Friday, April 9, 2010

...And A Word From Evgeny Morozov

Our Institute's first-rate program coordinator, Morgan Dibble, reminded me the other day when we were discussing the idea of adapting the old "flying university" concept to engaging Iran that Evgeny Morozov had already floated the idea last year of investing in this type of initiative. Morgan dug out the relevant language from Morozov's otherwise rather skeptical post on Public Diplomacy 2.0:
So why not simply spend all this money putting more of such courses and putting them online? Cover as many disciplines as possible – do not just go for the low-hanging political fruit like the History of the Cold War or the US Foreign Policy in the Middle East; if you really want people to be thankful and treat you seriously, produce courses on topics as far removed from the US foreign policy as possible. The more practical knowledge you could cram into them, the better; look at the success of Stanford's course on developing applications for the iPhone – with more than one million downloads, it's one of the most popular online courses in history. Teach people how to make a living, and their loyalty is practically guaranteed.

I'd go even one step further: why not pour money into creating an international community of people around this academic content and then involve them into producing subtitles for the courses, thus making them available even to those who do not speak English? I've visited enough poor countries that know that there will be plenty of intellectually curious youngsters who could only dream of watching lectures by faculty from Harvard or Yale in their own languages. The success of the TED Conference's translation project – with roughly 1,000 translators signing up to translate their vast repository of talks in a very short period of time – is yet another proof that this could be done.

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