Tradition, Advocacy, Innovation

Revenge of the Analog Evidence

Posted on June 3rd, by Sarah Spring in Debate Pedagogy, Research. Comments Off on Revenge of the Analog Evidence



Today I got a big set of books from the wonderful UH library system for the upcoming War Powers college CEDA/NDT topic and I was reminded of the value of analog – i.e. “books” – in the process of debate research.

Now, this insight is not all that novel, in fact it perhaps dates me a bit. But I thought I’d post a few thoughts on why books are still relevant and useful, despite the overwhelming preference of debaters to find their evidence in electronic formats.

  1. Uniqueness – Books have articles and chapters and writing that you can’t find elsewhere, often not even electronically. This fact is lost on those who do not read books that often. But I can’t emphasize enough that there are very good cards to be found in books that you won’t find on the interwebs (see below) .
  2. Context – Books as a genre tend to give you a deeper understanding of the history, politics, and broader social factors involved in the area of research. Why is this context important? Because it will give you ideas for new research connections and allow you to synthesize and understand arguments more fluently. I know this sounds a bit unrealistic, but well-read debaters (and undergraduates) are much more likely to succeed and in both debate and academics.
  3. Quality over Quantity – Higher quality research is more valuable than a deluge of cards from Google News. Books are the highest form of academic knowledge production and thus often have the best arguments, data and explanation. Also, it can be nice to slow down for a bit, curl up with book and allow the computer to take a rest.

There’s very little downside – Yes, you may have to *gasp* scan a book to format the evidence electronically, but new scanning tech, which is likely in your library makes this task infinitely easier. Additionally, the optical character recognition (OCR) software is much more freely available (probably through your university) than in the past. AND, the availability of books on internet allows you to find passages that you’ve read in books and format the relevant sections into evidence. I’ve found Microsoft One Note’s screen clipping feature to be surprisingly helpful in this regard. Also Evernote and other similar services can make this task simple.

As they say, the proof is in the evidence: so here’s a card I found this weekend in a book while working on the Mexico Affirmative for the NAUDL. It’s a pretty amazing card, if I don’t say so myself… Feel free to share,


North American regional economic strength is vulnerable. A breakdown of cooperation with Mexico would cause the decline of American power.

Clarkson & Mildenberger 2011
Stephen Clarkson, professor of political economy, University of Toronto, and former fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center Matto Mildenberger, Ph.D. student, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies Dependent America?: How Canada and Mexico Construct Us Power p. 272

The United States’ relationship with Canada and Mexico thus presents a paradox. Does North America Exist? showed that globalization was reducing the salience of North America as an economic entity, whether in the steel sector ‘s global restructuring or in the international consolidation of banking regulations. However, even as North American regionalism falters, the United States’ immediate periphery is becoming a more important partner in sustaining its material power. Constrained by its global partners’ superior growth rates, the United States can still count on the unusually beneficial economic relationship it quietly maintains with its continental periphery. Although it normally ignores its neighbours’ interests when dealing with other countries, its gradual decline no longer affords Washington this luxury without having to pay a price. That price is its two neighbours expanding their strategic gaze from the continent to the world. Canada and Mexico are endeavouring to strengthen their economic links with other countries. Indian capital is already investing in iron-ore extraction in Quebec, while Chinese firms are staking out Alberta’s tar sands. Even with disputes over Newfound land’s seal industry and its visa restrictions on Czech visitors, Canada has busily negotiated a comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union. Hosting the G-20 Economic Summit in 2012, Mexico is positioning itself as the champion of emerging economies and the developing world. This economic internationalization could mitigate Canada’s and Mexico’s lopsided dependencies on a US market to which their access has been curtailed since 9/11. Should they succeed in diversifying their economic links by attracting more FDI from overseas and should their extra-regional imports and exports abroad begin to expand more than their intra-regional trade, the United States’ economic perimeter in North America will contract, and their construction of US material strength will ipso facto diminish. The North American periphery has been Uncle Sam’s gold-laying goose for as long as most can remember. It would make an ironic epitaph for the United States’ hegemonic decline if alienating its most valuable and easily cultivated foreign asset accelerated its self-induced fall.




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