Worlds Debate, Instant Replay, Tech Fantasies

It's the middle of the government whip speech in a semifinal debate. A POI is raised about something that the Member conceded. The whip disagrees in his answer to this POI and the questioner turns and points to the back of the room - points at the video camera recording the debate. The whip says, "Sure check the video later, you'll see you are wrong."

But why not check the camera during the debate?

Every year, and seemingly every tournament, the presence of the digital world becomes more pronounced. Twitter is almost a mainstay at most IVs - to have a tournament with no updates at all from twitter is nearly unthinkable. And WUDC - as well as EUDC and other major championships now stream live debates for the audience at home. Many people use their phones or cameras that make high quality direct-to-web video to film rounds or parts of rounds. Debate is having an increased presence worldwide due to this technology. You can call up many rounds and most from top IVs and Worlds and watch them whenever you want. It's a great teaching tool and as many of you know I am a very big advocate of filming as many rounds as we can.

Many people are resistant to being filmed and having rounds placed online. But what if it was included as a part of the competitive aspect of debate? How long before that gesture in the round I saw becomes an official request for instant replay? How would a technology like this change or effect the way you feel about being filmed in debates? How would it change the way you debate?

I think this is somewhat inevitable. Digital video quality is going up and cost of bandwidth is going down. Soon the cost will be so low and the quality will be so high that more debate tournaments will happen online than they will in physical spaces. I imagine, like most technology, that the presence of it will slowly transform from a nice extra to a mandated component of the competition. The first step, happening sooner that we all think, will be the ability of judges to roll back to particular speeches and use them during adjudications. This might be too much freedom for the judges, so the rules will probably be augmented to give each team one formal request for the judges to review a part of a speech or a particular speech from their side or the opponents' speeches during the adjudication. Or perhaps if the judges want to see a speech or a part of a speech, they must get consent from all the debaters involved in the round. Perhaps a simple majority will suffice to allow the judges to review the debate and let the replay matter in the decision.

But this will just be mere commonplace in just a few years. What will this look like in 10 years?

Tournaments will be hosted and happen on websites or particular domains. Partners might be together or might work apart using ventrillo or video equivalent to communicate between one another. The interface will allow camera shots from or of any other debaters in the round.

When it's your turn to speak, you have been putting together a package using video editing software on your end. When you refer to another speaker's arguments, you show a clip. If you are whipping, you might choose to have placed together many clips of the other bench speaking to prove how they use (over use, or perhaps misunderstand) a word that they base their principle on. Perhaps even YouTube clips or other types of digital media could be incorporated into the speech as you give it. POIs are indicated on your screen, and you click to change cameras to those who you want to take. The software produces a final cut of the debate, only what you allow the main camera to see when you are speaking, with the exception of POIs. The final debate is archived, after the adjudication is appended to the video.

Years and years of debate videos can be searched by speech or by debater. We can watch over the years as our practice changes, for the better or for the worse. Most importantly, there would be gradual evidence to map changes in practice as opposed to the anecdotal stories we get now. And people could return to the video to construct counter-narratives to the dominant belief of the circuit on where these practices came from.

Is this something good? Could we enjoy this type of competition? I hope we can either preserve our current practices with heavy subsidy, for the cost won't be attractive to most institutions or debaters or dissuade these changes from happening. The appearance of technology usually comes with a compelling demand to use it.

Pedagogically these videos are wonderful. But will their presence lead to the formal inclusion of video as a part of the competition?