Monday, July 19, 2010

1st gov's odds and related data

There are those who spend prep time in foetus position whining for 15 minutes after learning they will be 1st gov. On the other side, there are those who thrive in that position, scenting an unique chance to dominate the debate.

We all feel that 1st govs in preliminary rounds are less successful than all the others, but we also see that 1st govs win finals fairly often - in Germany between DDM Berlin 2008 and ZEIT DEBATTE Stuttgart 2010 at almost every single tournament. Does that mean that good teams perform better in 1st gov?

Here is a look at the EUDC 2006 tab: 164 teams provide after 6 rounds 984 results.

We can see that 1st gov's odds to gain three points are - as expected - generally below average. Betting on a 2nd opp win seems to be a way better idea. Now, looking at the top 50 teams only, we see the respective percentage is above average. But top teams are much more likely to win in any position. Taking this into account, we learn: chances to gain three points are still the higher the later you speak in a debate, and the best way to avoid a loss is being some sort of opp. That goes for the totality of teams as well.

However, this analysis does not cover break rounds. Possibly, dynamics are different before an audience in everything-or-nothing mode.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mothers who care too much

Here's a good read for all those lovers of debates about feminism: Nancy J. Hirschmann - Mothers who care too much (Boston Review July/August 2010)

You can read this as a nice summary of what's going on in feminism and gender debates in the US. Normative ideas of gender equality are much less broadly accepted there, having large portions of the youth aspiring to get married young. The idolization of women as primary care-givers plays a huge role here (interestingly and not quite coincidentally, this role is particularly idolized for army wives). This should be particularly interesting for all those fans of Judith Butler's deconstructivism.

On this note, compare "the personal is political" to Hannah Arendt's political philosophy. Can there be self-actualization by choosing the role of the care-giver, without overt political participation?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Debater's Rorschach

Given that debating is not an exact sport and performance is judged by humans, it was only a matter of time until psychoanalytic methods make their way into debating. Psychologists and psychotics at BDU have now turned their analytic minds to the question of how to assess the fundamental attitude of judges, so as to calibrate their speeches to perfectly suit their adjudicator's taste. After stunning initial results with the scientifically sound method of free association to random smudges of ink, we have arrived at a handy version of the Rorschach test which is perfectly adjusted to debaters' needs.

Simply ask your judge the following question:

"You're judging a debate in which every speaker takes the floor when it is his turn, doesn't open his mouth for 7 minutes, and then sits back down. How do you call the debate?"

The adjudicator's answer gives insight into her judging attitude. Here's a couple of answers you might hear:

  • "I put them all on joint last."/ "I just run away."/ "I yell at them until my voice fades."
    This judge is into the fun of hearing great speaches. Make her happy by cracking jokes, use cunny metaphors and pack your speech with pathos.
  • "I judge by looks."/ "Let's see who I like best as a person."
    This judge is taking the debate the way it is, and is then trying to find the right criteria by which to discriminate between the teams. Make sure you always explain why your team line beats the crap out of the other teams.
  • The judge actually gives you a ranking.
    This judge has a fixed set of criteria and ranks the teams by this. Try to dig deeper what these criteria may be: team consistency, micro-rebuttal to each and every one of your opponents' points, role fulfilment, constructing standard arguments well. You won't be able to sway her to your view of the debate! She'll listen to you though and be very analytical on her set of criteria. Our favourite answer actually: "Closing prop is last cause they didn't have an extension. Third comes opening opp cause they didn't deal appropriately with gov's policy. Second comes opening prop for screwing up the definition of the debate, and the winner is closing opp for perfectly hitting the tone of the debate".