Technology and lecturing

What is the future of international lecturing? Well, at the NECAH and Heritage Consortium residential in March 2017, one session defied the limits of geography.

The interesting talk, led by Dr Devin Hunter, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Springfield, was conducted through a webinar. Webinar? A skype talk, to you and me.

As futuristic and intellectually invigorating that this sounds, it did not come without its difficulties. For starters, to connect both sound and image was a problem. When that was solved, to turn the camera around so that Dr Hunter could see his audience and not a blank wall was even more so. But this was not the hardest challenge. Devin had kindly invited two of his contacts to speak to us for 15 minutes each on Public History.

Adding both onto the skype talk proved impossible. Endless scenarios were attempted. We started the call and added them, they started the call and added us. After 20 minutes of the valuable attention span of the room gone, we gave up and had to accept the rather unflattering skype blue silhouette in lieu of our speaker.

Not 10 minutes into the talk did skype finally catch up and provide us with not one, but two images! Two speakers, in two different times zones! Who would have thought?

The next challenge. Questions. Never in any lecture will you see audience members having to waddle their way through the crowd in order to crouch next to a laptop speaker in order to ask a question. Comedy gold.

All this to say that, despite how amazing it was to be face to face with Devin Hunter, Sam Wheeler and Aleia Brown – perhaps technology is still not up to the task of joining us with across the pond as easily as our interdisciplinary work has done…

by Layla Hendow

PhD researcher at University of Hull

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