2013-2014 Will Be A Pivotal Debate Year, Part 3 of 3

The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camrea
The rear LCD display on a Flip Video camrea (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Often times at debating competitions you will see me carrying around a video camera trying to record a few debates here and there.

Most of the time people are fine with being recorded. Sometimes they are not, but this number is shrinking every year. Being recorded usually means being put on the internet, and many participants feel this could hurt them in the future if the videos are found by a future employer. 

I think this year will be the year when we mark passing the comfort barrier with the digital in debating competitions.

Why will this happen?

First, the idea of appearing on the internet is starting to turn from a negative, or a sub-cultural form of identification to something more mainstream. The narrative of being found in a web video is changing from one that sounds like embarrassing home videos have been discovered to one of amusement and pleasure, where the discovery leads to more conversation rather than sheepish admission.

YouTube and other video services, like Vimeo, are becoming more professional in appearance and more streamlined. Production values are up on all web videos. The reason for this is simple - digital video and editing software is becoming better, less expensive, and easier to use. Most Universities now have staff that are trained in the editing and processing of videos for the web as a part of their marketing team. I know my university has several people like this, as well as a number of graduate students who edit professional looking videos on their laptops.

The expectation that such videos exist gives many opportunities to debaters to take the discovery of a video - no longer a grainy home video - as a chance to explain to employers what debate does for the individual. It also allows for the creation of a historical record of style for those interested in the waves of what is acceptable in competition or not. Finally, it is one of the best marketing and training devices for your own debate club. 

This does not begin and end with video however. This will be the year that competitions will be considered out of touch if they do not have a strong social media presence before, during, and after the competition. The sharing of Google documents, tweets, and photos from the GA to the tab to the rounds themselves will pass from novel to expected, and it begins this year. If a tournament does not do these things, people will talk negatively about it.  This is a shift from the discourse being one of joyful surprise when a competition does engage in social media from start to finish.

Debate tournaments, for better or for worse, will begin to happen more prominently online this year. Competitions in the future will have strong online components, or even divisions in the near future, where judges will watch a video edited together from various video sources and decide how persuasive it is. Your team speaks from a venue you choose, and the opposing team counters from their own venue. As HD cameras become cheaper, this is where debate will go. Does it mean the elimination of in-person contests? Those will never go away. But like the newspaper, people will discuss the fact that at one point tournaments were the only way to have debate competition - and isn't it so great that we have all of these ways to access debate competition now? 

That day isn't here yet, but when it comes, I believe that this season will be the year that people look back on as the last one where the digital aspects of debating were a sideshow.


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