Informatics Takes Debate Watching to a New Level

Kelly Spradling Photos by Krista Rayford, NKU

“This presidential election has been unlike any other in recent memory ... ”

By Madison Borland
NKU Marketing + Communications intern

The College of Informatics at Northern Kentucky University has taken debate watching to a new level during the 2016 presidential campaign, opening a viewing area in the George and Ellen Rieveschl Digitorium to bring the “Digital Debate-In” to the community.

Students, faculty, staff, and community members filled the room Sept. 26 for the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, and for the vice-presidential debate Oct. 4 between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence.

The COI will again open the Digitorium for the final presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 19. The theatre-style screen will become a digital polling booth, where viewers can watch the debates and participate in live polling and analysis. Political and communication experts from NKU also offer pre-and post-analysis of the candidates’ performances.

“This presidential election has been unlike any other in recent memory – and perhaps never before have the presidential debates been so eagerly anticipated,” said Dr. Steven Weiss, professor of argumentation at NKU and author of Making ArgumentsReason in Context. “We are excited to welcome community members to campus for a debate viewing experience also unlike any other.”

Doors will open at 7:45 p.m. Oct. 19. Dr. Weiss and other NKU faculty experts will deliver lectures prior to the debate.

“It was very enjoyable for me to be able to sit and watch on the digital screen, NKU student Jonathan Carlisle said following the first debate-in. “This gives me something to look forward to, so I do plan to attend the other debates.”

The environment in the Digitorium is meant to emphasize the importance of expression and discussion during the debate. Students will be encouraged to share their opinions either anonymously through the interactive polls or through speaking out.

The screen projecting the show will also have two sections dedicated to student involvement. One will project a poll in which audience members are able to anonymously respond to questions about the debate through text. The other will be a live newsfeed of the COI Twitter account and tweets from the individuals in the digitorium.

During the first debate, students immediately began reacting to the responses from the candidates. Occasional outcries and laughter engulfed the room while side conversations were carried on throughout the debate.

At one point, a student asked Dr. Weiss why the moderator did not intervene when rules were broken.

“It is not the judge’s job to enter into a debate,” Dr. Weiss said. “It is their job to make sure the debate is fair and both sides are able to respond to each other.”

Several students remained to discuss their opinions openly about the atmosphere of the Digitorium and the debate as a whole after each of the first two events.

The “Digital Debate-In” is an initiative of NKU’s Department of Communication and the Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement. The events are open to the public and free of charge. The Rieveschl Digitorium is located in NKU’s Griffin Hall, located on Kenton Drive. Parking is available in the Kenton Drive Garage.

Kelly Spradling

Final Digital Debate-In

Date: Wednesday, Oct. 19
Time: 7:45 p.m.
Where: George and Ellen Rieveschl Digitorium

This event is free to the public!