Thursday, June 16, 2005

"I will start a Western Canon Podcast but only if 4 other people will help out with their time, talents, and money."


-- Dave Babbitt, web developer



Deadline: 15th August 2005.
0 people have signed up, 4 more needed


What is the Western Canon?



For what I'm talking about, the Western Canon is a canon of books (and specifically a set with very loose boundaries) that has been highly influential in shaping Western culture. The selection of a canon is important to me because of my belief that one should teach the things that are of everlasting importance to all people everywhere.



This is known as the theory of educational perennialism. Perennialists believe that the most important topics develop a person. Since details of fact change constantly, these cannot be the most important. Therefore, one should teach principles, not facts. Since people are human, one should teach first about humans, not machines or techniques. Since people are people first, and workers second if at all, one should teach liberal topics first, not vocational topics.


What is a PodCast?



Podcasting, a portmanteau of Apple's "iPod" and "broadcasting", is a method of publishing audio files to the Internet, allowing users to subscribe to a feed and receive new files automatically.


Podcasting is distinct from other types of audio content delivery because of its subscription model, which uses the RSS 2.0 file format. This technique has enabled independent producers to create self-published, syndicated "radio shows", and has given broadcast radio programs a new distribution channel.


Users subscribe to podcasts using "podcatching" software (also called "aggregator" software) which periodically checks for and downloads new content. It can then sync the content to the user's portable music player. Podcasting does not require an iPod or iTunes; any digital audio player or computer with the appropriate software can play podcasts.


Personal Motivation


I feel a sense of lost opportunity, my education having been mass-produced by a government-run school system. My mother gave me a taste for the classics, but a firm grasp of them was out of my control until I got out of school. Now I make it a point to check out from the library any audio books that I haven't heard yet that are part of the Western Canon.


But the canon is a very large set of books, and I have a long way to go. And it is a lot of trouble to hunt them down. It would be nice if they were "fed" to me in "bite-sized" chunks on my commute to work each day. Then I could check them off as they are completed, and feel the satisfaction of a job well done.


Personal Benefits


With a superb Zodervan reading of the Living Bible as a foundation, I have developed a better understanding of who originally advocated the major ideas of western civilization (those states of mind that I "naturally" incline towards), and how Christian ethics, salvation and doctrine (because they concern human access to the universal God and eternal life) are the right "leg" of the "body" of western thought.


Sources for TTS Text or Audio



Most of the Western Canon is in the public domain and can be read by text-to-speech without violating copyright. A scraper can be written that gets the text off other websites and converts it to speech in user-specified chunks of time. The rights to play previously recorded readings of books can be bought. Volunteers can record their readings and upload them to the site.


Personalization of RSS attachments


The website might enable a user to configure the RSS attachments to be of arbitrary lengths and/or prepended with a speech of the summary of the book from Wikipedia. They should be able to subscribe to the "show" by populating their queue with selected books, or just have it choose the next book for them, and by setting their preferences to adjust the reading lengths to their driving time. They would then sync and charge their iPod overnight, and will have them for their morning commute, automatically.


Links


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