Why does Academia+EA produce so few online videos?
(A shorter version on Facebook, here. There are some good points in the comments.)
Why are there so many in-person-first EA/academic presentations, but so few online-first presentations or videos?
Presentations are a big deal in academia, but from what I can tell, they almost always seem to be mainly done in person. A significant number of presentations are repeated multiple times to multiple groups of people, in person.
Sometimes these presentations are recorded and posted online, but they typically are optimized more for in-person audiences, with online audiences as a bit of an afterthought.
EAs sometimes spend a lot of time on presentations at EAG. These get posted online, but I don't think these videos get much attention. I basically don’t ever remember hearing someone discuss an EAG video they watched in conversation, or referencing it in a blog post.
If the online audience were the main target, I think presenters could just make videos directly and upload those. That way they'd have much more flexibility (can do multiple takes, add effects, and polish).
Online webinars are kind of awkward. First, streaming has a lot of disadvantages compared to recorded video. Worse sound quality, more equipment needs, having one single take. Second, these webinars are often barely interactive. If they're not interactive, there's really no first-principles need to have the first 40 minutes made up on the fly and presented at 1x speed, as opposed to being sent to people ahead of time.
Or take tech presentations. Several companies just did in-person keynote addresses at CES. In comparison, Apple has gotten really good at recording (much of) their work ahead of time, and presenting that in highly polished videos. Maybe it’s a flex to present your work in real-time in one take and not mess up, or to physically be in the audience when that one take happens.
There seems to be some dramatic pull that gets people to converge on presenting and watching things live, especially when they are in person. It's hard to explain this pull with any simple cost-benefit analysis.
Some quick hypotheses (in part, from comments):
The EA Funders and leaders don't seem to watch videos much, so it wouldn't help many orgs.
It's a lot of work to do this well. The setup cost is significant.
The standard for "well-made Youtube videos" is absurdly high, and people are worried that content not at that level will look bad.
Video is associated with stupider people (in the eyes of many)
The required skills are pretty different than writing. Lots of strong EA researchers are not great presenters.
A lot of people in our community don't like watching videos or listening to audio. They often really prefer text.
It's assumed that if you make video, it's not for EAs, but for "the generic Youtube audience".
(Of course, this parallels the question of why flipped classrooms haven't done incredibly well. Having teachers give long monologues on repeat seems stupid prima facie, but it still seems to work.)
 I remember their segments during Covid mostly seemed prerecorded. Even the current ones seem highly prerecorded to me, but I’m not very sure where the boundaries are. The fact that I can’t tell, and there didn’t seem to be a lot of controversy here, is telling.
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