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Ch 6: The Zoom Gaze

I’m Tired

As I began to read this article, the deeper I got into the more William Shakespeare popped into my head.  To me no line better reflects the opening ideas of this article more than when Shakespeare had Casius say to Brutus in the play, Julius Caesar, “And since you know you cannot see yourself, so well as by reflection, I, your glass, will modestly discover to yourself, that of yourself which you yet know not of.” Zoom has given us everything Casius was speaking about.  We can learn about ourselves while we view ourselves speaking about things we might not usually wish to see ourselves speaking about. Or, perhaps a better way to state that would be, Zoom allows us to see ourselves in situations we may never have pictured ourselves being in. “This foregrounded sense of our visibility can make us acutely conscious of matters of self-presentation, opening a gap between how we wish to be perceived and how we know ourselves to actually be.”

However, “Being on camera turns the space you inhabit into a personal stage and everything that appears in it (including who you share space with) into props. The background you choose or the environment you are in inevitably communicates something about your identity.”  So is society saying that if I use Zoom in the same room as I store my collection of unicorn merchandise that I leave myself open to ridicule?  I like the idea that people get to see me in real time one way, and then look over my written work and see me in a different light.  I enjoy being conscious and aware of what I look like on camera and what I sound like.  I do my very best to play one against the other or work off of what that audience sees.  I like that I can control that.  Capitalism has always been about appearance.  Employers like to think their workers live good from the wages they are paid.  Zoom either allows employees to show that or …some people are definitely selling a false narrative of themselves while on Zoom. 

The one thing I love about Zoom is that it shows all just how human we are.  I love that Professors with a PHD are suddenly interrupted during class because they have to be mommy or daddy for a few moments.  The Zoom experience can be very humanizing in ways interacting within a professional setting could never do.  I do not agree with, “Zoom presumes that we wish to be persistent objects of perception and invites the idea that everything about our appearance can be customized and personally controlled.” Zoom doesn’t have to presume.  Mankind has always valued appearance.  Appearance has been the corner stone to many diplomatic affairs throughout history.  Appearance has been playing a major role in politics right now.  Billy Crystal, one of the greatest comedians to ever grace a stage used to portray a character whose trademark line was, “It is better to look good than to feel good.”  (See old Saturday Night Live)  As a society we like to give the impression of success.  The tools Zoom offers to “adjust” one’s appearance may help give someone a little boost they need to get their esteem up.  Using a filter or tool to adjust one’s appearance, to me, is like when men and women wear designer clothes.  Or when women – and men – wear makeup.  Too much or too little of one or the other does lead many to make judgements regarding the character of the person in question.  It is a practice around the watercooler that found its way into the home.  I like that I can hide within the tools of Zoom.  Why is it necessary for me to show the world how tired, upset, depressed or happy I am? I like the world to see the positive me.  In person I have a harder time hiding it all.  That is even more tiring.  Zoom was meant for business.  An old Japanese philosophy goes, “Business is war.” The saying dates back to when the Samurai had to find different applications for their craft.  The Samurai chose to apply the ways of war to business.  If lives and jobs are on the line, I would really like the person in charge to look like they are in charge, however, remotely that may be. Zoom can do that. 

All of the above is exactly why I can see Zoom users becoming exhausted.  “There is constant need to repair, to apologize. People are constantly talking at the same time and interrupting someone else’s signal.”  I have never apologized so much in my life.  I need a pleasant appearance online to protect myself against those who take slight at the accidental interruption. Having to learn and manipulate all of the controls so my appearance stays where it should is tiring.  “Humans are delicately attuned to each other’s complete presence.”    Zoom gives the world the ability to fine tune that presence.  It all can be completely exhausting trying to look past all of the what the Zoom screen has to offer in order to gaze into the mindset of those on screen. No matter what pattern continues, I will always be a person to judge the message and the action behind the message.  Who cares if you use a million filters or make yourself look like a mystical creature. #netnarr #elitclass

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