22 Mar 2016

Harvard Business School and BBC Radio 4 work together to produce first debate of Michael Sandel’s The Global Philosopher via HBX Live


BOSTON—Harvard Business School and BBC Radio 4 have worked together to produce the first episode of The Global Philosopher, hosted by famed Harvard University political philosopher Michael J. Sandel. The Global Philosopher utilizes the innovative HBX Live studio to bring together people from around the world to discuss the philosophical principles underlying controversial concerns of our time. HBX Live is part of Harvard Business School’s digital learning initiative, HBX.

Photo: Rose Lincoln

“This is an exciting opportunity to create a truly global public square,” said Sandel. “The HBX Live platform enables us to conduct video-linked discussions across national and cultural boundaries. It is a chance to think together, and to learn from one another, about the hardest ethical questions we face as citizens.”

HBX Live is a video-anchored virtual classroom designed to reproduce the intimacy and synchronous interaction of Harvard Business School’s famed interactive case study method in a digital environment. No matter where participants are located, they can log in concurrently and join real-time sessions. In the custom-designed HBX Live studio, a high-resolution video wall mimics the amphitheater-style seating of a Harvard Business School classroom, with up to 60 participants projected on individual screens who are able to actively engage in the discussion. Additionally, hundreds of people can observe the session via a live stream and participate in the conversation via chats and polls. Sessions are expertly produced using still and roaming cameras, thus creating the look and feel for participants of being in a real classroom, where they can see both the discussion leader and fellow participants. The HBX Live studio is located in the Boston-based facility of public broadcaster WGBH.

Gwyneth Williams, Controller of BBC Radio 4, said, “Working with HBX Live, BBC Radio 4 has taken an exciting new technology and turned it into a platform for a new kind of global discussion. In a unique digital experiment, we are trying to bring together a vibrant community in a virtual theatre to debate the most pressing issues that confront the world today.”

In the first session, Sandel led a debate on the topic of immigration and the moral significance of national borders. Radio 4 selected participants through a process that began by collecting a database of 300 people from more than 65 countries, from which 60 individuals were invited to be on the interactive wall. These engaged citizens had demonstrated an interest in playing an active role in debates that affect the world. The remaining candidates were invited to observe a live stream of the session, where they contributed to the discussion via polls and chats.

“From its inception, we knew HBX Live would represent a unique opportunity to gather audiences from around the world for conversation and engagement, said Harvard Business School professor Bharat Anand, faculty chair of HBX. “Working with Michael and BBC Radio 4 allows us to connect in a meaningful way with their audience around the globe – people who are eager to learn about the key problems of the day and contribute their insights and points of view.”

The video of the first session will be available to view online from Tuesday, March 22nd on the Radio 4 website. The radio broadcast will air at 9 am GMT on Tuesday, March 29th.

This is the first program for BBC Radio 4 using the HBX Live studio and technology, and it builds on the success of Professor Sandel’s Radio 4 series The Public Philosopher, for which he traveled the world to engage audiences in debate about ethical issues such as equality and inequality, markets and morals, and public apologies for historic wrongs. BBC Radio 4, working with HBX Live, hopes to make further editions of The Global Philosopher.

About Harvard Business School’s HBX Live
HBX Live is a virtual classroom that transcends geography and reproduces the synchronous interaction of Harvard Business School’s famed case study method in a digital environment. HBX Live was officially launched in August 2015 as a new platform from Harvard Business School’s digital learning initiative, HBX. For more information, visit http://www.hbx.hbs.edu/hbx-live.

About The BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is the world’s leading speech radio station with a weekly audience of 10.8 million in the UK. It is the home of the Today program, The Reith Lectures, The Archers and The News Quiz, and the station’s yearly schedule is made of 13,000 programs representing 14 different genres, including news, science, documentaries, arts, drama, comedy, religion and readings. Radio 4 has a digital-only sister station Radio 4 Extra, which brings the best of the spoken word archive to 2.2 million listeners each week.

About Michael J. Sandel
Sandel, one of the world’s leading political philosophers, is the author of many books including the New York Times bestseller Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do?, which relates the big questions of political philosophy to the most vexing issues of our time. His undergraduate course “Justice,” the first Harvard course to be made freely available online and on television, has been viewed by tens of millions around the world. For more information, visit http://www.justiceharvard.org/.


Ross Pearo

About Harvard Business School

Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 250 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and PhD degrees, as well as more than 175 Executive Education programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching, to educate leaders who make a difference in the world. The School and its curriculum attract the boldest thinkers and the most collaborative learners who will go on to shape the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.