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Have digital resources rendered the inaugural lecture obsolete?

By news editor, on 1 February 2012

Professor Claire Warwick held the packed audience of the Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre, as well as the online live streaming audience, captive with her unusual approach to the inaugural lecture by asking: The monologue in a crowdsourced world: have digital resources rendered the inaugural lecture obsolete?

Instead of discussing the highlights of her research into users of digital resources in the humanities, Claire took techniques that are used in user studies and applied them to the phenomenon of the Inaugural lecture as a case study.

Claire slowly deconstructed the assumptions behind the inaugural lecture by using the affordance strength model and its use in context to assess whether the inaugural lecture is fit for purpose, and then compared that to the digital alternative.

She started with the first affordance of the inaugural lecture: communication of research. An inaugural lecture traditionally should give some idea of the kind of research field in which people work.

However, there are numerous problems with a physical lecture; lacking in capacity, interactivity, ability to comment, time and place.

Claire stated that she dislikes the idea of the single voice speaking with some kind of an authority. One of the great assets of digital is that it encourages and enables multiple voices. With Twitter, for example, you don’t have to invite people, it is a more flexible platform to communicate ideas and you can hold a genuine dialogue.

Professor Warwick believes that there is a digital alternative to all the affordances of the inaugural lecture, bar one; the ordeal. Stressing that there are more effective ways of frightening new professors, Claire suggested instead of the ordeal of undertaking an inaugural would, a digital equivalent might be better. Perhaps an inaugural blog where new professors could share research, offer advice, link to online publications and to other members of the research team.

Is the physical lecture redundant when you can discover the digital equivalent so easily? You can already access the text of Professor Warwick’s lecture on her blog, as well as discovering what she felt about the inaugural before and after. There are tweets from the night of the inaugural as well as the live stream.

Unfortunately, Claire somewhat undermined her argument by providing such an engaging lecture that the live streaming crashed as the amount of people watching online overwhelmed the system.

Claire Ross is a Research Assistant in UCL Information Studies and the UCL Centre for Digital Humanities.

Professor Warwick’s lecture was one in a series of inaugural lectures organised by the UCL Faculties of Arts & Humanities and Social & Historical Sciences running until May 2012.

Professor Claire Warwick - The monologue in a crowdsourced world by UCL-Arts & Social Science

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