young stu­dents in school as to adults in the work­place, or any­where else. That’s just a quick sum­ma­ry, and there’s obvi­ous­ly a bit more to it. Click here to dig a bit deep­er. Or check out Dweck­’s new book called Mind­set: The New Psy­chol­o­gy of Suc­cess.

Sep­a­rate­ly, you can lis­ten in here on a pod­cast inter­view with Dweck and her thoughts on the pscy­hol­o­gy of suc­cess.

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America’s Shadow Army in Iraq

Here is where the ide­ol­o­gy of pri­va­ti­za­tion log­i­cal­ly ends up. As part of its occu­pa­tion, the US gov­ern­ment has flood­ed Iraq with pri­vate con­trac­tors. And while some build bridges and oth­ers help pump oil, a good num­ber car­ry out mil­i­tary oper­a­tions in Amer­i­ca’s name, and they’ve posi­tioned them­selves to be sub­ject to nei­ther mil­i­tary nor civil­ian sys­tems of jus­tice. More­over, they have also stead­fast­ly refused to han­dover infor­ma­tion about their activ­i­ties to Con­gress. This inter­view on Fresh Air (iTunes Feed mp3) gives you good back­ground infor­ma­tion on Black­wa­ter USA, the Amer­i­can mer­ce­nary army oper­at­ing in Iraq appar­ent­ly with­out over­sight or account­abil­i­ty.

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The Next Fifty Years of Science, and Other Videos from Googleplex

Last week, we talked a lit­tle (here and here) about the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of find­ing enlight­ened con­tent on GooTube (Google Video + YouTube). What we did­n’t men­tion is that some of this good con­tent comes straight from Google head­quar­ters itself. This page, sim­ply titled Videos from Google­plex, cap­tures talks giv­en most­ly at cor­po­rate cen­tral, and they’re bro­ken down into three cat­e­gories: TechTalks, Authors@Google, and Mis­cel­la­neous Google Videos. While some of the videos pro­mote Google’s inter­nal life and cul­ture, oth­ers touch on sub­jects that have broad­er appeal. Like this one: Here we have Kevin Kel­ly, co-founder of Wired Mag­a­zine and for­mer edi­tor of the icon­ic Whole Earth Review, talk­ing about how the path to sci­en­tif­ic knowl­edge — how our sci­en­tif­ic method — is like­ly to change over the next 50 years. As you could well imag­ine, this kind of for­ward-look­ing think­ing is bound to res­onate at Google, but it’s easy to see it hav­ing an audi­ence beyond. Give this 49-minute video a look and see what you think. At best, you’ll take away some­thing from it. At worst, you’ll get a feel for what the folks at Google are pon­der­ing.

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