18.248 speaking (& writing) not so well

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:23:52 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 248.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

   [1] From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com> (1)
         Subject: Re: 18.244 speaking (not so) well

   [2] From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois (20)
         Subject: Re: 18.236 speaking well

   [3] From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg_at_uvm.edu> (21)
         Subject: Re: 18.241 speaking well

   [4] From: Vika Zafrin <amarena_at_gmail.com> (34)
         Subject: Re: [humanist] 18.244 speaking (not so) well

   [5] From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk> (43)
         Subject: speaking not so well

         Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:08:08 +0100
         From: Norman Hinton <hinton_at_springnet1.com>
         Subject: Re: 18.244 speaking (not so) well

I find sentences that don't begin with capital letters hard to read.

         Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:08:32 +0100
         From: lachance_at_origin.chass.utoronto.ca (Francois Lachance)
         Subject: Re: 18.236 speaking well


To invoke a computer analogy, speaking well is not only a question of
software, performance is also affected by hardware.

It is perhaps worth noting that the essay by Paul N. Edwards begins with
a reference to sight lines:


   The speaker approaches the head of the room and sits down at the
   table. (You can't see him/her through the heads in front of you.)



Some of the nodding off signalled by some commentators may have very
little to do with a droning delivery style and much more with ventillation
of the venue. Architecture does inflect reception. Consider the racked
seating of a lecture hall versus the "in the round" of a seminar room.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
A calendar is like a map. And just as maps have insets, calendars in the
21st century might have 'moments' expressed in flat local time fanning out
into "great circles" expressed in earth revolution time.
         Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:08:53 +0100
         From: Hope Greenberg <hope.greenberg_at_uvm.edu>
         Subject: Re: 18.241 speaking well
My early conference experiences were with technology conferences, education
conferences, or combinations of the two. Thus, when I attended my first
History conference and someone remarked that they would be "reading their
paper" in the first session, I assumed they were not being literal. Silly
me. I was even more surprised to find that all the presenters actually read
their papers, and that the audience seemed to accept this as the norm.
The Edwards piece (http://www.si.umich.edu/~pne/acadtalk.htm) is quite
welcome. I would  divide two of his numbers in half (based on research
presented at the above-mentioned education and technology conferences where
the presentations were not read!):
- if using a visual aid that is all text, the "5 or7" rule works best: no
more than five to seven words per line, no more than five to seven lines
per screen (and never, ever, read that text word for word!)
- the number of minutes in a lecture/reading after which people's attention
starts to wander? 15-20 at the beginning of the lecture/reading, with
increasingly shorter time spans as the session continues
As Norman Gray points out, these things are not unknown and have even been
well-documented, especially in education circles that explore active
learning techniques. They simply have not yet filtered into all areas of
the academy.
- hope.greenberg_at_uvm.edu, Univ. of Vermont
         Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:09:22 +0100
         From: Vika Zafrin <amarena_at_gmail.com>
         Subject: Re: [humanist] 18.244 speaking (not so) well
Hello, list,
Quoting Aimee:
  > it seems an important point to make, but
  > listening to a speech is different than perusing an article.  you need to
  > write less-complicated sentences.   or rework them.
  > all of us who teach, and who require oral presentations as part
  > of our courses ought to make good and sure we're teaching good habits (as
  > opposed to, 'if i go10 minutes over time, professor softy will give me
  > better grades 'cause i worked harder).  and when we're panel chairs, for
  > the love of pete, cut people off!
Hear, hear.  This, along with the discussion on Matt Kirschenbaum's
weblog (http://www.otal.umd.edu/~mgk/blog/archives/000644.html),
pinpoints something that has been bothering me recently:  that written
text and speech are often treated as entirely separate, written papers
considered nigh-impossible to read aloud.  These would *seem* to be
the options:
- write out an entire paper, and publish it in a journal;
- write a detailed outline and present your talk in "living" language,
referring to the outline;
- give a talk that is almost entirely oral, perhaps jotting down a
thing or two on an index card.
But what about writing a monologue, dramatic tension and all, and
training your(my)self as a performer?  That's what we're doing at that
podium, no?  Why should the words die, or at least hibernate, the
moment they hit the paper?
Vika Zafrin
Director, Virtual Humanities Lab
Brown University Box 1942
Providence, RI 02912 USA
         Date: Thu, 30 Sep 2004 07:12:17 +0100
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: speaking not so well
Much of my experience accords with Aimee's. I suspect one cause is the
self-promotionalism that competition for jobs has brought about, the main
purpose of giving a paper seemingly often to advance oneself as an object
of attention. If something of some significance to the discipline gets said
clearly enough to be understood along the way, well, that's an unexpected
benefit. But I have enormous sympathy for those starting out now. I see
what happens at close range, and it's very hard for me to think that much
good comes of the uncertainty and consequent self-doubt induced by looking
into the yawning abyss year after year after year. When one begins with
attention-grabbing as the principle of selection, what do we expect to
happen? The tenure system exacerbates the problem quite severely. If
competition for tenure is severe, as it is in some places I know of,  then
attention-grabbing has to make room for colleague-pleasing -- and together
they form a deadly pair. Who wants to be caught being clear under such
Also in my experience, however, very senior people are by far the easiest
to chair: tell them 10 minutes or whatever, and they'll speak for that
amount of time, and often very much to the point. There are a few whom one
has to treat with the vaudeville hook, but these are the exception.
Sufficient confidence and enough security to allow for the mind to relax --
providing one has selected for worthy people passionate about the work --
are good medicine indeed. (The other side of that coin is the smug
complacency of those who have it made and know they have. But I don't
suppose one can do much about that, except not to defer to those who
exhibit it.)
All this is very much our problem because what we have to be clear about
doesn't start out that way at all, and it's all so recent that to make
sense of it is particularly challenging. We deal with technical fields in
which bibliographic responsibility is a near-foreign concept (and for good
reasons we need to understand before passing judgement). We deal with ideas
so smothered by hype that intellectual weed-control is one of our major
tasks. We deal with expectations so coloured by socially mistaken ideas of
service that getting the chance to make the intellectual point isn't as
common as it needs to be. So we need to pay particular attention to the
imperative to communicate and use each opportunity well.
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Dr Willard McCarty | Senior Lecturer | Centre for Computing in the
Humanities | King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS || +44 (0)20
7848-2784 fax: -2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk
Received on Thu Sep 30 2004 - 02:31:36 EDT

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