Podcast Review: LSE Public Lectures February 11, 2009Posted by Sverre in : Reviews , trackback
As promised, I’ll be reviewing some of the political science relevant podcasts out there, starting with the London School of Economics’ Public Lectures and Events stream.
Let me start with loudly acclaiming the very thought of recording lectures and making them available to everyone over the internet. It’s part of the whole idea of open access to scientific material and knowledge that I happily notice seems to be gaining more ground. The LSE is a prestigious institution in an international metropolis, allowing it to attract names for guest lectures that I could only dream of here in my small Norwegian city. That’s why it’s so fantastic that I can still gain access to these lectures from some of the most brilliant minds of the world through the internet.
So, one point already to the LSE just for the effort. But what have they actually put out there? All lectures generally follow the same format. First there are one or more speeches by prominent scientists or society persons followed by a Q&A session with the members of the audience. They are conducted in an orderly manner with one of the LSE academic staff as moderator.
To no surprise coming from LSE, a majority of the lectures are within the realms of political science and economics. Within this area of interest, they span as diverse topics as policy responses to the financial crisis, the idea of global democracy and the Israel lobby in the United States. The main emphasis seems to be on International Relations and Political Economy. They also show an interesting range of lecturers, including names like Ben Bernanke, David Reynolds, David Cameron, Cherie Blair and Jonathan Steele.
The technical quality of the podcasts vary somewhat. The majority of those I’ve tried seem to be very good, but a few are lacking in recording quality and a couple are almost impossible to hear. It appears that one or more of the lecture halls have very well suited recording equipment while some of the other locations require ad hoc solutions that don’t work so well. Unfortunately this means a few lectures are next to useless. All podcasts are also audio only. I’d love to see the occational video podcast as well (they do have some video recordings but they’re only available through a web page flash player). It really makes a difference for those of us that own a modern media player with video capabilities. You lose somethign when you don’t see the speeker – particularly when they make use of Power Point slides.
One particular point that that becomes more critical on a podcast as opposed to a live lecture is the oratorial skills of the speaker, particularly voice use. Speakers that speak monotonously, slurred or with thick accents occasionally become very hard to follow when you have audio only and don’t see them in person. Fortunately this isn’t too much of a problem with the predominantly high-quality speakers that are represented in this speaker series, but there are the occasional exceptions that are prone to make me lose my concentration when listening.
So what are my conclusions? Unfortunately, I don’t have much to compare with just yet, but I do suspect that the LSE podcasts will rank highly among my favourite podcasts also in the future. They provide interesting speakers on interesting topics. Some improvements might be made on the technical side, but they’re mostly very good.
EDIT: The one thing I forgot to comment on in this review is also the sheer amount of lectures that are part of this podcast stream. For the last few months, more than 10 lectures have been added every month, making it an average of at least a couple every week. I find that number quite impressive!
- Obama and the Empire of Liberty – Speaker: Professor David Reynolds
- Why 2009 is a crucial year for Europe – Speaker: Bruno Le Maire
- Georgia: has Europe let Russia off the hook? – Speakers: Dr Sabine Freizer; Professor Salome Zourabichvili
- Policy Responses to the Financial Crisis – Speaker: Dr Ben S. Bernanke