The Invention of Self: One Woman, Eight Characters

At the TED Con­fer­ence, actress Sarah Jones takes a fun­ny look at “the inven­tion of self,” which is a fan­cy way of say­ing she does some good imper­son­ations. Com­ing up, Jones imper­son­ates an elder­ly Jew­ish women, a young fast-talk­ing Domini­can col­lege stu­dent, peo­ple from var­i­ous nation­al­i­ties (Chi­na, India, France, Ger­many, Jor­dan, etc.). And it’s all mixed with some humor. Runs about 21 min­utes.

The Big List of OpenCourseWare Resources

The folks at have pro­vid­ed a very handy resource here. They’ve  sift­ed through the big Open­Course­Ware uni­verse and cen­tral­ized the resources for over 500 col­lege cours­es. In some cas­es, you’ll find audio lec­tures. In oth­er cas­es, you’ll find lec­ture notes, read­ing lists, and home­work assign­ments. This mega list makes it easy to browse through the dif­fer­ent resources with­out hav­ing to skip from one Open­Course­Ware web site to anoth­er. The page must have tak­en quite some time to put togeth­er. Very glad that they did it.

As a last note, the U&C folks were kind enough to include our col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es on their list. Here, you get audio (and some­times video) lec­tures from over 200 cours­es. Sim­ply down­load them to your com­put­er or mp3 play­er, and you’ll be trans­port­ed right to the class­room of many fine uni­ver­si­ties across the world.

Pete Seeger on “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Pete Seeger, the great Amer­i­can folk singer who turns 90 next week, sits down here with biog­ra­ph­er Alec Wilkin­son, and talks about Turn! Turn! Turn!. It’s a song that Seeger wrote in 1959, using lyrics tak­en from the Book of Eccle­si­astes in the Bible. And it was then famous­ly cov­ered by The Byrds in 1965 (watch a per­for­mance here) and that ver­sion lives on today. To see Seeger per­form­ing this tune, click here. This one is for you Bob!

via Knopf’s Twit­ter feed (Get our Twit­ter feed here)

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Who Says Music Doesn’t Make a Difference?

Out in remix cul­ture, one is nev­er sure what one will find. Take this video for exam­ple. If you watched Amer­i­can TV dur­ing the 1980s, you’re like­ly to remem­ber Dif­f’rent Strokes, a sit­com that had a kind of far-fetched premise: a rich white wid­ow­er adopts two African-Amer­i­can chil­dren from Harlem, and they live hap­pi­ly togeth­er in a pent­house with the wid­ow­er’s bio­log­i­cal daugh­ter and maid. The show’s open­ing cred­its were accom­pa­nied by an upbeat lit­tle jin­gle (watch it here). Now watch what hap­pens above when some­one lay­ers Hitch­cock style music over the orig­i­nal. How we inter­pret the video sud­den­ly does a com­plete 180. The mes­sage that leaps out is not one that we’re mak­ing light of. Not at all. We’re sim­ply fea­tur­ing the clip because it demon­strates so well how music shades the mean­ing we give to images.

PS Read­ers have added some oth­er intrigu­ing exam­ples in the com­ments below.

Peter Kauf­man comes to us from Intel­li­gent Tele­vi­sion.

Ending the University as We Know It

The most pop­u­lar arti­cle in yes­ter­day’s New York Times was an Op-Ed call­ing for a thor­ough­go­ing over­haul of the tra­di­tion­al uni­ver­si­ty. For Mark Tay­lor (chair­man of the reli­gion depart­ment at Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty), it’s time to get rid of the mass-pro­duc­tion uni­ver­si­ty mod­el — the uni­ver­si­ty that builds walls between dis­ci­plines, encour­ages aca­d­e­mics to work on often irrel­e­vant top­ics, and pro­duces an ongo­ing glut of grad­u­ate stu­dents, who work as cheap labor­ers, then have dif­fi­cul­ty find­ing full-time teach­ing jobs. So what’s the solu­tion? Tay­lor pro­pos­es six ideas: 1) Get­ting rid of free-stand­ing aca­d­e­m­ic depart­ments and mak­ing aca­d­e­m­ic work cross-dis­ci­pli­nary, 2) devel­op­ing mul­ti-dis­ci­pli­nary pro­grams that focus on “real” prob­lems, 3) increas­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion among insti­tu­tions, part­ly with the help of the inter­net, so that uni­ver­si­ties don’t have to devel­op redun­dant strengths, 4) mov­ing away from tra­di­tion­al, cita­tion-packed dis­ser­ta­tions and instead hav­ing grad stu­dents com­mu­ni­cate their research in more con­tem­po­rary dig­i­tal for­mats, 5) help­ing grad stu­dents plan for a life beyond schol­ar­ship itself, and 6) impos­ing manda­to­ry retire­ment and abol­ish­ing tenure, essen­tial­ly in order to keep fac­ul­ty respon­sive and pro­duc­tive.

What Tay­lor is sug­gest­ing is not entire­ly new. These ideas have been float­ing around for some time. But they’re pack­aged well, and they dri­ve home the point that uni­ver­si­ties, like so many oth­er tra­di­tion­al insti­tu­tions (news­pa­pers, book pub­lish­ers, fos­sil fuel-based ener­gy sys­tems, Gen­er­al Motors, etc), are increas­ing­ly feel­ing out­dat­ed. Or, put dif­fer­ent­ly, they’re not respond­ing to rapid changes in tech­nol­o­gy and the glob­al econ­o­my. There’s an old­er gen­er­a­tion that likes these insti­tu­tions pret­ty much as they are. And that gen­er­a­tion now runs them. Then, there’s a younger gen­er­a­tion learn­ing to do things in dif­fer­ent ways. And we’re left to won­der: How long will it take for these insti­tu­tions to catch up? Or will they sim­ply get out­flanked by some­thing new? As always, love to hear your thoughts.

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The Australian Screen Archive

The Aus­tralian Nation­al Film and Sound Archive pro­vides free and world­wide access to over 1,000 film and tele­vi­sion titles – a trea­sury of down-under video 100 years in the mak­ing. In a part­ner­ship with the major net­works and oth­er learn­ing orga­ni­za­tions, the Archive has com­mis­sioned expert cura­tors to anno­tate the hold­ings, which pro­vides for a rich and con­tex­tu­al­ized experience—whether one is watch­ing unique home movies of Bal­lets Russ­es stars from the 1930s or Aus­tralian films about the sav­agery of World War I. Carve out a good chunk of time and enjoy explor­ing this free resource.

Note: This is the first post by Peter Kauf­man, who heads up Intel­li­gent Tele­vi­sion and shares our pas­sion for thought­ful media. Peter will be bring­ing you intel­li­gent media in the days, weeks, and months ahead. And we’ve also got some oth­er cool projects in mind. More on that lat­er. In the mean­time, keep an eye out for Peter.

How the E‑Book Will Change the Way We Read and Write

Accord­ing to Steven John­son’s piece in The Wall Street Jour­nal, the “break­through suc­cess of Ama­zon’s Kin­dle e‑book read­er, and the mat­u­ra­tion of the Google Book Search ser­vice”  could “make 2009 the most sig­nif­i­cant year in the evo­lu­tion of the book since Guten­berg ham­mered out his orig­i­nal Bible.” John­son goes on to explain why e‑book read­ers (like the Kin­dle) will stim­u­late book sales (nev­er a bad thing for a bat­tered indus­try), and why it will also trans­form the way we find, read, talk and write about books. Def­i­nite­ly worth a quick read. And if you have more thoughts on what the dig­i­tal book uni­verse will look like, add them to the com­ments below.

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When Galaxies Collide

What will hap­pen 3 to 5 bil­lion years from now, when our galaxy will like­ly merge with the Androm­e­da galaxy? The (sound­less) video above will give you a quick pre­view. This footage from the Hub­ble Space Tele­scope offers mul­ti­ple views of recent galaxy col­li­sions. It’s worth not­ing that when galax­ies “col­lide,” they don’t lit­er­al­ly hit one anoth­er. Rather they pull on one anoth­er, as the New Sci­en­tist explains. And the grav­i­ta­tion­al force is enough to do some seri­ous vio­lence — the kind cap­tured in the footage above.

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