PBS Idea Channel

PBS Idea Channel


Explore the crossroads of art, science, and pop culture with PBS Idea Channel. Hosted by Mike Rugnetta, the Idea Channel launched in 2012 and has since posted over 100 videos, with more added every Wednesday.

The program has quickly grown to one of the most watched on the web, winning multiple Webby Awards and recieving praise for Mike's active engagement in the viewing community. Each video contains feedback and replies to previous work, keeping the program fresh and establishing a platform for discussion. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

  • Super Mario Brothers as Surrealist Art? | PBS Idea Channel

    We all know the Mario Brothers, but have you ever stepped back and tried looking at those games from a fresh perspective? They're bananas! There are armored turtles who stand on their hind legs and steal princesses! There are bullets with faces! We make a case for Mario's inclusion into a canon of art wider than "Video Game": we think Mario is a piece of surrealist art.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • How Will The Animated GIF Affect The Presidential Election? | PBS Idea Channel

    The animated GIF has had a long and fascinating history, but the GIF took a giant leap forward this year when it became part of the 2012 Presidential Election! This election season, GIFs of Obama, Romney, Biden and Ryan, populated not only Tumblr and Buzzfeed, but also media heavyweights like The Atlantic, Forbes, and The Wall Street Journal. It became the perfect vehicle to capture a reaction, a gaffe or hilarious election moment and stream it ad infinitum. Will the Graphics Interchange Format swing the election for Obama or Romney? Probably not, but it's a pretty bold step for our pal the GIF!

    Grades: 9-12
  • Do Knock-Offs Prove the Value of a Brand? | PBS Idea Channel

    Living in the consumer culture that we do, we've learned that specific brands can carry very different meanings and values.  The counterfeit industry is huge and isn't going anywhere, and companies spend huge amounts to dissuade people from buying "fakes". But are knock-offs really a negative for the brand?

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Community A Postmodern Masterpiece? | PBS Idea Channel

    Though the TV show Community has never achieved huge ratings, it has a passionate cult following, including us here at Idea Channel. The show plays with genre and narrative in such a creative way that it brings to mind the cultural and artistic theory of Postmodernism. Previous TV series have been self-referential and culturally reflective, but none so successfully as Community.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Buying Call of Duty a Moral Choice? | PBS Idea Channel

    Can the choice to engange in video games be compared to the use of firearms? Many action-oriented games include the use of weapons, and of those digital objects, many are in fact licensed by real-life arms dealers. Which means that when you buy a video game, you're also putting money in the pockets of those gun manufacturers. That's fine and dandy if you're a fan of guns, but if you are someone who considers themselves anti-gun, this creates quite the moral quandary. 

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is A DOS Attack A Weapon? | PBS Idea Channel

    Denial of Service (DOS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attacks take down servers by distracting them with meaningless traffic until they grind to a halt. Scientology, Westboro Baptist Church, and other controversial organizations have been hit by this form of attack. This video discusses how the way we talk about the results of a software program -- words like "attack" -- reflects how we view the online world.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Is Math a Feature of the Universe or a Feature of Human Creation? | PBS Idea Channel

    Math is invisible. Unlike physics, chemistry, and biology, we can't see it, smell it, or even directly observe it in the universe. There are people who believe that, if no person existed to count, math wouldn't exist. But is this true? Do we live in a mathless universe? Or, if math is a real entity that does exist, are there formulae and mathematical concepts in the universe that are undiscovered?

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Sad Music Actually Sad? | PBS Idea Channel

    What is it about music that makes us feel the feelings we're feeling? You might think it has something to do with the notes or our brains' natural responses to these sounds, but that's only part of the story. We've been culturally trained to respond to music in certain ways because, if you ignore the lyrics, music itself doesn't actually contain any emotion at all. Watch the episode to find out more.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Developing Artificial Intelligence Ethical? | PBS Idea Channel

    If you're even the slightest bit familiar with pop culture from the past fifty years, you know that we've been anxiously awaiting robots to become a part of our daily lives. From R2-D2 to The Jetsons, our future robot companions promise to be helpful and handy. But many people have their concerns: will the development of artificial intelligence end up replacing humans in the workforce, pushing already high unemployment through the roof?

    Grades: 9-12
  • Why Do We Love Zombies? | PBS Idea Channel

    Why are zombies everywhere in pop culture? Bad guys and monsters seem to go through phases: one decade there are a dozen movies about aliens, ten years later it's vampires, and right now, it's zombies. There must be something that makes us fixate on one antagonist trope, some qualities they hold that echo a deeper cultural fear.

    Grades: 9-13+
  • Should "Happy Birthday" be Protected by Copyright? | PBS Idea Channel

    You know how chain restaurants always sing some weird unknown birthday tune, instead of the actual Happy Birthday song we know and love? It's because "Happy Birthday To You" is protected by copyright! They are legally not allowed to sing it in public, and neither are you. Unfortunately, the whole system has gotten out of whack with copyright extensions that extend far beyond the life of the creator.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Are Memes & Internet Culture Creating a Singularity? | PBS Idea Channel

    Here on the internet, we love us some memes. But where do they come from? Yes we know, they are user generated. But to an internet layman, they seem to just appear, in huge quantities, ready for cultural consumption. Are they a sign of a "cultural singularity"? Memes follow rules and code, are varied, self-referential, and seem to multiply at an ever increasing rate. It may seem like science fiction, but we're close to a world where culture automatically and magically creates infinitely more culture.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Hello Kitty, Minimalist Icon? | PBS Idea Channel

    With her cute pink bow and huge noggin, Hello Kitty is one of the most recognizable characters in the world. She sells billions of dollars worth of merchandise, but what is it about this simple cartoon cat that makes her such a beloved piece of pop culture? Ahead of her time when first created in 1974, we think that Hello Kitty used minimalism's bag of tricks to become the world's best salesgirl.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 8-12
  • Is Twitter A New Form of Literature? | PBS Idea Channel

    Everyone is familiar with Twitter, the uber-popular micro-blogging site, which limits the user to 140 characters. The tweet is perfect for sharing your favorite links and updating the world about your life, but it might also be the newest literary form! This massively constrained communication, which has remarkable similarities to the Haiku, has inspired creativity worthy of the name "literature."

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • From Sherlock Holmes to 50 Shades of Grey | PBS Idea Channel

    You've probably heard of the risque novel "50 Shades of Grey," now the best selling paperback of all time. But you may not know that it's actually fan fiction! It seems shocking that a fan fiction novel has become so popular, but 50 Shades isn't the first book to break through the fan community boundaries into mainstream culture. Over 100 years ago, Sherlock Holmes spawned a similar phenomenon.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Is Dubstep the New Musical Avant-Garde? | PBS Idea Channel

    While some people may hear noise, some hear amazing musical genius in the creativity of Dubstep. There is a long history of avant-garde musicians and thinkers promoting the concept of noise and non-instrumental sounds as music, much to the horror of their audience. But over the past century, changes in technology and music genres may have changed attitudes to accept these once-fringe music genres.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Are Olympic Competitors Geniuses? | PBS Idea Channel

    While we often think of genius as an intellectual category, can we use it for Olympians? We normally associate the word "genius" with intellectual accomplishments, but athletes are geniuses at pushing their bodies to new heights, making the impossibly difficult seem easy and effortless.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Is Homestuck the Ulysses of the Internet? | PBS Idea Channel

    If you're unfamiliar, Homestuck is a webcomic created Andrew Hussie that is over 5000 pages so far! In in its own weird way, Homestuck is a lot like James Joyce's Ulysses, where only the strongest, most dedicated readers make it through to the end. Most people don't expect such expansive and daunting works to find a home on the internet, but Homestuck has apparently pulled it off.

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Nicolas Cage, Taoism, and YOLO | PBS Idea Channel

    Legendary actor Nicolas Cage is renowned for his reliably weird roles across many genres of modern film. Is he just a victim of a bad agent, or does he instead follow the philosophy of Taoism, or as its modern derivative is known - YOLO ("you only live once")?

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 7-12
  • Is William Gibson A Modern Day Oracle? | PBS Idea Channel

    The science fiction writer William Gibson has not only written some fantastic scifi novels, but in the process predicted the internet, Miku Hatsune, reality TV, and a crazy amount of other technological and societal developments that have come into being. His impressive rate of accuracy seems almost mystical. Is he a modern soothsayer?

    PBS Idea Channel a weekly show hosted on Youtube. Discover, share, and engage more with the Idea Channel community at the Youtube page here.

    Grades: 9-12

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