The differing selves and what we choose to communicate is at the heart.
What’s video conferencing if Communication isn’t at the core of it? We continue looking at our 4Cs with discussing just that, analyzing what current solutions do to achieve Connection as they try to meet the most basic of needs, and yet convey us as the authentic beings we are.
Bare bones, communication simply is defined as “to inform and provide new information.” But there are many ways to do that (hello, written word) so why would video conferencing enhance this? Because it adds authenticity and connection to our communication. It’s the moments in-between the information that cultivate relationships. The mode of video conferencing allows us to see when the facade comes down, exposing an opening to absorb new perspectives, to have intense discussions, invite discourse. Although our senses are whittled to two — sight and sound — we are not only informing, but expressing, and being understood by an audience. Some tools, however, seem to want us to hide in our projected self rather than our authentic self.
One of four versions of our self comes across in any form of Communication: our true self, our authentic self, our best self, and our projected self. Of them all, it’s the authentic one that leads to connection.
True self may be the most honest, but full transparency can create a questioning of our abilities. Our best self sounds, well, the best, but it leaves out the flaws that humanize us. This self only represents a small slice of who we are, and consistently maintaining it is not only inaccurate, its performance is exhausting. The projected self may be the leave-behind we don’t even realize others have of us, even if it carries the farthest. And some tools even turn that back to us taking away from the focus of communication: Zoom, in particular, puts us our self-view front and center when talking with others. It’s as if we’re invited to be Narcissus, focusing on how we appear, distracted by our own visage, to the discredit of why we are meeting with others in the first place. The ultimate video conferencing experience should be the one that extracts our earnest believability best — and that comes from being authentic.
Facebook is trying to do this by perfecting VR. Just think: no blemishes, no hair out of place. It’s our words, faces, gestures – just better. Expressions and emotions are finding a way beyond the screen, via headset. But what if all this highly synthesized version is just our most polished “best” self? It may clarify us in a digital format, but what has been removed through perfection — the mess ups, the roaming pet in the background, our sartorial style — take away pieces of our authenticity, and therefore can impede on connection.
The flip of that eschewing realism, and fictionalizing ourselves. Loom.ai uses a cartoon avatar to stand in video calls. Our voice come through as is, and by AI reading it, lets animations do the work. This in turn rids us of the fatigue of misplaced cameras and continuous gaze, lets us move around and take notes, colleagues none the wiser. True, it withholds imperfections, too. But maybe the solution is less about realism, and more about relaxation, to let nuance through (even if we do have oversized eyes.) Is it possible that the more exaggerated artifice is our best bet to connect right now? Until we know for sure, there’s Zoom’s face filter to fall back on.
If the majority of our communication was in-person rather than through digital means, this feeling of disconnection may not have surfaced. However, as optimists, we believe that we can bring more humanity into technology. Our digital communication tools such as video conferencing can move us away from staying in the sliver of our projected selves, and instead, bring our authentic selves to our digital conversations and communications.
- Part 1 Video Conferencing, What exactly is missing?
- Part 2: Communication (Current)
- Part 3: Confidence (Coming Soon)
- Part 4: Collaboration (Coming Soon)
We are interested in diving deep into ways to best connect while remote during this pivotal time. If you work in video or any form of digital communication, we would jump at the opportunity to help.
Links & Resources
This multi-part report was generated from ~100 hours of desk research, insights, and design by Sean Jalleh, Maggie Feuchter, and Vivian Lee. Directed by Nathan Kendrick and Audrey Crane.
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—Audrey, Chuck, Greg, and Nathan