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.

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.

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.

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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.