Videostreaming makes this pandemic much more bearable than it might otherwise be, but sometimes we might overstate its benefits. Recently, for example, I heard from another school leader about how difficult it was to run a school for the deaf in a remote learning model. I was surprised! In my naivete, I thought that videostreaming was an essential breakthrough for those who use American Sign Language. But while the visual aspects of Zoom or Google Meets are of undeniable benefit, I learned that ASL is a three dimensional language that does not translate so well into two dimensions. The beauty of shapes, gestures, and touch becomes compromised on a flat screen. That insight was new to me.
In our Zoom world, we can struggle with depth perception both literally and metaphorically. Consider our human interconnections. Metaphorically, we all know how “flattening” videostreaming can be in terms of building personal and professional relationships. In this pandemic, we may be losing some depth of mutual understanding.
Fortunately, neurologists are quick to share how well our brains compensate for a lack of binocular vision. For example, when we move, other objects move at varying speeds depending on their proximity to us. When objects overlap, we understand where they are in relation to each other. We can also use color and contrast clues to grasp where we stand in relation to others. Finally, we might use other senses to gauge object proximity. McAuliffe’s math, science, and related arts teachers can explain these phenomena much better than I can!
This Thanksgiving, I’m going to practice some of these workarounds. When I connect with friends and family via pictures or video, I’m going to place myself in visual context with my immediate family. I’m going to try to connect with them when I am walking outdoors instead of positioning myself against a blank wall. I have the privilege of hearing, and so I am sometimes going to close my eyes and just listen — truly listen — to those who bring deep meaning to my life. Taking these steps might overcome my difficulty perceiving how close or far apart I am from others; I hope it does the same for them.
What are the workarounds you will use to deepen your connection with others during this holiday season?