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Videoconferencing news

April 2nd, 2008

I’m doing my first videoconference presentation for the year on Friday, appropriately enough at a University of Sydney one-day seminar on the economics of sustainability. My talk will be on “Uncertainty, awareness and the precautionary principle”. Anyone interested can get details from Michael Harris [email protected] I’ve lined up two more videoconferences for the first half of this year, and I hope to do some more in the second half. Having been invited to the 2020 Summit in a few weeks time, and with some more bookings already in place, I don’t plan to accept any more invitations for physical travel this year.

The other part of my plan to reduce my carbon footprint and the amount of time I spend travelling is to make one trip cover multiple events. I’m in Melbourne right now, for a visit that includes three presentations and several meetings.

With all this, I’m still travelling a fair bit more than I would like. But I think there is a network effect here. The more people get used to videoconferencing as an alternative, the better it will work, and the more demand there will be for technical improvements.

Update I’ve just given the presentation and I thought it went pretty smoothly, certainly a lot easier than a trip to Sydney. The picture quality for my presentation was fine, and the computer link (using BridgIt) went well. The video and sound quality from the other end (a large lecture room as opposed to a talking head studio presentation) was adequate, but that’s certainly an area of potential improvement. Here’s the presentation in PDF format

Categories: Environment Tags:
  1. Spiros
    April 2nd, 2008 at 09:53 | #1

    All this video conferencing uses electricity which is generated by coal fired power stations. How do you know there is a net carbon saving?

  2. wilful
    April 2nd, 2008 at 12:05 | #2

    So you’re a loss leader?

    Spiros, is your comment serious? Hopefully not.

  3. D. W. Griffiths
    April 2nd, 2008 at 12:27 | #3

    The failure of videoconferencing to take off over the past two decades is one of the most interesting aspects of electronic communication. You’ve now embarked on an experiment with the issue; please keep us informed how it’s going.

  4. David
    April 2nd, 2008 at 12:32 | #4

    The main reason videoconferencing hasn’t taken off until quite recently is the lack of bandwidth. Now that that problem is solved (sort of), videoconferencing is becoming increasingly common. The widely-dispersed company I work for has use it extensively for at least the three years I’ve been here.

  5. wbb
    April 2nd, 2008 at 13:37 | #5

    Teleconferencing and video-conferencing are the way to go. Drives me to despair the number of times my Gov employed SO travels all over the place when e-comms would do the trick.

    Working at a v large company that won’t let anybody travel anywhere unless their life depended on it – we have adjusted very well over the last 5 years to remote collaboration.

    I think people still just assume that travelling for face to face events is the only reasonable option. Got to stop. Beats me how the airfares/accom gets paid for.

  6. Sam
    April 2nd, 2008 at 14:02 | #6

    I’ll be interested to see how this goes!

    Also: besides the ‘hard’ technology-based problems (e.g. bandwidth) there is also been the ‘soft’ learning/communications problems thrown up by video conferencing (e.g. the reliance on shared experience to build trust). One of the ways some large firms are now getting around this is the creation of ‘shared contexts’ for the information exchange to take place within. As a quirky example: while I was in Denmark recently a Swedish colleague ( who researches R&D management) mentioned to me that Erickson have installed cafes in many of their R&D centres around the world that are especially set up to focus on video conferencing. They’ve found that researchers collaborate and share knowledge much more effectively via video conferencing if they can meet and chat over a coffee first!

  7. Ernestine Gross
    April 2nd, 2008 at 18:28 | #7

    In addition to the aim of reducing the carbon footprint, substituting teleconferencing for air travel reduces the noise footprint over residential areas.

  8. swio
    April 3rd, 2008 at 07:52 | #8

    Would it be practical for the video conference to be recorded and made available online? If this could be done it might be another advantage in favour of video conferencing over physical travel.

  9. Michael Harris
    April 3rd, 2008 at 08:13 | #9

    The symposium John is joining us at (electronically) has been initiated and organised quite quickly to take advantage of the presence of a few other key speakers who happen to be around. I haven’t looked at recording John’s talk, although I can make enquiries today.

    Separately though, I’m asking all the speakers if they would make papers and/or powerpoint slides available to go online, which I will facilitate and John can post the link here in his blog when it’s all been made available. I stress, though, that this is based on the speakers giving me their slides and permission to make then publicly available.

  10. swio
    April 3rd, 2008 at 09:25 | #10

    Combining powerpoint into video presentiations can be a pain. The best way I have seen it done is to have the presenter actually control the everything by transmitting their desktop rather than just the video image of the presenter. That way they can bring up whatever file they want and the audience can see it just the presenter is looking at it on their computer and they can even highlight stuff using their mouse. The speaker can just voice over the slides most of the time or can have two windows open at once. One for the slides/spreadsheets/charts and the other window can be the webcam image of the speaker themself. Its kind of cool to have presenter in a little window off to the side so you can see them but the main focus is on the material and they can always maximise the webcam image when the focus is on the presenter rather than the material.

  11. April 4th, 2008 at 08:11 | #11

    John, if you have time, please post on how this goes from the presenter’s standpoint. I’m curious on things like the management of multiple questions, and also whether you feel that you feel as engaged with the audience.

    Hopefully we’ll line you up for one of these later this year, at which point I’ll naturally post on how it feels from an audience member’s standpoint.

  12. April 4th, 2008 at 08:12 | #12

    I guess “feel that you feel” could simply have been “feel”.

  13. mugwump
    April 5th, 2008 at 00:23 | #13

    Money quote:

    Christine Todd Whitman

    Policymakers need to take a precautionary approach to environmental protection…. We must acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.

    Why should we single the environment out for special treatment with the “precautionary principle”? One could equally (in fact, more strongly) argue:

    Policymakers need to take a precautionary approach to income protection.We must acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in managing free markets, recognize it is usually easier to prevent economic damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection of freedom toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.

  14. jquiggin
    April 5th, 2008 at 06:01 | #14

    An important question. You can read Sunstein and lots of others if you want to see it developed further. If you can’t infer my response from the slides, you’ll have to wait for the paper, which I hope will come soon.

  15. mugwump
    April 5th, 2008 at 22:41 | #15

    Deleted: please read the comments policy. I’m sick of this kind of stuff from you and any repetition will lead to a permanent ban

  16. Michael Harris
    April 6th, 2008 at 19:44 | #16

    For swio (comment #10)

    We had two separate screens up side-by-side. We could see John on camera on one, and the slides (that he operated from his end) on the other.

    The whole thing went successfully, and I’d certainly look to do something similar again for speakers who can’t attend in person.

  17. swio
    April 7th, 2008 at 11:04 | #17

    That’s a great setup.

    The next step might be to broadcast it over the internet so the audience can attend virtually as well. You could have the broadcaster in Brisbane, some participants in the conference room in Sydney and the rest of them connecting in from the work desks (or home) in Melbourne, Perth, Malaysia, Singapore etc. It would take a little bit more work to co-ordinate, especially the question and answer section but with practice in can certainly be done. I’ve seen enough global IT meetings and even entire projects done like this to know its possible. Today we don’t think twice about doing work where none of the participants ever have or will meet face to face.

    BTW, thanks to Professor Quiggin for putting up the slides. You may not realise this but alot of your readers see you more as a blogger than an economists and its nice to get some idea of what you do outside of this website. It gives some context to your blogging.

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