Janine Barchas, a professor of English who sells advice on “curating your material environment and adjusting the visible setting of your at-home office” for $250 per chat, managed to place a (paywalled) article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, which I haven’t read. But I did see people complaining on twitter about her advice that you “should curate your zoom backdrop.” Including this funny spoof from Andrew Ishak:
There was other followup advice, like this:
If you are white and male enough to own an expensive, new, and highly performing computer, you can opt for a virtual background. Several colleagues poignantly use photos of their now-vacant classrooms or offices. But not everyone has an up-to-date computer. Even for those who do, hours of flickering like a TV weather announcer in front of a greenscreen projection of the Grand Canyon or of your college campus can prove distracting, too. You might consider selling some of your Apple stock to purchase a top of the line machine, but only if you make sure to mention its purchase at the start of every meeting. After all, what use is having expensive things if you can’t constantly bring them up to others?
All that said, I spend hours and hours in online video meetings, and I’m preparing to teach for hours and hours on Zoom. I want to feel like I’m doing a good job, and also maybe enjoy my job a little. I don’t want to decorate my living space to show students and colleagues in the background, I want a nice green screen setup to put me somewhere else. With under $300 and 4 x 6 feet of space, I found this was possible.
So, without telling anyone what they should do, or even implying that they should do something, this is a 4-minute explanation of how I got to be satisfied, on the very relative scale of our current “situation,” with my Zoom self for teaching. If it’s helpful, great. If you get pleasure from mocking me for it, you’re welcome.
YouTube is the educator entertainer that never sleeps. One video leads to the next, literally forever. (YouTube does have a kids channel which is supposed to be a safe space for kids.) They have “YouTube Kids,” which was supposed to help reassure parents. But if your kid is at a random computer and just goes to YouTube.com, or clicks on a link and ends up there, they’re off down Recommendation Alley.
In response to fears that YouTube was promoting bad things to children, unintentionally or not, and thinking about a possible sociology class exercise, I decided to do an exercise where I start from a Disney princess video and then select from one of the top-10 recommended videos on each page to try to get to things that are bad for children. (In the possibly-vain hope that my experiment wouldn’t be contaminated by my own use history, I used an incognito window without logging in to Google.) My goal was Nazi propaganda, and my strategy was to aim for adult stuff, then look out for disturbing, racist, or violent content. As children do.
I gave up after 113 videos, without getting to Nazi stuff. I would love to know — as YouTube surely does — how children really use YouTube when no one’s looking. I know from limited experience they click around a lot — covering a lot of videos in a short time — and they don’t vet their “content” carefully. So this seems like a plausible browsing session. Anyway, still thinking about how to do something like this, and thought I’d share my notes here:
How fast can I get to Nazi stuff from “Disney kids” using videos from the first 10 recommended? (Spoiler, I couldn’t, but still.)
After searching for “Disney kids,” I chose this innocent Disney Princess video, and starting clicking on recommendations.