Choosing an Oral Presentation topic can be tough. Finding an idea that’s unique, relevant and interesting all at once can sometimes feel impossible; but don’t worry, this is where we come in! Below is a list of 12 potential Oral Presentation topics for you to draw inspiration from, selected in reference to the VCE assessment criteria.
Remember, this blog is not a resource to give you a finished speech idea, these are just jumping-off points. Plagiarism is very harshly punished in VCE and many other students will currently be reading this very same post, meaning it's up to YOU to figure out how you’ll form a unique angle if you pick one of these topics. To help you do this, each section provides an overview of the cultural events that make this topic relevant. Additionally, possible contentions are included, ensuring you can see how arguments about these topics can be effectively made.
1. Kanye’s blow-up - The necessity of the media to stop platforming celebrities spreading harmful ideas
American rapper Kanye West has always been a controversial figure, but since his endorsement of Trump in 2016 he’s seemingly been on a particularly bad downward spiral. His descent into increasingly more extremist right-wing politics has led to the question of whether the news media, detached and neutral as they might claim to be, should even be reporting on him.
As of writing (late 2022), Kanye’s recent appearances on far-right talk shows to voice support for Hitler and question the existence of the Holocaust (which has no doubt been topped by something equally controversial by the time this gets published) pushes this question right to its limit.
Events like this are undoubtedly big stories that many people would like to know about, but does reporting on them do more harm than good? Do we realistically all have the self-control to ignore these figures when so much of modern news already revolves around controversy and gossip?
- Major media companies should reach an agreement to actively avoid covering celebrity behaviour that spreads dangerous ideas.
- News media should make an extra effort to disprove the dangerous ideologies of those they cover, rather than presenting them in a ‘neutral way’.
2. Amber Heard - How online discourse can villainise marginalised groups and encourage ‘dogpiling’
A similar celebrity controversy that dominated 2022 headlines was the two-way public defamation lawsuit between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, which involved accusations of abuse on both sides. One of the most notable parts of this case was the online depiction of Heard, on social media platforms such as Facebook and Youtube.
Heard emerged as the internet’s new favourite punching bag, with an endless stream of videos and memes where her ‘allegations of domestic violence and sexual assault were mocked for entertainment’. Crucially, these were made to criticise her in a way that most clearly mirrored historical sexist stereotypes about emotionally manipulative women. You probably came across examples of these yourself, as platforms like Youtube have a history of directing users to this kind of content.
As such, key issues were identified in terms of how social media warps online discussions of allegations of abuse. Additionally, like the last topic, the very fact that this legal dispute was publicly broadcast raises questions as to whether the media’s focus on this event may have worsened the issue.
- Personal legal proceedings between celebrities are not something that should be broadcast to the public.
- The online discussion regarding this trial demonstrates the need for increased regulation of hateful and abusive content on social media platforms.
3. Should Australia be made a republic in the wake of the Queen’s death?
The death of Queen Elizabeth II in September of 2022, among many other things, drew Australia back into a debate it's been having for decades; should we become a republic? This would be a shift from our current state of (effectively) being overseen by the United Kingdom as a ‘constitutional parliamentary monarchy’, with the ‘head of state’ now being an Australian citizen rather than the UK monarch.
Although the replacement of the Queen with the new head of state (King Charles III) shouldn’t really shift people’s perspective on this issue, it most likely will. Queen Elizabeth has been the welcoming and approachable symbol of the monarchy for many Australians. Her death could be the catalyst for a shift in public opinion, severing the connection that many citizens still had to the UK monarchy.
This issue can be approached from many different angles, inducing discussion on HOW the process of Australia becoming a republic should occur (especially how the new head of state should be chosen), as well as stepping back and assessing the positives and negatives of making this shift.
- Australia’s transition to a republic is a necessary step in helping honour the country’s Indigenous population and rejecting its colonial past
- Australia’s transition to a republic, although often framed as an act of national unity, will actually worsen the cultural divides within our country.
- Although Australia should transition to a republic, the current rise of nationalist politics makes a public election of the new head of state extremely risky.
4. Are NFTs a positive advancement in contemporary technology?
Whether or not you understand what it actually means, the phrase ‘NFTs’ has probably been inescapable on your social media feeds over the last year. Without getting too detailed, these ‘Non-Fungible Tokens’ are essentially investments into non-replicable representations of artwork, which will (supposedly) increase in value over time.
Despite seemingly being an exciting new technology that could have given control back to artists through copyright ownership, NFTs have instead been heavily criticised for commercialising artwork by reducing it to a literal piece of digital currency. Further issues have arisen in terms of how this technology can easily be used to scam people through misrepresenting the value of individual NFTs, or NFT owners simply taking the money and running.
What do you think? All new technology seems shaky and uncertain at the start, and maybe we should recognise that the current negative impacts of NFTs must simply be overcome with time. How do we weigh the benefit this technology has for individual artists against its potential drawbacks?
- For their many flaws, NFTs give the power back to creators and, therefore, need to be improved rather than roundly rejected.
- Despite preaching democratisation, NFTs and Bitcoin are both a part of a technological trend that will further increase wealth inequality.
5. How much can Western citizens really do to fight injustice via social media activism?
The effect of the COVID pandemic on developing countries, the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and human rights abuses by the nation of Qatar - this year has seen an innumerable number of news stories that would make any reasonable person jump to their phones to see what they could do to help, like signing an online petition or sharing a public post to spread awareness.
However, as you probably know, these forms of social media 'slacktivism’ have historically drawn criticism for their ineffectiveness and self-serving nature. Increasingly though, this debate has become more complicated, moving away from the simplified dismissal of any social media activism that emerged around the turn of the century. Others have rightly pointed out that many influential contemporary social movements, that have had real-world impacts, did emerge from social media, such as the BLM and #MeToo movements.
As such, there’s a lot of room for different arguments here regarding whether a critical perspective of ‘social media slacktivism’ has become outdated in a world that is increasingly unavoidably based on the internet.
- Social media activism is unavoidably the way that young people are going to engage with political issues, and a rejection of it is naive and impractical.
- Political activism should distance itself from the online world if it wants to make real-world change that doesn’t fit neatly under existing power structures.
6. Is the overload of various media streaming service subscriptions sustainable?
‘Streaming fatigue’ has emerged as a 2023 talking point that may have seemed unthinkable just a few years ago. Remember when we just had Netflix offering us a new way of consuming film and TV that was both more convenient and cost-effective than ‘pay TV’ packages (which were often heavily inflated in price and packed with unwanted channels)?
However, as we move into 2023, many have argued that the current subscription landscape now mirrors the previous pay-TV model. Consumers once again find themselves having to pay for an increasingly large amount of services if they want to conveniently access their film and TV shows. Predictably, this has seen a re-emergence of video piracy.
Does this mean that it's fundamentally impossible for us to access our media as conveniently as we’d like to, and the years of Netflix being the only streaming service that had all we wanted were never sustainable? Or maybe corporations are unfairly squeezing every dollar they can out of us, and piracy is a fair and just consumer response?
- Through offering convenience that is unparalleled by any other previous technology, streaming services are still worth the cost.
- Consumers should actively engage in digital piracy until media corporations create a more affordable streaming environment.
7. Is a post-COVID work-at-home model healthy for the next generation of workers?
Although 2020 and 2021 may be remembered as the ‘years of COVID’, 2022 onwards is perhaps when we will see which long-term impacts of the pandemic continue to stick around. Aside from the permanent placement of public hand sanitiser stations, working from home has emerged as one of the most prominent main-stays from our lockdown years.
Is this something that we should embrace? A lot was said during the lockdown about the mental health effects of being deprived of human connection; is this something we should just forget about when it comes to work? As with many of these issues, the question arises as to whether this shift is an inevitable effect of technological advancement, which we can either accept or fruitlessly battle until it becomes the new normal.
However, the fact that this ‘work from home’ dynamic only emerged due to a pandemic complicates this idea, making it possible that we may have accidentally all become accustomed to a new economic model of work that we would be better off without.
- We must actively push back against the ‘work from home’ model; if we don’t, we will suffer both mentally and financially into the future.
- Working from home is a win-win; it's more convenient and cost-effective for both employer and employee.
8. How can gentrified and aestheticised versions of social movements be avoided?
I wonder whether you saw the Indigenous name for Victoria’s capital city (Naarm) appear more frequently on your social media feeds this year, with people adding it to their Instagram bios or referring to it on TikTok? What started as a conscious choice to respectfully refer to the city by its original Indigenous name quickly became criticised as a trendy aesthetic for outwardly progressive white Victorians, with terms like ‘naarm-core’ becoming short-hand for a specific kind of trendy fashion that was ‘devoid of any ties to First Nations people’.
‘Naarm-core’, therefore, stands as another example of a movement that may have started with admirable aims, but was drowned out by those who just wanted the social benefits of participating in progressive politics. Think of the recent similar debates about ‘rainbow capitalism’, with similar criticisms being made of brands that co-opt progressive concepts like LGBQTI+ identity purely for social (and financial) capital. The question naturally emerges as to how we can avoid this for future political movements.
Or maybe you disagree with all these critiques? Political discussion moves so fast these days that it can feel like people are in such a rush to criticise things that they miss actual progress being made. After all, the use of the term ‘Naarm’ to refer to Melbourne was undeniably popularised on the back of this trend.
- The criticism of political movements that deal with race being tokenised by white people can only be solved by allowing people of colour at the centre of these movements.
- People are too cynical about social movements and trends; virality and popularity, despite ‘inauthentic intentions’, often do more good than harm.
9. How can the highly polarised discussion concerning COVID vaccines become more productive?
Another thing you may have witnessed from living in a post-COVID world is an increase in how divided simple issues seem to make us. Ever tried to convince a relative or friend that, no, in fact, vaccines are not designed to implant us with microchips - seems impossible right?
For many people, the pandemic was a tipping point into full-blown conspiracy communities, meaning people are increasingly able to exist within their own social-media realities that don’t need to be bound to scientific truth or objective fact. This all creates a division between those with different beliefs that is somehow wider than before, where we can’t even agree on simple statements of truth.
The debate around what to do about this deals with questions of human psychology, social media (again), but also freedom of speech. Should spreading (potentially dangerous) false information that conflicts with scientific consensus be allowed on social media? Most importantly, how do we encourage actual communication between different sides?
- Talking in person is the only way for people with vastly different beliefs to find common ground.
- Those spreading dishonest and dangerous conspiracy theories about public health cannot be reasoned with, and need to be actively shut down wherever they appear.
10. With the infamous Oscar slap, what ‘consequences’ should comedians and satirists face for what they say?
Here’s a news story that you’re probably tired of hearing about! Actor Will Smith’s act of violence against Oscar host and comedian Chris Rock for a joke about his wife’s alopecia (hair loss) caused many different conversations to happen at once; about toxic masculinity, celebrity culture, violence as a spectacle. These are all totally valid angles for your Oral Presentation, but let’s focus on maybe the most common debate; did Chris Rock deserve this?
Functioning as a comedian hosting an awards night, Rock’s job was to poke fun at everyone participating, and these sorts of roles have often involved controversial comments and jokes. Does this mean they have immunity from any consequences for their words though? What should these consequences look like? And, if we excuse smaller acts of violence, what does that normalise?
The 2015 terrorist shooting of the staff of satirical French magazine ‘Charlie Hebdo’ for their depiction of the Islamic prophet may seem a world away from Will Smith’s slap, but some may argue that this is the logical end-point for a world that believes physical violence is the way to deal with jokes people don’t like.
- The idea of comedians actually being threatened by violence is overblown; the slap was an isolated incident.
- Protecting the safety of those who make controversial jokes is paramount to maintaining freedom of speech.
11. With Optus and Telstra’s recent data breaches, is placing all our valuable personal information in virtual spaces sustainably safe?
This year saw a record-level data breach from one of Australia’s leading telecommunications companies, Optus. The personal details of almost 10 million customers were given to the hackers.
Then, two weeks later, a similar data breach happened at Telstra. Yes, this time, no customer information was leaked, but information on the company’s employees was again released.
All of this may disturb the image we all have in our heads of online databases as relatively unbreachable, locked away behind thousands of firewalls somewhere in the cloud. In fact, much of modern society operates on this assumption. Maybe you’ve added your credit card details to your Chrome tab because it makes online purchases easier? This convenience comes with the implicit assumption that online personal info is pretty much always safe when protected by a big tech company, but these events arguably prove otherwise.
Cyberattacks are ‘increasing as a threat’, yet danger for the sake of convenience is something that all of us deal with. Maybe you think there are degrees to this; should we draw a line at information that can cause us legitimate harm if given to a malicious party?
- Our society is already too technologically dependent to try and ‘go offline’ for the sake of data safety.
- Valuables of any kind are always going to run the risk of being stolen, and digital piracy is no different.
12. What is the role of Western countries in resisting the unlawful Russian invasion of Ukraine?
As already mentioned, the Russian invasion of Ukraine was one of the biggest news stories of 2022. Putin’s unlawful decision to attack the country’s capital in February of 2022 has left more than 10,000 people dead and millions displaced from their homes. Virtually all world leaders condemned this act immediately. Yet, almost a year later, the war continues, and documented war crimes occur on Ukrainian soil.
Thinking larger than just social media, the question of what can actually be done to help by the countries who condemn this war has naturally emerged. Many nations have supported Ukraine financially, including the US giving nearly $20 billion. Some may argue that this is not nearly far enough, and that all world powers have a responsibility to wage direct war against Russia in support of Ukraine. Naturally though, many are strongly against Western intervention in this form, believing that countries like the US should not see themselves as all-knowing powers that can intervene in other nations based on their ideological beliefs.
- Any attempt to guilt individual citizens about their need to ‘do something about Ukraine’ is completely unfair; the responsibility for any meaningful action is entirely on the government.
- The West, particularly the US, has a long history of militarily invading smaller nations for their own purposes; their condemnation of the Russians is hypocritical.
If you haven’t already done so, check out our Ultimate Guide to Oral Presentations for some general tips and tricks to get you started!
Written by Milo Burgner