Renowned classicist Mary Beard asks this question on her TLS blog. She is responding to the frequent request that a lecture/seminar is recorded. I don’t especially like the term ‘podcasting’ – basically it means audio or video files being made available online. In general terms she agrees it is a good idea –
On the face of it, yes of course! It opens up what is being said, and the discussion, to anyone anywhere in the world. It’s freedom of knowledge and information etc etc, and one of the real benefits of the internet.
But she raises some times when it isn’t necessarily such a good idea. The first is hard to argue with – where discussion is open and unscripted, and people don’t want remarks from a particular time and place available in other contexts. Fine, this should always be with agreement. The second is more complicated – the idea that being put up online means you can’t give the talk again at another venue. While it might look lazy or disrespectful to give the same lecture again, especially if available online, Beard argues that giving a lecture is worthwhile for improving it, and that only doing it once can limit the feedback.
I’m not so sure about the last. I think that you can give a lecture again if it has been podcast. I don’t think many places expect you to write an entirely new lecture for them. They want your presence, your engagement with questions, discussion with students outside of the formal lecture, conversation over dinner or drinks, etc.
If the point about improving material through feedback is true – and it should be – the next version bears the marks of the discussion of the earlier presentation; most lectures are too short to deliver an entire paper, so you can emphasise different bits; a different venue and audience may change how you pitch it; etc.
The case in point for me is the Secure the Volume lecture. I was asked by Kentucky to give a lecture for their ‘Security’ theme. I was then asked to give the Political Geography lecture at the Royal Geographical Society, and the theme of the conference was Geographies of Security/Security of Geography. I didn’t have ideas for two entirely different lectures on security, and nor do I have any chance of writing two in such a small window. So I asked Kentucky if the speaking commitment entailed any publication commitment – it didn’t; and told Political Geography (which does have a publication commitment) the paper would have been delivered before. Both were happy with this. Does the availability of the Kentucky video prevent me giving a version of this lecture at the RGS? I don’t think so. I hope it will be better; will emphasise different things; be less tied to the specific reading for the class at Kentucky it was related to; etc. We will see. Maybe some people will have seen it before, but I’m not flattering myself. If few people turn up in Edinburgh then perhaps I can console myself in thinking they all watched it on their computers or phones instead! But given the geographical location of people who can now watch the video, who won’t have been in Lexington or able to get to Edinburgh, I think the availability is a good thing – as does Beard – but for me it outweighs the negatives. This is why I am trying to make audio recordings of my talks (here, towards the bottom) available whenever I can.