A conversation about the state of video conferencing, presented in chronological order…
30 years later, are we FINALLY entering the video chat era?
I don’t see video chat taking off anyway. It’s uncomfortable. Voice is easier/better b/c you can divide your attention without harming communication.
Maybe the kids will like it…
I agree with Dennis and I think the shift away from telephone calls to texting shows that most people, even the kids, want to multitask or have asynchronous communication. I’m sure there will be a good number of people and some interesting uses for video chatting but I don’t think its going to become the dominate communication form we originally thought it would be.
and thanks Greg from starting a conversation on gmail instead of g+, I feel like i’m missing the party.
It’s funny you say that. As I was writing that email, I stopped and said to myself, “Should I turn this into a blog post? Nah” “Hmm, I don’t want to post to Facebook, because I’ve already posted something today…” “I’ll just send an email.”
With all of these broadcasting options, I went with email. Go figure.
FYI, I’m about to tweet it.
I might have already sent this once before (or twice…?), but the great, late David Wallace nailed this topic in his 1998 near-future, quasi-scifi, novel, Infinite Jest: A Novel.
The answer, in a kind of trivalent nutshell, is: (1) emotional stress, (2) physical vanity, and (3) a certain queer kind of self-obliterating logic in the microeconomics of consumer high-tech.
First, the stress:
Good old traditional audio-only phone conversations allowed you to presume that the person on the other end was paying complete attention to you while also permitting you not to have to pay anything even close to complete attention to her. A traditional aural-only conversation […] let you enter a kind of highway-hypnotic semi-attentive fugue: while conversing, you could look around the room, doodle, fine-groom, peel tiny bits of dead skin away from your cuticles, compose phone-pad haiku, stir things on the stove; you could even carry on a whole separate additional sign-language-and-exaggerated-facial-expression type of conversation with people right there in the room with you, all while seeming to be right there attending closely to the voice on the phone. And yet — and this was the retrospectively marvelous part — even as you were dividing your attention between the phone call and all sorts of other idle little fuguelike activities, you were somehow never haunted by the suspicion that the person on the other end’s attention might be similarly divided.
[…] Video telephony rendered the fantasy insupportable. Callers now found they had to compose the same sort of earnest, slightly overintense listener’s expression they had to compose for in-person exchanges. Those caller who out of unconscious habit succumbed to fuguelike doodling or pants-crease-adjustment now came off looking extra rude, absentminded, or childishly self-absorbed. Callers who even more unconsciously blemish-scanned or nostril explored looked up to find horrified expressions on the video-faces at the other end. All of which resulted in videophonic stress.
And then vanity:
And the videophonic stress was even worse if you were at all vain. I.e. if you worried at all about how you looked. As in to other people. Which all kidding aside who doesn’t. Good old aural telephone calls could be fielded without makeup, toupee, surgical prostheses, etc. Even without clothes, if that sort of thing rattled your saber. But for the image-conscious, there was of course no answer-as-you-are informality about visual-video telephone calls, which consumers began to see were less like having the good old phone ring than having the doorbell ring and having to throw on clothes and attach prostheses and do hair-checks in the foyer mirror before answering the door.
I just saw your tweet! Whoo hoo!
is Infinite Jest 1000+ pages of shit like that?
Actually, I think it’s just shy of 1,000 pages. But there are footnotes.
Bryan, when you say “shit like that”, is that good or bad?
I think it’s the shit.
I guess without seeing my face you could not tell that I was using the word “shit” in the positive light.
Sent from my iPhone
Thanks to Dennis, Bryan, and David Wallace for participating.