I very much enjoyed this new article by Marc Tracy. (The site is now up! And if we haven’t processed your registration yet it is because we are swamped with numbers, our apologies, please bear with us.) Excerpt:
The videos, several of which were made available to me, are indeed more friendly than the stuff you typically find on Coursera, if not as viscerally captivating as, say, a TED talk. Manufactured with Microsoft PowerPoint and a $4 iPad app, they tend to last in the neighborhood of five to eight minutes—Cowen, who possesses a parody of an economist’s precision, noted on his blog, “The average video is five minutes, twenty-eight seconds long”—with segments frequently summarizing and highlighting the most interesting parts of academic papers (“Seasonal Food Prices and Policy Responses: A Narrative Account of Three Food Security Crises in Malawi”); these papers are duly credited and usually available online for free.
Narrated by Cowen or Tabarrok, the videos share the curiosity, eclectic interests, and tongue-in-cheek dryness of the blog. For example, Cowen riffs off a paper that showed that when cable television was introduced to several Indian villages, the fertility rate fell. He intones, in a studied deadpan reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock’s belabored enunciation: “We don’t know, however, whether this is because women or families have better information about birth control, or simply that they’re exposed to alternative visions of different lifestyles on TV, and maybe want to spend their time in ways other than just having more children.”