Ch 06: The Zoom Gaze

Gazed & Confused

The best element of this article is the term it comes out with in what is becoming a rapidly increasing tradition of giving a human-like treatment to technological tools. Despite that the argument appears the exact opposite to this, it is rather intriguing that the author decides to defend human interaction by anthropomorphizing a computer program and giving it among all other human qualities the one of gaze. The primordial discussion of the author revolves around how the users see themselves being seen by Zoom (Autumm, n,p). It reviews the exhaustion produced by having to pose during the reunions, with our bodies, faces and even the environment behind us in the place selected to carry out the respective meeting. However, I think the major flaw of this kind of discourse has to do with the fact that they forcefully stretch out the human-derived negative aspect of a human-made tool for human-related purposes as if the inanimate algorithm was already the evolving ancestors of the Terminator.

      In this line of ideas, I think that it is really important to recognize the limits separating facts from fantasy, and in the same way the line which divide caution from paranoia. For example, despite the fact that “Zoom exhaustion” is a term freshly spreading through the year’s vocabulary as a result of the pandemic and its pressures on labor, it is not honest to compare this with the actual exhaustion generated by a live meeting far from the comfort of home and with all the demands, risk and other peculiarities inherent to its nature. In this sense, the demonization of technology for demonization’s sake, without recognizing the numerous benefits offered by inventions such as this that have simplified the life of millions and allow them to keep their jobs and make a living during this time of crises, comes out as somewhat innocent however articulate and documented the design and presentation of its statement.

            It is good to analyze the benefits and threats of any device in order to improve it with the comfort of users in mind, and it is easy to understand that any improvement made by the engineers behind Zoom is more related to that than to mere profit making, because the first aspect directly and determinately influence the other. Under this scope, when the author of this article expresses the pupil tracking devices and face scanning mechanisms with the aim of warning the reader about how far Zoom may get with its attention monitoring, it crosses the line (Autumm, n,p). It is true that the protocols and bugs of the program have become a common aspect of many daily routines around the globe, but this obeys to a cause-consequence dynamic and it is not Zoom or any other computer program what is threatening live interaction or producing all the others privacy issues related with the weight of having to move our offices to the peace of our homes, it’s a global virus and the political measures taken to control it. For this reason, it is possible to perceive a slight but sustained tone of alarmism in this kind of articles which try to undermine the enormous benefit provided by the advances of digital technology, which actually have saved lives during this crisis, under the exaggeration of terms such as “video vertigo.” In this way, the argument lacks the proper amount of objectivity to be taken completely seriously.

            However, if the mentioned flaws and negative consequences of using Zoom in order to work when there is no other way to, are balanced with a more acute and less apocalyptic perspective, I think that the thesis will say something like “Zoom’s practical defects and how to overcome them” instead of “The Zoom Gaze” in such an Orwellian fashion. 

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