[eDebate] Two Tubs and Tech in Debates

Michael Souders micksouders
Tue Jul 22 10:49:12 CDT 2008

I appreciate Galloway's idea and it's the kind of ideas that are needed in
an age of increasing costs.  I don't agree with it, however.

I thought Repko had a lot of great points on the subject.  I know the old
"tech" divide argument is a hackneyed and that at some point tub
organization and the ability to use them effectively is a sort of technology
in and of themselves, but I think it's important to realize that relying on
computers creates an escalating technological arms race that is a lot more
expensive than the current arms race.  For example, our debaters here at KU
are constantly telling me how I should get an Apple, they're so fast,
they're so awesome, they're so intuitive, blah blah blah.  Problem: I can't
AFFORD an Apple.  Moreover, I can't afford a very fast computer with a lot
RAM that handle large files with the requisite picture images in it (from
scanned books).  And I have a job, of sorts.  Here are the troubling sets of
equations: Faster computer = more expensive computers = more effective
evidence access = less prep time (pre-round and in-round) + fewer time
consuming, confusing, upsetting, round ruining crashes + expectations that
opponents will have similar access = upward pressure to spend or fall
behind.  The exact same situation is true of printers: Faster printer = more
expensive printer = more expensive cartridges = more effective evidence
access, etc.  More financially advantaged individual debaters and squads
will be able to replace malfunctioning equipment much faster and without the
concern that will prevent them from paying rent or travelling to tournaments
down the road.

Non-unique, you say?  Tech exists in the status quo?  True.  But most
laptops are a back-up now.  Most squads still print their files and think
that most debaters agree that paper file organization is still handier than
laptops.  This isn't scientific, of course, but I think I've seen an actual
decrease in reliance on laptops for flowing and for reading evidence in the
past couple of years.  And although some pre-round rushing exists now, it's
usually for one file or a couple of pages or something?not whole strategies
or backfiles.  It's still easier for most people to pull a dozens pages of
cards and stack them in a vague order and choose them by sight when speaking
than doing that by computer.  Most people can simply visually scan material
faster that way.  Because paper is the still the ruling practice, the
problems of the tech divide are limited.  But creating a rule would
eliminate the status quo customs and enforce a need for technology and make
sure that a lot of the old, poor quality laptops that many debaters still
rely on as a back up either become front-line weapons (leaving their owners
hopelessly outgunned) or that the debaters and squads have to invest far
more in updated technology, if you'll suffer the war metaphors.  I tend to
think these costs will quickly outstrip the airline travel costs.

Lastly, this already true, but it would magnify existing background
privileges.  Those persons from privileged backgrounds are much more likely
to be already familiar with advanced laptop applications.  This sounds
ridiculous but it's true: there is using MS-Word and there is
*USING*MS-Word to it's full potential.
Other add-on organization software and such things are much more likely to
familiar to those who economic status has made technological education a
much higher priority and more attainable possibility in their home
communities.  Ultimately, despite the privilege that pervades the debate
community currently, one of the nice things is that is accessible to
everyone.  Maybe I am just being pessimistic but I would prefer that the
community act to limit increasing the material barriers to not just
participation, but *effective* participation.  There are, of course,
exceptions and some might argue that debate is about educating people.  But
call me a Luddite, but I think debate is about educating people in argument
and political awareness, not in how to use a laptop.  And if laptop reliance
is barrier to *effective* participation then we are missing out educating
the some of the people that we are supposed to be targeting in the first

There are many practical arguments against the decreased tub, increased
laptop requirement.  In defense of Jim's prediction regarding the extinction
of tubs, it might simply happen as process of advancing debate customs and
practices.  Some teams may even choose laptops as a cheaper way of dealing
with material costs.  Some teams already have mastery of technological
materials and are already free to exploit that mastery.  But maybe the
Heideggerian in me wants to believe there will always be a place for the old
ways, craft, and customs of tub-based debate, for those that want it.  And
the egalitarian in me wants debate to remain free and open whatever material
resource choices work best for each team and each squad in the community.

*FYI-I'm not a total Luddite.  It's true that I don't have cable, but that's
just so I can announce that fact in a superior tone every once in a while.  I
also watch a lot of culturally advanced PBS shows.  And I may own many
leather bound books.  But here's a serious example: I think debaters should
be able to use wireless to access server backfiles and/or cut cards DURING
debates, if need be.  Why?  Because it makes better debate.  At the risk of
being struck by lightning as a I say this, I get annoyed when teams lose to
bad,backwards DAs because they didn't have the U card that is factually true
and the first hit on GoogleNews, especially when I'm looking at the card as
I judge the debate while the affirmative simply has to go to its doom.  This
isn't entirely consistent with what I've said above, but nobody is entirely
consistent.  Scott Harris has told me support of this practice makes me
entirely unethical, but then again, he watches *cable.*
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