Monday, January 11, 2010

The Byzantine Empire - UCSD lecture podcast

Even if you are more than casually interested in history and trying to get the general narrative of western history right, you run the risk of missing out on a hugely important player The Byzantine Empire. Historian Gibbon wrote off Byzantium as the eastern remnant of the Roman empire and left the idea that it was eternally in decline. One thousand years of decline - 476 to 1453 CE. Yet, even if it were eternally in decline, The Byzantine Empire was the bridge for backward Europe to the East and the buffer between vulnerable Europe and the Muslim expansion.

In the world of podcast the sole broadcaster of Byzantine history was podcasting veteran Lars Brownworth with the legendary 12 Byzantine Rulers. A formidable new addition, will be now UCSD's history lecture series by Matthew Herbst HIEU 104 - Byzantine Empire (feed). So far, three lectures have been added to the series and they look very good. Herbst uses his own style in retelling the story of Byzantium, covering the same material as Brownworth. In comparison, Brownworth is shorter, delivering a pleasantly crafted monologue; Herbst is obviously lecturing, but also more extensive. Herbst gives more explanation for example on the complicated theological issues that color the political landscape of Byzantium, such as Arianism and Nestorianism.

In the end, as the fate of UCSD lectures is, the podcast will last until the end of the semester and then be cast away - be sure to download them all before the end. Also, the lectures suffer from the usual UCSD automatic recordings, they quit before the end and they might start too early, too late and have silences. In addition the lectures are recorded at a very low volume. Use MP3gain to increase the level. (The level is around 77db and I have cranked it up to 100db which gave a bit of distortion. Next time I'll try 90dB).

Byzantine Culture on Entitled Opinions,
Sources (12 Byzantine Rulers),
Byzantine Conclusion (12 Byzantine Rulers),
The Byzantine Empire on Podcast (12 Byzantine Rulers),
Byzantine Podcast (12 Byzantine Rulers).

What is a feed?

In nearly every podcast review I write, I use the word 'feed', assuming you understand what that is and what you need it for. Here I want to briefly explain 'feed', just in case, for anyone who could use it.

The feed to a podcast is a link through which you can subscribe to the podcast. It is not the same as a link to the podcast's website or to the podcast's audio files. It is a link to an especially coded list of the audio files. The code of this list can be read by your reader (like Google Reader) or your podcatcher (like iTunes). This list is updated whenever a new episode of the podcast comes out. When you are subscribed, your podcatcher will download that new file for you, without you having to go and look for it. (For instructions how to subscribe read my instruction how to subscribe to podcasts.)

For this reason, whenever I write about a podcast I give the link to its website and between brackets to the (feed), in order to quickly allow you to copy that feed's link and subscribe. In case I did not give the feed's link, click through to the website and over there you will find the link to the feed. Or else, you could search with the name of the podcast in iTunes's directory and find it there.

The code that is used in the feed is called RSS. I have also written more extensively about RSS (What is RSS - Read Anne is a Man automatically), but in short it is this. RSS is a push technology that pushes new web content to anyone who has subscribed to it. It is used more widely than podcasts. Also websites such as my blog use RSS, but wherever RSS is used, it works always the same. The user takes a subscription by using the feed.

More basic instructions:
Listen on line,
Download audio files,
Get iTunes,
Put feeds in iTunes,
What is podcasting in 3 minutes,
Video explaining RSS.