Case Studies/e-Chautauqua

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A virtual chautauqua embraces philosophy, reform, and expression.

What is in mind is a sort of Chautauqua — that´s the only name that I can think of for it — like the traveling tent-show Chautauquas that used to move across America .. an old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the hearer (Pirsig) — Pirsig, Robert M. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values


Who would have thought it possible to set up one's own radio and TV station? Contrast Web TV which is international with multimillion dollar limited range broadcast radio and TV to see the mind-boggling change underway.

But such stations need a theme. An e-chautauqua was the most logical way for us to combine our myriad interests and the resources we'd built up over decades into some sort of over-arching theme. The e-chautauqua follows the original tradition by presenting materials in a set of "Tents".

It's quite uncanny how the topics we happened to have available like astronomy and judicial procedure reform are so similar to this list from the early 1900s Redpath Chautauquas:

"Graft and Political Corruption, Judicial Procedure Reform, Prison Reform, Juvenile Delinquency and Reformation, Labor Relations, Economic Social Policies, Ecology and Animal Rights, Space and Heavenly Bodies, Tales of the Sea, Neighborhood Cooperation, Heart of Africa, Celestial Empire (China), Public Affairs and Public Policy, Poverty in the Slums, Pure Food and Drug Administration"

A chautauqua is an informal educational offering, as distinct from online tertiary educational institutions which confer examinations and certification. The chautauquan model welcomes divergent and even opposing viewpoints. It is the reverse of the adage "never discuss religion or politics" as these were its staple fare. Attendance is voluntary and speakers expected questions and argument with what were daring views in their day.

Only in recent years has e-chautauqua been possible for a truly non-profit family-funded web venture. Low cost and free bandwidth sources have taken audio-visual materials out of the elite corporate basket and into the hands of school students with their own international web radio and TV shows. The e-chautauqua model is very suitable for schools and community groups who have a diverse set of materials that can be put up as chautauqua tents. We hope others will follow.

License Usage

The main materials for which we used a Creative Commons license are those in the Expression Tent -ie- music and videos. We use 'attribution only' as ours are in general public domain in origin so it is only our arrangement and performance that needs to be acknowledged if for no other reason than to avoid confusion with other performers. Indeed, the music and videos are intended to inspire copying of the methods and designed to illustrate particular methods such as music multi-tracking, video chroma-key etc.


Tom is an educational researcher in Sydney, Australia. Copyright is now an important aspect of our local educational curricula and we are obliged to model best practice. While educators and students have legislated exemptions from many copyright provisions these are seen as a last resort and best practice taught to students from an early age is to acknowledge sources and, where possible, create original ones. However, not everyone can create good original music. If it were that easy, there'd be no pop stars! We're no exeption, claiming only to be a singer, not a songwriter or instrumental musician. So considerable research went into song selection to make sure the Expression Tent of the e-chautauqua was populated with songs that were unequivically in the public domain.

Our videos are similarly researched. Their educational purpose is to demonstrate use of non-copyright media such as household objects and public domain archive footage to enhance the song. Tom corresponded with software vendors who confirmed that the songs and videos created using their tools could be distributed publicly and without separate license or acknowledgment.

The Creative Commons license is intended to encourage listeners, viewers and readers to use these materials for any public performances and to have no hesitation to use bits of them in their own videos and mash-ups.

Media is the e-chautauqua musical expression. Music videos that use these tunes as a base are also provided mainly to demonstrate multimedia techniques such as rear projection, chroma-key, virtual puppetry, 3D face animation etc.