Annie Abrahams on Mon, 6 Jul 2020 04:47:49 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> discussing zoom fatigue

Dear Geert and others,

A few days ago someone with a theater/dance background asked me to write a phrase about embodiment in the virtual realm. My answer might be of interest:

How do I create something lively (image, avatar) with my body that is not there but in front of the screen/camera. While in the virtual I am also always "here" in my own environment. If you don't consider this shizo situation / this "dédoublement" as core, you will always just illustrate embodiment.
Your audience has to be "educated" too. If not they will expect an equivalent of the stage, which the virtual will never be. They have to become aware of the specificities and special possibilities of the virtual context. Best way in my opinion is to give them some agency.

In 2019 I wrote the article Preconditions for Online Participation for PAIC, where I say that an awareness of hardware and software influences, clear and open protocols, familiarization with the technology, an active role and a hospitable environment for the participants of online collaboration are obligatory to allow them to enjoy an aesthetics of attention and trust, where their choices and behavior count.

Communication in artificial environments has a lot of flaws (and possibilities) among which the greatest might be not taking into account its specificities.

What are these? In 2012 I tried to describe these for my own webcam performance practice in the article Trapped to Reveal – On webcam mediated communication and collaboration. Annie Abrahams, Jar #2 ISSN 2235-0225,

Now after Covid time with Daniel Pinheiro we made a short video essai Why is the use of videoconferencing so exhausting? that will be published in autumn in the Journal of Embodied Research.

These notes are a kind of sneak peek into that essay:
There is always delay. We are never exactly in the same time space.The space is awkward because we are confronted with faces in close up for long time spans. We have seen a face framed like that for the first time when we were a baby in a cradle and when our parents looked into it. Later it became the frame of the interactions with our lovers in bed. This makes that while video-conferencing we are always connected to something very intimate even in professional situations.

At the same time it is impossible to detect much detail in the image we see and so we lack the subtle bodily clues for the content of what someone tells. Our imagination fills the gaps and makes it necessary to process, to select what to ignore. In the meantime we are continuously scanning the screen (there is no overview and no periphery). We are never sure we are “there”, that the connexion still exists, and so we check our own image all the time. We hear a compressed mono sound, all individual sounds are mixed into one soundscape. This makes we really share something but also that we have difficulties distinguishing who makes what sound. (more scanning of the screen)

Attention is easily disrupted by all kinds of interruptions. A strange sound, a car?, a bird?, our cat who walks by, someone is opening a door “here”, but also “there” in the interface someone walks in the background, another is exaggerating affective signs. All this attracts our gaze and loosens our attention. And maybe above all video conferencing is psychologically demanding because our brains need to process a self as body and as image.
(Please mention Why is the use of videoconferencing so exhausting?, Annie Abrahams and Daniel Pinheiro, Journal of Embodied Research Vol. 3 2020. if you ever use some of this text.)

Lately I participated even more than usual in online events and I have the best memories of those where I could get a feeling of presence of the orator(s). I needed, via a chat discussion with the others assisting, to sense an influence on the presenter. This activated me and enhanced my experience. Getting a direct answer to a question was very rewarding.

I also have very good experiences with combinations of video conferencing and collectif writing.

We have been doing reading and writing performances with the since 2013. This experience developed in a practice that I now call Reariting.
Reariting is not about producing a text together, but it is a technique to think through a text together.

Reariting (licriture) manifests itself as a facilitator for a diffractive, distributed intelligence on-the-fly, creating text and relational patterns that do not depend on canons. It generates creative and unexpected “outcomes”. These are, in my opinion, not so much the texts produced, as the “diffractive moments” experienced by the reariters.

With Constallationss (an intergenerational online only art and research group) we recently organised four reariting / licriture sessions on existing academic texts. ("Creative Propositions for Thought in Motion" by Erin Manning and « Auto-(dés)organisation : recherche, création & activisme au SenseLab » by Aurélien Maignant) If you want to know more about it you can find our preparations, what happened and reactions here .

I think a clue for better online education is careful variation and a continuous attention for the body. With Constallations we learned to interrupt long intense sessions with short individual walks. (Also very good for reflection). Sometimes we start a session with some gymnastic exercises, or we include short moments with our eyes closed and no talking.

we will have to become more radical in our experimentations and start to be more critical towards our own work. We shouldn’t be afraid to operate a ‘niche’, where we are ‘just’ our own audience. It might be a prerequisite for new discoveries, for the creation of a situation where we learn together what it means to be connected...

From Learn together what it means to be connected, Annie Abrahams in CyPosium – The Book, 2014, ISBN 9781291988925.

All the best

Annie Abrahams


Utterings July 15 19:00:00 (GMT+1).

(Un)Distance An ELOrlando 2020: Virtual Edition Panel.
Friday July 17, noon EDT

On Fri, Jul 3, 2020 at 10:09 PM Geert Lovink <> wrote:
Dear nettimers,

I suppose many of you who’re into teaching have had an intense and exhausting period of giving online classes.

I am trying to gather experiences of what’s now called ‘Zoom fatigue’. Of course this is by no means limited to Zoom and extends to Microsofts Teams and Skype, Google Classrooms etc. The experience also shows up in the cultural sector, in businesses and in the busy everyday or freelancers that have to speak to clients. We all made long hours.

My question is a strategic one. Should we, in the near future, refuse to give online classes and have management meetings like this? The IT management class is already promoting the ‘blended’ model, expecting a backlash of the excessive video conferencing hours of the past months.

Do you want to send me (or post here) some sentences or paragraph how, exactly, you experienced the move to video conferencing and the fatigue?

Is there something wrong with the user interface? Is the ‘live’ aspect important or should we rather return to pre-produced videos? As you all know, the relation (or tension) between ‘streaming’ and ‘online video’ is an old one.

Some of us also made remarkably positive experiences. When the people, the content and context is right, an online conference that matters turned out really interesting. There are so many things to discuss, new connections to be made, hearing from those who have been excluded from the dialogues and discourses so far. The ‘stack of crises’ may be distressing but the resistance, worldwide, also grows. Under what circumstances it is desirable to come together like this?

This much is clear. We need to gather and organize, mobilize. How should ‘our’ Zoom look like? One that is inspiring, very likely limited in time, more focussed dialogues, perhaps even voting, facilitating both consensus AND debate?

Is there a top limit to the use of video as community tool? 

Best, Geert

ps. Here at the Institute of Network Cultures we made some experiences ourselves with the MoneyLab #8 event, organized by Aksioma in Ljubljana, originally scheduled for late March 2020, that was quickly turned into an 8 part lecture series:

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