By Judith Donath
A friend just posted a picture of himself, looking bug-eyed and exhausted after a long day on Zoom, a day spent staring fixedly at the screen and its grids of students and colleagues staring not quite back—their gaze up, down, or sideways; some barely in the frame, fuzzy and backlit.
Confronted with the abrupt canceling of all in-person gatherings, the instinct, unsurprisingly, has been to try to replicate virtually the experience of being together. Video-conferencing, which allows people to look at each other as well as talk, is the obvious choice of technology: Zoom—along with Webex, Skype, Hangouts, Teams, Blue Jeans, Jitsi, etc.—added millions of new users worldwide in the span of a couple of frantic weeks. Classes from kindergarten story circles to graduate school lectures are now conducted via these applications, as are church services, seders, cocktail parties, visits with the grandparents, and, of course, business meetings, the form of assemblage upon which this technology was modeled. Seeing the faces of friends, family and colleagues is especially welcome in this time of isolation.