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)

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.

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.

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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.