Should webinars be recorded?

In their book Wired for Speech, Clifford Nass and Scott Brave make an interesting point:

‘Recording can have an enormous psychological impact on people. When people have a sense of being recorded, they are likely to say different things and process what is said differently than when they believe they are not being recorded. The lack of a record allows people to speak with a sense of informality and plausible deniability. Conversely, consider how much more careful, self-conscious and guarded people are when speaking “on the record” as opposed to “off the record”.’

While the purpose of Nass and Brave’s book was to describe their research on voice interfaces for electronic devices such as satellite navigation systems, there are implications in the context of learning technologies. The first and most obvious is whether we should be recording webinars. By doing so, are we unnecessarily impeding the natural flow of conversation? Do participants become inhibited by the fact that some unknown others might listen in to the recording some time in the future? Quite possibly.
This presents us with a difficulty because the ability to make recordings for the benefit of those unable to be present at the time represents a real advantage for webinars over the physical classroom. If we want the same easy flow of communication that can be obtained face-to-face when we’re online, then we have to consider not pressing the record button. We have to rule out recording surreptitiously because this would be unethical and possibly illegal, but we may be able to achieve a happy compromise by limiting access to the recording to fellow students.

There is another implication of this reluctance to be recorded which might explain why it can be so difficult to get employees to contribute to forums and other types of social media in the workplace. Contributing a post, even just a comment, is like being recorded. Your words are captured digitally and stored for years to come for all sorts of third parties – real and imagined – to retrieve, read and interpret, favourably or otherwise. Many employees will ask whether this is worth the risk? Those of us who have poured out our souls to social media over many years with little in the way of negative consequences will believe they are over-estimating the danger, but we’re not them, are we?

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