I happened upon an excellent website today (it seems the web grows richer in interesting destinations by the day) at www.oculture.com. The "o" in oculture stands for open, and the site serves as a collection and synthesis of the available free academic content on the web. Increasingly, it turns out, prestigious universities in the vein of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and UC Berkeley are offering recorded lectures from their courses on itunes. The recordings can be downloaded as podcasts, free of charge, and listened to at your liesure. The experience of downloading the lectures returned me immediately to Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting, reminding that uppity pony-tailed grad student that he'd "spent a hundred and fifty grand on an education he could have got for 3 bucks in late charges at the public library". And really, why should America's finest educators be the sole province of its most priveleged? Or, even assuming the selection process of elite universities is a meritocracy (which it surely isn't), why shouldn't the best minds and ideas have a broader audience? Particularly when technology makes for such a useful vehicle for those ideas. What an excellent step in the direction of that most ultimate of liberties: the democratisation of information. This (and not the sordid cameraphone shots of hanged dictators) is precisely the sort of outstanding convergence of free speech and technology we imagined the internet would bring to us. Power to the people indeed.
I'm starting out with a Berkeley course: "U.S. Foreign Policy after 9/11" taught by Harry Kreisler
You can DL it at: