Thursday, 6 December 2007

lecture notes

I meant it when I said I'm over post-morteming the conference washup (I've been re-re-reading Moby-Dick for Ch 7 of Adaptation: The Very Last Word Upon The Subject and my mind's elsewhere) but an interesting comment appended to this post prompts me to say a little more about the apparently vexed question of public lectures and the making of recordings.

The commenter appeared to me to be in agreement with the ACA-reporter's basic notion: there's no point (or there is something elitist in) giving a public performance if it isn't also recorded and made freely available for wider distribution. I disagree completely. This way of thinking always relegates the performance to the status of a rehearsal, dry run, or pre-text for the proper event which is the recording. Some performances are exactly this, staged expressly so they can be recorded, but many are the exact opposite, acquiring their unique value precisely because of the unmediated, present, 'real' quality of the event.

To my mind, there's something elitist (or patronising) in the implicit suggestion that a recording of a performance qua performance can substitute effectively for participation in the event itself.

If you've been reading here for a while you'll know that for two years I taught English at the Mildura campus of La Trobe, commuting there by plane one day a week in semester. Almost all the lectures in the courses at Mildura are recorded on DVD at the central campus and replayed later at Mildura. The technicians and the lecturers, not to mention the students, have adapted well to this and the picture and sound are clear and crisp. The same essential information is conveyed. It could be (and is) argued that students who get their lectures pre-recorded have the advantage of being able to rewind and replay, and some of them do this when they write their assignments. But these students, almost all of whom have grown up with video as a fact of everyday life, merely patiently endured the recorded lectures. When a lecturer flew up to lecture to them in person, it was a completely different story. They paid a different and deeper sort of attention, and afterwards they had profoundly more engaged and involved comments to make and questions to ask. There's nothing mystical about this. It simply reflects the difference between a unique occasion for thought anchored to a living, present, and accountable human being, and an occasion for thought which presents itself as repeatable, decentered and drifting - easy come, easy go.

Although the decision to ask people not to record last week's lecture was not only mine (and it was not explicitly GG's, either, as I explain in the comments to the afore-linked post) I entirely supported it and these are some of the reasons why.

PS: if you couldn't make it to the lecture and want to get an idea of what was said, Helen, Kerryn, and Another Outspoken Female have all posted on the subject. And, while I'm linking, here is the delightful Radio National Book Show story on the conference: well worth a listen.


Fyodor said...

"Adaptation: The Very Last Word Upon The Subject"

Heh. So you found a winning title, then?

Nice slice of nostalgia in this week's reading pile, too.

librarygirl said...

OOH - thanks for the link to Jilly Cooper on Barbara Pym. I love Barbara Pym's novels. And the diaries. And the cookbook. Also a secret love for the novels of Jilly Cooper.