Philosophy and Ethics

This blog follows up issues and ideas from my website: Philosophy and Ethics.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Wireless Philosophy and the new digital order

In terms of capturing the attention, there's a limit to what you can do with a talking head or even with precisely crafted paragraphs on a page.  That's where the whiteboard video approach comes in useful - with the fast-moving hand whipping headings and key terms across the screen, and shaping out speech bubbles and arrows to present an argument. In terms of introducing a new topic for students or those coming new to philosophy, video presentations have a lot going for them.

With this in mind, I've just started checking out videos produced by www.wi-phi.com, an open access resource from the USA providing general introductions to philosophical issues, particularly (in the initial batch of videos) in the Philosophy of Religion.  Those I've seen so far are lively and clear and would be an ideal starting point (or even a revision tool) for students from GCSE upwards as well as adults who appreciate a clear summary from an academic who will explain without patronising.

As I view them, I'll put them up on the appropriate page of my website, www.philosophyandethics.com  and tweet them out to draw your attention to them.

The Wireless Philosophy site also led me to reflect again on what a different world it is these days in terms of the economics of producing educational material.  When I started off  in this business (rather more years ago that I care to remember) schools had budgets for books and universities had library budgets that reflected the fact that almost all teaching material came in the form of printed material that had to be bought from publishers.  Some areas still cling on to that model - the ever-more-unaffordable peer reviewed journals and academic monographs, and the huge brick-like books that claim to give all you need to succeed at GCSE or A level.  But for the general reading public, the only justification now for the introductory text to a non-fiction subject - as I argue on the website, in an attempt to explain the on-going value of my own books - is that it can draw together many strands of thinking and thereby give the reader a useful overview as a starting point for further study. Most on-line resources cannot do that in such an effective way, although some articles in on-line encyclopaediae come close in terms of accessibility and also add depth.

Nowadays it is more often the academic or teaching salary that funds publication. Whether it's Dave Webster at the University of Gloucestershire explaining an aspect of Buddhist philosophy, or one of the young academics from the US contributing to the Wireless Philosophy programme, you now get universal access to the teacher in the act of teaching, and - although this material may not be crafted with the care that goes into a book - the immediacy and enthusiasm for the subject is conveyed in a way that holds the attention and imagination.

And with Nigel Warburton and David Edmunds' Philosophy Bites having achieved over 17 million downloads globally, we really are in a different world.  Long may it - and all who teach in it - thrive!