Monday, May 10, 2010

On the Record

On a few occasions in recent years, talks I gave at a conference or workshop were recorded. I would have preferred not to be recorded, but I didn't mind enough to refuse to be recorded, and I knew in advance that I would be recorded. I could have opted out via a webpage form, but I did not do so.

At least one of the recordings was of a talk that turned out well, so I don't mind that this video exists. But somewhere out there on the internet is a video of me standing at a podium and reacting to the news that my talk does not exist in the symposium computer system. Somewhere out there on the internet in the same video there is a dramatic scene in which a tall scientist from a Slavic country stands up and loudly proclaims that he knows for a fact that my talk was uploaded to the system the day before. Then there is an action scene in which I rush to the place where I had left a briefcase containing a memory stick, which I then give to the A/V person to upload (again). Then I start giving the talk without any images until they miraculously appear and eventually I get caught up. For some reason I have never wanted to watch this video. The actual memory is still quite vivid enough for me.

In any case, I am OK with certain talks and lectures being preserved for educational purposes or for logistically necessary reasons, but for routine talks, I'd rather the experience be a fleeting one for both the audience and me. If someone wants to know more about anything I present, wants a copy of a slide, wants a reference or a pdf, they can let me know.

And now I have some questions for my readers about the general topic of being recorded while giving a professional talk.

Have
you ever been recorded (video and audio) when giving:

- a conference presentation (either an invited one or a regular contribution);
- an invited talk at a university or college; and/or
- an interview talk?

If so, did you know about the recording well in advance? (i.e., not 5-10 minutes before you started talking, as happened to one of my correspondents).

What happened to the video of your talk? Was it put on the internet to reside forever for all to see, was it put on the internet so that a specified group of people could view it (e.g., members of a professional society, registrants at a conference), or was it for the private and temporary use of (for example) hiring committee members who could not be present for an interview talk?

Was it OK with you to be recorded? Were you asked permission? If you did not want to be recorded, did you feel comfortable about saying no? (Did you say no?)

27 comments:

Pradeep said...

I think it's common to record videos in certain conferences/workshops. I recently gave a talk where I knew well in advance that the talk will be recorded and posted on the web. We had the option of opting out as well.

John V said...

I've had at least a couple of seminars videotaped and a couple of conference talks videotaped. They asked ahead of time for the seminars, and warned me ahead of time for the conference talks.

I have no problem with being taped. Far fewer people (if anyone) will watch the tape than attended live, so I don't see anything objectionable about being taped. If some adventure with the projection or snarling questions come up, that's life, and any viewer who finds it risible gets a bonus.

Whenever I talk for news programs, which is perhaps a dozen times a year, I try to get a DVD or find the web link to see how I could have done better.

It is the quickest way to improve one's public speaking, and quite helpful.

Personally, I find it odd that people who are paid well to talk to the masses would be averse to having it recorded, or not wish to check their performance.

Stella said...

I've been recorded quite a few times, for interview talks, at conferences in which all the talks were recorded, and giving colloquia at places where all the talks are recorded and put online. It's not at all unusual in my field. Sometimes I knew about it well in advance, sometimes not. The first time it happened I thought it would make me more nervous during the talk, but it didn't; while giving the talk I forgot that it was being recorded immediately. Being recorded has never particularly bothered me. I guess if it were up to me I wouldn't put videos of myself giving talks all over the internet, but I don't care that much that they're out there. None of the talks went badly, so that helps. I've never bothered to look for any of them, and I doubt anyone else has either. If someone does look for them, it's probably because they're interested in what I had to say, and I'm fine with that.

Anonymous said...

As long as I don't notice it I don't think I mind that much, unless it was a total disaster...in which case I would more that likely appeal for any form of recording to be destroyed. However, in these incidences I highly doubt that it will happen.

Anonymous said...

Dear god.

I was recorded for two job talks. At least one of them I bombed. No one asked my permission for either, they just informed me a few minutes before that they were going to do it. I'd like to blame my bombing on nervousness from being recorded, but alas, I was just unprepared. I had never thought they might turn up on YouTube. That is really a horrible thought.

Anonymous said...

Although I feel rather self-conscious being videotaped, I do understand there are some benefits.

I am involved in organizing an annual workshop series that is always recorded (all the talks, at least). The idea is it is intended to be partly educational (as well as a chance for experts in the field to get together and discuss the latest advances). Since not all interested people can possibly attend, we try to make it possible for those who do not attend to follow the presentations afterwards. Powerpoint slides are also available, but this is often not very useful on its own, without a speaker to explain the content. What we do in practice is provide a hard copy of all talks to attendees, to bring back to their home institution and share with colleagues as they wish. Other interested people are welcome to contact the organizers for copies.

This first began actually, because at the first workshop (when I was a new PhD student - a rather long time ago:)) there was a particular expert we wished to invite who had some fascinating new insights that we didn't fully understand - but who spoke only Russian. We had a translator but decided it would also be very helpful to work through the information afterwards by videotape of the presentation. In the end all speakers were videotaped, and this proved to be an enormously helpful resource for all attendees afterwards.

Tamara said...

I completely understand because I wouldn't feel comfortable at all about being told 5-10 minutes before the interview that people are going to film me, and probably put it on the Internet. A filmed interview has to be prepared differently from a current interview. The thing is that our e-reputaiton is very important and we have to manage it. Every information that can be found about us constitute a global picture of us, and we have to be careful with what is on Internet.

On the other side, if you get to do a video and manage to have some control on it, this is a tremendous tool for you. Making a video and publish it in the good website allow people to realize that if you can do it, they may also achieve things. It is a big issue, because with a proper video you can make research more accessible to everyone. Moreover, it helps other scientist women to know that you succeed and that there are other women like them.

EarlyToBed said...

Yes my talks have been recorded: at least one interview talk, and also several conference talks. I am unaware of any recordings taken without my permission. The idea of watching a video of myself repulses me, so I've never done it. At my U there is a service to record and podcast some large lectures. I have never opted into this program. I'm a live-act only.

Anonymous said...

Interview talks are always recorded in my department because all faculty vote on new hires and not everyone can attend every interview talk.

It never occurred to me that the videos might end up somewhere other than in the inbox of the dept. faculty! I hope for the sake of some of our interviewees careers they don't put them online... :/

Terminal Degree said...

The presentations at my conferences (music) are never recorded; there is a strict policy against doing so. This is for several reasons: first, we don't want to break any copyright laws, and secondly, some of our presenters/performers have signed contracts with record labels and/or agents.

I wouldn't mind being recorded. I'm quite used to it, because my advisor either audio- or videorecorded all of her students every week and made us watch or listen to the recordings. The first few times were nervewracking, but we eventually learned to ignore the camera. But for a presenter or interviewee who is NOT used to a camera, I think it would increase the stress level considerably.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a change in the times -- you don't mention one of the reasons people now record frequently, which is groups that operate cross site. It's not uncommon in medical centers, for example, to be broadcasting a seminar from the medical school to a web site so that remote sites can view it too.

You could do that with video-streaming, without storing the talk, but then, people think, "why throw away the data?" and decide they might as well keep it, and then they can offer it to others as well.

A number of these institutions then make the talks available to the public (the lectures are public anyway), who would otherwise not have access to them.

I don't think this is a preventable enterprise, and that it has too much value to bow out of it just out of vague discomfort with the changing world.

Anonymous said...

"It is the quickest way to improve one's public speaking, and quite helpful."

Yes, I agree whole-heartedly. I used to do this even in the old days, when video taping actually involved tape, and everyone thought it was extremely odd. Now it's a lot more common, and I've encouraged students to incorporate it in their learning. After resistance, they realized how great it actually is, to watch themselves. The first thing most of them realize is that they're not as bad as they thought they were, that the "ums" they kept hearing in their heads are really just a small part of the talk. Then, they can concentrate on making things better.

queenrandom said...

I recently gave a short talk at a large international meeting. A couple of weeks before the meeting I got an email stating something to the effect of "Some sessions are recorded and some are not, so yours might be." I found out at the conference by chance that my session was being recorded - I found out by picking up a flyer advertising which sessions one could purchase on video. I wasn't exactly OK with it, but I didn't have much of a choice, so I went with it. Additionally, my institution has multiple sites, so all sessions are recorded for the purposes of teleconferencing. I personally hate seeing myself talk on video (it's a shyness thing) but I get over it for the sake of scientific discourse.

Pagan Topologist said...

I have had talks recorded on video and once or twice on audio only. I don't mind the video; the audio only seems a bit weird, given that my talks tend to be rather visual. (I am an avid user of blackboard and chalk. I will use transparnecies if I must. I have so far successfully refused to use Power Point.)

Actuall, I have no idea what has happened tot he video recordings.

chemcat said...

yes, I have been recorded at a seminar in a different university. I was asked in advance... and I said yes. As much as I felt uncomfortable with that (and I would have chosen not to be recorded, except that I didn't want to be a jerk), it was incredibly useful to watch myself. It did help me improve my talks. Advice: make sure you have a couple of beers at hand during the humbling exercise of watching yourself talk....

chemcat said...

on a similar note: smartpens. i just bought one, and I use it a lot for taking notes at seminars, conferences, and even group meetings. there's the option to record voice as well as saving the notes as searchable PDF. I've been tempted, but so far refrained from recording.... but of course it would be easy to do so without the other party knowledge. Sigh. We just need to get used to the idea that everything we do/say might end up on the web....

Anne said...

I haven't yet been recorded giving a talk, but I'm going to a conference in a couple of weeks where all the talks have the audio recorded and laid over the powerpoint. You are not physically in the video. There is no option to opt out, they tell you that by submitting an abstract for a talk you are agreeing to be recorded. The talks are posted online for a finite period of time and are accessible only with a conference registration number.

The idea of being recorded for people to watch later makes me somewhat nervous, but as a younger grad student I've appreciated being able to effectively see several talks (with one of my labmates conference numbers) when I couldn't yet attend the conference myself.

Anonymous said...

I once gave a talk that was recorded. It was at a workshop. The presentations given in the tutorial section were recorded as were the research presentations that we students gave later on. They are all available online. I don't remember the option to opt out of being recorded...

I hadn't really thought of it until I interviewed for a job a few years ago and was told by someone on the committee that they found the video online and had watched it prior to my arrival. Eek!

Alex said...

I've only had one research talk recorded, and I put a link to it on my personal site. Friends have said good things about the talk, so I figure it can't hurt if prospective employers see my presentation style.

Anonymous said...

as long as there's nothing hanging out of my nose or I don't make an ass of myself in some way, then I don't mind being recorded during talks. In conferences where audience hostility during Q&A is the norm, that is a more volatile situation because as the speaker you may have to struggle to retain your grace and composure and that may not be something you want to be recorded and put on youtube

Anonymous said...

I was asked at the last minute to speak to students as part of what I thought was a panel. I found out that the session was publicized as a workshop and I was the only speaker. I was supposed to give frank answers to graduate students' questions. Seconds before I started, I noticed someone setting up a camera. I was not asked whether I was okay with being filmed and I felt unable to object. The whole thing made me very uncomfortable and made it awkward to answer some quite personal questions (e.g. work-life balance issues). The worst part: apparently the whole thing might be made available to NSF at some point. Last thing I want as a very early stage TT prof. I just hope it doesn't end up on the web somewhere. That time I was caught off-guard. Next time I will walk out if someone tries this.

Kea said...

It is becoming standard in my field for videos to be put online permanently, which I think is a good thing, to allow anyone to view them. However, this happened to me for the first time recently, and I did not feel the talk went well, exactly because I was nervous about being recorded. Ah, well. I think we should just get used to it.

Anonymous said...

What about the issues of prior publication? Some top tier journals are amazingly sensitive to this and it seems depending on who can get access to the recording, this crosses the line, limiting your publication outlets.

Anonymous said...

http://videolectures.net has thousands of recorded talks from conferences, meetings, workshops, and lectures. I agreed to have one of my recorded conference talks posted there, though for some reason it never appeared.

I really don't think there's much to worry about. If it's a good talk, people might actually watch it (but even then not many). If it's bad, nobody will watch it and nobody will care. I would want them to ask my permission, of course, but I can't see much of a downside.

David said...

I'm a full professor (medical field) and have given dozens/hundreds of talks in many different venues, and the variety of practices is quite high. Major conferences are more likely to deal with the issue via permissions and forms well ahead of time. University talks you often find out moments before. Similarly, what happens to the videos also varies, and in fact, for many venues, unless you ask pointed questions and or follow up assiduously you may never know exactly what happens.

My issues are two-fold. One is that technically speaking, if a talk is posted on the internet, then copyright laws apply in a way that they do not for "direct instruction" (for the people live in the audience). Thus, technically, you are not supposed to have any images on your slides for which you do not have written permission from the copyright holder, regardless of whether you provide attribution. Now most of us wouldn't bother to obtain formal permission for every image from a paper or book or for every random cute icon or photo from the web on a PPT or Keynote presentation that will be seen by 25 people in an auditorium.... but when posted on the internet, technically that is what is expected.
Occasionally you see videos of talks in which the copyrighted images are blurred out or otherwise removed (replaced with a descriptor and "image removed for copyright").... very very few organizations or individuals bother with this. My own philosophy now is to argue that given the paucity of viewers for my talks (sigh...) and other characteristics, that if push ever came to shove I would a) argue "fair use"; b) if necessary the organization that posted the video can just take it down;
My second issue has to do with plagiarism of my slides (and of my written content, placed on slides). I have had a number of experiences where -- while I was in the audience -- a speaker used a distinct quote from me (unmistakable in word choice and syntax) and either gave no attribution (essentially attributed to himself/herself) or attributed it wrongly to someone entirely different. I publicly called this to the speakers' attention during the lecture in each case. In any event, for a while I provided copies of talks only in locked PDF format (view only, no print, no copy/paste) but ultimately I decided this was futile (they can always just screen capture or even -- so old fashioned -- write down what I said). BUT... when I'm videoed I pretty much always give permission now, but I always wonder what nefarious practices I am facilitating.

biogirl said...

Thanks, FSP, for posting this topic. I had a similar situation as chemcat - I was told 5-10 minutes before my invited talk that I would be videotaped, and I felt uncomfortable but that I would come across as a jerk to say no. I haven't published everything in my talk. I guess at this point I could still contact the university to remove it from their website. I think it would hurt a potential collaboration with the person who invited me though!

I think a few beers are definitely warranted before I try to watch the talk in full. Nice to see the variety of responses here.

Yisong Yue said...

In computer science, it's pretty common for even grad students to have their conference talks recorded and placed online (e.g., videolectures.net, as mentioned earlier).

In some instances, talks are also streamed live to other venues. It does feel weird to know that while there might be 25 people in the audience, another 25-100 might be watching from their office computers.

I think adopting a mass-recording culture requires understanding and accepting that people don't give perfect talks, and some event-specific issues (e.g., the venue or the audience) might contribute to a shakier talk than usual.