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Written by Paul Ryer, Scholar Programs Director

With the end of Robert Weiner’s compelling presentation about the roads of Chaco Canyon on December 14, we successfully concluded SAR’s 2022 Resident Scholar colloquium series. Using the format we have evolved over the course of the pandemic—a combination of a pre-recorded talk followed by live Q & A with the speaker—we have improved the quality and greatly extended the reach of these presentations.

As of this writing, four of the six talks are available on SAR’s YouTube channel, and the remaining two are in post-production and will soon join them there. Interestingly, where we were once limited to local New Mexican audiences and constrained by the size of the Boardroom and by limited campus parking, this year’s live audiences ranged from 40 to 396 people, logging on from Santa Fe and around the world, with many viewers also contributing donations, which have been greatly appreciated. One of my favorite features to this webinar format is the ability of audience members to “up-vote” or “down-vote” others’ questions, allowing me as moderator to prioritize questions of the widest interest. This potentially fosters a greater audience engagement than an in-person event in which questions are answered in random order, particularly when there are too many questions and some kind of triage is necessary.

Even more interesting is to contemplate the afterlives of these talks, which are permanently available on SAR’s YouTube channel. There, one can see how many views any given talk has accrued over time, and the results are somewhat surprising:

The most-watched SAR talk as of this writing is Prof. Lera Boroditsky’s member lecture from five years ago, with 68,000 views. But also up there is 2016-2017 Mellon Fellow David Romo’s colloquium presentation from the fall of 2016, “Mexican Nazis & Global Pachucos.” I recall that a year after we posted it, Romo’s talk had been viewed almost 1,000 times, which seemed impressive at the time, but now has over 40,000 views. What an amazing afterlife to a talk which had a live audience of perhaps fifty people! Not every talk has gone viral, of course, and predicting which ones will is beyond me. But beautifully, any one of them has that potential. Perhaps we might think of SAR’s YouTube channel as a seedbank of scholarly wisdom just waiting for the right conditions to bloom!