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Give Your Brain a Workout
January 23, 2008 5:01 AM   Subscribe

Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls? Check out Big Think ("YouTube for Smarty Pants") and FORA.tv ("A hipper, Web-based version of C-SPAN"). Give your brain a workout! (Via, and earlier)
posted by NotMyselfRightNow (28 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
So I checked out Big Think when it appeared in the Times - before I clicked a single video, one very specific thing jarred me: whitest. Demographic. Evar.

I am not saying that is necessarily a dealbreaker, but my visceral reaction was "oh, good, I wondered what the privileged white folks have to say in this new media space."

I mean 0 people of color. Still. So do I dive in and try and ignore the demographic homogeneity or stick with cats humping crudely drawn cartoons and kids in basements with sequencers?

Also, the content seems a little soft-pedaled. "Why am I a Vegan" and "How has Washington Changed" ain't no NOVA. Seems closer to New Scientist...
posted by abulafa at 5:16 AM on January 23, 2008


Big Think kind of reminds me of this Ask MetaFilter question.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:23 AM on January 23, 2008


abulafa, I think I have the site for you.
posted by danb at 5:32 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I mean 0 people of color. Still. So do I dive in and try and ignore the demographic homogeneity or stick with cats humping crudely drawn cartoons and kids in basements with sequencers?
posted by abulafa at 8:16 AM on January 23


Actually, I'm scanning through it quickly and there are a number of non-white experts featured. Peter Gomes, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Stephen Carter, Deepak Chopra, Dalia Mogahed...
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 5:40 AM on January 23, 2008


Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?

Nope.
posted by fiercecupcake at 5:40 AM on January 23, 2008 [6 favorites]


Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?

No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by The Deej at 5:41 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


abulafa: I can't say if there were when you looked at the site, but at this point there are contributions from non-white people: here, here, and here, for example. You're obviously right that the contributors are mostly white, but then so are the contributors to the paper you first read about the site in. The content of almost every "media space" is made up of "what the priveleged white folks have to say," so complaining that Big Think is as well is rather boring.
posted by electric water kettle at 5:56 AM on January 23, 2008


The content of almost every "media space"

Almost every "media space" in/from the US, I should have said.
posted by electric water kettle at 5:58 AM on January 23, 2008


Depends on what type of cat, for me, running into what type of wall.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:07 AM on January 23, 2008


> "A hipper, Web-based version of C-SPAN"

That makes as much sense as selling the world's sexiest pocket protector.
posted by ardgedee at 6:10 AM on January 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?

I cn has lolcats?
posted by zorro astor at 6:18 AM on January 23, 2008


I cn has lolcats?

Way to pick up on an obscure, underground counter-cultural reference there. Clearly you have your ear to the ground.
posted by signal at 6:26 AM on January 23, 2008


Finally! A media outlet for Deepak Chopra!
posted by bicyclefish at 6:37 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is really cool - either one of these sites would make a notable FPP but two in one is a real bargain. Between these and BookTV and the Charlie Rose archives, I have enough intellectual video to last a lifetime. Oh and all the University open courseware, PBS archives, BBC, etc.. make it stop.
posted by stbalbach at 6:38 AM on January 23, 2008


There's no shortage of political content, even (or especially) in video form. So I click over to Science & Technology. "Politics 2.0: How technology is changing politics."

Thanks, Big Thinkers! You've certainly managed to expand the dialog. You can talk about a single issue from a multitude of directions!
posted by DU at 6:39 AM on January 23, 2008


complaining that Big Think is as well is rather boring.
I never find complaining boring. No matter how mildly or conscientiously I phrase an issue, there's always some reasonable folks eager to bodycheck me into the far end of one political spectrum or another.

I'll look deeper and hope my first impression is mistaken. (Anna Deavere Smith just showed up on the the front page...)
posted by abulafa at 6:52 AM on January 23, 2008


meh. give me the cats.
posted by photoslob at 6:59 AM on January 23, 2008


abulafa, take a look at some MetaFilter meetup photosets..
posted by Chuckles at 7:27 AM on January 23, 2008


Way to pick up on an obscure, underground counter-cultural reference there. Clearly you have your ear to the ground.

It was meant to be recursively amusing.
posted by zorro astor at 8:12 AM on January 23, 2008


The way you state it in the fpp, you would think "cats running into walls" is a bad thing...
posted by Doohickie at 8:23 AM on January 23, 2008


Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?

God no. And neither is Stanford University.

(This video will make you laugh out loud. Honest.)
posted by rtha at 9:15 AM on January 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?

Please provide links.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:16 AM on January 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


...Tired of video sites that are 99% cats running into walls?
Please provide links.


www.wallhackcats.com

On preview: Oh, sorry, that's not what you wanted.
posted by FissionChips at 4:40 PM on January 23, 2008


No matter how mildly or conscientiously I phrase an issue, there's always some reasonable folks eager to bodycheck me into the far end of one political spectrum or another.

I find this pretty hard to parse, but since there were no other replies to your post, are you trying to say that mine was an attack from the political right? You wrote, in so many words, that there can't be anything interesting on Big Think because most/all of its contributors are white. That's not a "mild" position, number one, and number two, I don't think I have to be a Republican to say that if you're going to take it with respect to Big Think, you ought to take it w/r/t the New York Times as well, not to mention most other US media that attend to similar constellations of subjects.
posted by electric water kettle at 4:51 PM on January 23, 2008


I think I'm trying to say that no matter how mildly I phrase any criticism, someone (in this case, you) is willing to presume I said things I didn't, or focus myopically on one part of a larger post in order to place my point of view at the far end of a spectrum to what appear to be their own ends.

It feels like you're presuming I made a causal connection between "Hey, everyone here looks the same" and "These subjects seem sorta vapid" which you'll find, I believe, are presented as two separate thoughts separated by the word "also."

Your reaction would suggest that you need me to be at a particularly shrill white-liberal-guilt end of the spectrum being willfully ignorant of any possible hypocrisy in the criticism I raise. I don't know which one of us has to be a Republican for that to be the case, if any.

Your assertion that somehow the fact that the context we are having this discussion in, and the first world that establishes it, and the estates which serve those powers all suffer the same apparent homogeneity which gave me pause at first blush seems like the beginning of a discussion rather than a means to dismiss one as 'boring'.

I guess we're bored by different things.
posted by abulafa at 5:54 PM on January 23, 2008


It feels like you're presuming I made a causal connection between "Hey, everyone here looks the same" and "These subjects seem sorta vapid" which you'll find, I believe, are presented as two separate thoughts separated by the word "also."

No, I didn't think you were making a connection between those thoughts. "There can't be anything interesting on Big Think because most/all of its contributors are white" was a paraphrase of "oh, good, I wondered what the privileged white folks have to say in this new media space." That sounds about right to me.

Your reaction would suggest that you need me to be at a particularly shrill white-liberal-guilt end of the spectrum being willfully ignorant of any possible hypocrisy in the criticism I raise. [. . .] Your assertion that somehow the fact that the context we are having this discussion in, and the first world that establishes it, and the estates which serve those powers all suffer the same apparent homogeneity which gave me pause at first blush seems like the beginning of a discussion rather than a means to dismiss one as 'boring'.

What I'm bored by and objected to is the sort of unconstructive, barely-contentful wallowing in bitterness that you exemplified in in your first comment. The operative word in my response was "complaining." Everyone with his eyes open knows the sort of inequality we're talking about exists, everyone sees it everywhere every day (if he stops to think), so when I saw you point a shocked finger at a particular instance of it, it felt to me like you were just pointing at your own liberal credentials. If in your first comment you had (for example) pointed out inequality in an area where it was difficult to see, or suggested a way Big Think could address the inequality of its contributors, I wouldn't have been bored.
posted by electric water kettle at 6:50 PM on January 23, 2008


YouTube makes no intimations that it has experts, quality, or standards. Big Think is banking on the notion that those things are valuable and is emphasizing the quality of "Ideas" it offers. In that regard, their burden is higher, in my opinion not only not to promote inequality, but not to tacitly reinforce "expert" equals "white person", which was the first impression I got on their front page. (See the "Experts" section.)

I don't think that's unconstructive, since I don't agree either that everyone notices such a thing or that, as you seem to believe, there's nothing to be done about it. Noticing it is the beginning of the discussion, as I said. If you take as granted that it's the case (to which you offer counterexamples above) then why is it my responsibility to offer solutions?

Furthermore, what's the use in pointing out inequality where it's hard to see? Does that make it more in need of redress than the stuff you can hold up everyday to anyone? I would expect the opposite, but maybe I don't get your meaning.

But yes, it's all about my liberal cred. It couldn't have anything to do with an honest reaction I had to this site which by its own aim is asking to be held to a higher standard. Holding it to one would clearly be self-serving and fatuous.
posted by abulafa at 7:51 PM on January 23, 2008


I don't think that's unconstructive, since I don't agree either that everyone notices such a thing or that, as you seem to believe, there's nothing to be done about it.

It isn't that I think there's nothing to be done about inequality, it's that I think making snarky comments about patently obvious examples of it isn't any kind of help. But if you thought you were making snarky comments about a subtle example of it, one which most readers of this site wouldn't have been able to pick up on, that's a different matter.

Furthermore, what's the use in pointing out inequality where it's hard to see? Does that make it more in need of redress than the stuff you can hold up everyday to anyone? I would expect the opposite, but maybe I don't get your meaning.

You begin to answer your own question earlier: "I don't think that's unconstructive, since I don't agree [. . .] that everyone notices such a thing." Difficult-to-see inequality isn't necessarily more in need of redress than obvious inequality, but merely pointing out the difficult-to-see stuff is a service, since identifying and locating inequality is a prerequisite for the work of correction to begin.
posted by electric water kettle at 7:19 PM on January 24, 2008


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