This time last week I was preparing to present a paper for the Robo-philosophy Conference 2014 at Aarhus University in Denmark.
What was unusual about the situation was that I had spent five hours teaching face-to-face in Western Australia already that day, and my presentation was online in Vimeo, ready and waiting to be played.
I suppose it isn’t that strange any more, to present things virtually, that is. I was still in Western Australia when later that evening I did some technical tests for Skyping into the conference room, so that I’d be able to answer questions. Later still, I was online talking to people on the other side of the world about my research, having already received (and, in fact, having started my reply) to an email from a researcher sitting in that distant room. Actually it was a bit odder than that, because since the laptop for the Skype was fully wired up to speakers etc it couldn’t be turned around easily. This meant that I saw the audience briefly when I was introduced and the machine was held up so the camera looked over the room, but after that time I was talking to a blank blackboard, very aware that my huge head (on the screen, no this isn’t a comment about my massive ego) was answering the questions that people raised in the room.
I stuck around on Skype for the rest of the panel. Although it was very difficult to hear everything that the other presenters said, and I lost video part way through, it still felt good to be listening in, to be in some way at least a part of that section of the conference. This was important for me, and made the whole thing more valuable as an experience.
Theoretically, it would have been quite possible for me to present the paper via Skype, live, as it were, but I was very glad that I decided not to do this. There were two main reasons. The first related to the possibility for technical issues to arise. Presentations always run the risk of these, but Skyping from home into a conference room with a wireless internet connection felt too risky. The second was really to do with comfort. By recording the presentation I took the pressure off on the night, and I wasn’t in the position of having to present my paper live to an audience I couldn’t see very well (or possibly at all).
I’ll post the video of the presentation here later tonight.