Kurt Vonnegut in Second Life

We’re not exact­ly break­ing news here today in men­tion­ing that author Kurt Von­negut has passed away. (Get the NY Times obit here.) In mem­o­ry of the writer, we thought that we’d present a fit­ting­ly uncon­ven­tion­al inter­view that was con­duct­ed last year in Sec­ond Life. (And, by the way, the irony of talk­ing today about a Von­negut inter­view in some­thing called Sec­ond Life is not exact­ly lost on us. Let’s hope that he’ll indeed have one.)

Touring Great Cities with Podcasts

The iPod is not just for groov­ing to music any­more. Muse­ums are using pod­casts to help vis­i­tors bet­ter explore their
art col­lec­tions (See our relat­ed arti­cle). Uni­ver­si­ties are doing the same for their cam­pus­es (see UC Berke­ley’s tour on iTunes). Doc­tors are now using iPods to improve their stetho­scope skills. And, trav­el­ers can now use them to tour through the great cities and coun­tries of the world.

Along these lines, a ven­ture called Sound­walk pro­vides engag­ing, some­what off­beat audio tours of New York and Paris. In New York, they offer indi­vid­ual tours of Lit­tle Italy, the Low­er East Side, Times Square and the Meat Pack­ing Dis­trict. They also get into Brook­lyn and the Bronx. Mean­while, in Paris, they take you through the Marais, St. Ger­main, Pigalle, Belleville, and the Palais Roy­al. Each tour is nar­rat­ed by fit­ting fig­ures. The writer Paul Auster leads you through Ground Zero in New York. Vin­ny Vel­la, who has played roles in The Sopra­nos and Mar­tin Scorce­se’s Casi­no, takes you through Chi­na­town. To get a feel for whether it’s the right kind of expe­ri­ence for you, Sound­walk lets you lis­ten to a sam­ple of each tour. Unlike most things that we fea­ture on Open Cul­ture, these audio files are not free. They’ll run you $12 a piece. But in the scheme of a big trip, it may be worth the cost.

Now if you’re look­ing for free trav­el pod­casts, then you’ll want to give some time to Trav­el with Rick Steves (iTunesFeedWeb Site). Some recent episodes look at Sici­ly, Spain, Cuba and Mex­i­co. You can also find a sep­a­rate col­lec­tion ded­i­cat­ed to trav­el­ing in Paris and its envi­rons (iTunes). Lis­ten­ers give these pod­casts high marks.

See all of Open Cul­ture’s Pod­cast Col­lec­tions:

Arts & Cul­tureAudio BooksFor­eign Lan­guage LessonsNews & Infor­ma­tionSci­enceTech­nol­o­gyUni­ver­si­ty (Gen­er­al)Uni­ver­si­ty (B‑School)Pod­cast Primer

Podcasts for Slower, Better Thinking

LongnowWe live in a moment when every­thing — includ­ing some­times think­ing itself — gets done fast and on the cheap. The Long Now
hopes to change all of that, to encour­age “slower/better” think­ing that fos­ters more respon­si­bil­i­ty. To ful­fill this mis­sion, the foun­da­tion runs a month­ly speak­ing series host­ed by Stew­art Brand, cre­ator of the icon­ic The Whole Earth Cat­a­log and author of How Build­ings Learn and The Clock of the Long Now. You can access the series via pod­cast (get feed here) and lis­ten in on some excel­lent talks — talks with Jim­my Wales (Wikipedia founder), Chris Ander­son (author of The Long Tail), Sam Har­ris (Let­ter to a Chris­t­ian Nation), Bri­an Eno (musi­cian), and Jared Dia­mond (Guns, Germs and Steel). And while you’re at it, you may want to spend some time with the accom­pa­ny­ing blog.

If you’re used to access­ing pod­casts through iTunes, you can read our pod­cast primer and we’ll explain how to access the feed not­ed above with the Apple soft­ware.

For more think­ing pod­casts, check out our Arts & Cul­ture Pod­cast Col­lec­tion.

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E‑learning Programs from Top American Universities

      Online learn­ing — or e‑learning — has gone from being fair­ly uncom­mon to fair­ly wide­spread over the past five years. But, a quick look at the list of uni­ver­si­ties offer­ing online cours­es reveals that it’s most­ly sec­ond and third tier schools that have entered the online mar­ket, and gen­er­al­ly not lead­ing col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. At some point, we’ll get around to dis­cussing why the lead­ers have large­ly balked at the prospect of going online. But, for today, our mis­sion is to high­light some instances in which lead­ing schools have start­ed exper­i­ment­ing with e‑learning, and we’ll grow this list over time. Let’s start with 10 exam­ples.
  • Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty — Teach­ers Col­lege
    • Through this pro­gram geared for edu­ca­tors, you can obtain online cer­tifi­cates in the fol­low­ing areas: Teach­ing and Learn­ing with Tech­nol­o­gy, Design­ing Inter­ac­tive Mul­ti­me­dia Instruc­tion, & Cog­ni­tion and Tech­nol­o­gy. Click for more info.
  • Duke Uni­ver­si­ty — Exec­u­tive MBA
    • Duke’s Fuqua School of Busi­ness offers an Exec­u­tive MBA pro­gram that takes place most­ly online. (Note: the pro­gram does also include short vis­its to cam­pus.) The expec­ta­tion is that you’d spend 15–25 hours per week using Inter­net-enabled tech­nol­o­gy to com­plete your course­work.
  • eCor­nell
    • Estab­lished and whol­ly-owned by Cor­nell Uni­ver­si­ty, eCor­nell pro­vides online cours­es in the areas of strat­e­gy, lead­er­ship and man­age­ment devel­op­ment, human resources, finan­cial man­age­ment, and hos­pi­tal­i­ty man­age­ment. Stu­dents par­tic­i­pat­ing in the pro­gram can receive one of a num­ber of cer­tifi­cates. See course cat­a­logue.
  • Har­vard Sum­mer School
    • High school and col­lege stu­dents can now take sum­mer school cours­es at Har­vard via the inter­net and get col­lege cred­it. Cours­es include Neu­ro­bi­ol­o­gy, Intro­duc­tion to Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions, and oth­ers. Get more info here.
  • Johns Hop­kins — Cen­ter for Tal­ent­ed Youth
    • Geared for stu­dents between grades 5 and 12, this pro­gram com­ing out of Johns Hop­kins “began offer­ing dis­tance cours­es in 1983 with assis­tance from the Nation­al Endow­ment for the Human­i­ties. The pro­gram has now grown to more than 7,000 enroll­ments year­ly, with stu­dents through­out the Unit­ed States and more than 60 coun­tries.”
  • MIT — Sys­tem Design and Man­age­ment
    • Spon­sored by MIT’s Sloan School of Man­age­ment and the School of Engi­neer­ing, the SDM pro­gram lasts 24 months and cul­mi­nates in a Mas­ter of Sci­ence degree in Engi­neer­ing and Man­age­ment. Most of the grad­u­ate pro­gram takes place online. How­ev­er, there are some on-cam­pus require­ments. Click for more infor­ma­tion.
  • Stan­ford Uni­ver­si­ty
    • Mas­ters Pro­grams — Through Stan­ford, you can earn Mas­ter’s degrees entire­ly online in the fol­low­ing areas: Bio­med­ical Infor­mat­ics, Com­put­er Sci­ence, Elec­tri­cal Engi­neer­ing, Man­age­ment Sci­ence and Engi­neer­ing, and Mechan­i­cal Engi­neer­ing. Get more info here.
    • Writ­ing Pro­gram — Cre­at­ed by a part­ner­ship between Stan­ford’s Steg­n­er Writ­ing Pro­gram and Stan­ford Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies, this pro­gram allows stu­dents any­where to take top flight writ­ing work­shops online.

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New SciFi and Horror Podcasts

Here’s a lit­tle ear can­dy for the fan of adven­ture­some lit­er­a­ture. Over the past week, Escape­pod (iTunesFeedWeb Site) released anoth­er one of its pop­u­lar short sto­ries, “Start The Clock.” You’ll also find in the feed (and pre­sum­ably soon on iTunes) an audio ver­sion of Isaac Asi­mov’s “Night­fall,” which was pub­lished first in 1941, in Astound­ing Sci­ence Fic­tion. Great com­bo here of new and old.

Next, Pseudo­pod (iTunesFeedWeb Site), the world’s first audio hor­ror mag­a­zine, has issued two new sto­ries in recent weeks: Stephanie Bur­gis’ “Stitch­ing Time” and Dave Thompson’s “Last Respects.” We think you’ll like them. (Thanks to Boing­Bo­ing for the heads up on these.)

Final­ly, we want­ed to high­light Stranger Things, (iTunesFeedWeb Site). This series fea­tures sto­ries of ordi­nary peo­ple stum­bling into strange worlds (a la The Twi­light Zone). This is not just your every­day pod­cast. The sto­ries are cre­ative, and they’re told/acted out in very high qual­i­ty video. This puts it on the cut­ting-edge of what’s being done with pod­cast­ing. Def­i­nite­ly have a look.

Oth­er free audio books with­in these gen­res:

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Sopranos — All 6 Seasons Recapped in a 7 Minute Video

The first episode of the sev­enth and final sea­son of the Sopra­nos aired last night. If you can’t quite remem­ber all the plot­lines that brought us from Sea­son 1 to this point, then give this snap­py lit­tle video a quick look. It boils down six sea­sons in sev­en min­utes. Don’t blink. You might miss some­thing. (Note: Like The Sopra­nos, this sum­ma­ry has strong/adult con­tent. If this is not your thing, then skip it.)

P.S. 60 min­utes just aired a seg­ment on the Sopra­nos. You may want to check it out.

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The Art of Blogging

If you live in the Bay Area and want to sharp­en your blog­ging skills, you may want to check out this one-day work­shop being offered in Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies pro­gram.

The work­shop, The Art of Blog­ging, will be held on April 21 on Stan­ford’s cam­pus, and it will be led by Tim Grieve, the pri­ma­ry writer and edi­tor of Salon.com’s War Room, one of the most wide­ly read polit­i­cal blogs in the US.

Below you can find a com­plete descrip­tion of what ground will be cov­ered, and, if you’re inter­est­ed, you can sign up here. Or, if you have any ques­tions, feel free to drop me a line since I help run Stan­ford’s pro­gram.

Work­shop Descrip­tion

Not so long ago, most of us had nev­er heard of the word “blog”. Now, it seems that almost every­one has one. But set­ting up a home page on the Inter­net doesn’t make you a suc­cess­ful blog­ger any more than buy­ing a type­writer makes you a suc­cess­ful writer. This work­shop is designed for peo­ple inter­est­ed in blog­ging not just as an out­let for cre­ativ­i­ty, but also as a way to write effec­tive­ly online and engage with a com­mu­ni­ty of read­ers.

In this one-day work­shop, we will cov­er the tech­no­log­i­cal nuts and bolts of cre­at­ing a blog, but we will focus more on how to build a blog that peo­ple actu­al­ly want to read. We will talk about and exper­i­ment with the writ­ing styles that seem to work best for blogs; we will dis­cuss ways to craft posts that attract atten­tion from oth­er blog­gers; we will talk about how to build traf­fic for a blog; and we will cov­er the eth­i­cal mores that good blog­gers fol­low and expect oth­ers to observe. Along the way, we will cre­ate our own blog, one on which par­tic­i­pants can con­tin­ue our con­ver­sa­tion long after the course is done.

Weekly Wrap Up — April 08

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

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.