Friday, December 11, 2020

Across a Crowded Zoom, But No Enchantment...

 ♫ Some enchanted evening…You may see a stranger…Across a crowded Zoom 

Just published in Techonomy, my "No Enchantment Across a Crowded Zoom" offers some musings on the fundamental problem of how virtual conferencing is unsatisfying because it fails to convey the subtle energies and interpersonal mirroring of live interaction. (The article plays off of what many of you know as perhaps the "greatest song ever written for a musical.")

Hopefully that article offers food for thought on what might be improved in Zoom and similar tools. (My thanks to Pip Mothersill, Ph.D. from MIT Media Lab, for some stimulating conversations on serendipity and Zoom.)

Here I add one tangential idea about the subtleties of communication that I was reminded of while writing the article:

GLENDOWER. I can call spirits from the vasty deep. 

HOTSPUR. Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them on Zoom?

Many years ago, I heard the famous Gyuto Monks* of Tibet do some of their striking meditative chants --  noted for the deep harmonics that their practiced throat-singing techniques create. The next day they were empaneled in a classroom with Robert Thurman leading an intimate chat about their experiences. 

One of the tidbits was the story of how reluctant they had been to allow their chants to be recorded. The reason for their reluctance was that the chants are part of a meditative process in which fierce demigods are summoned to appear, and then entreated to be beneficent.

The fear was that if the chanting was recorded, on playback, the summoned spirits might hear the call and actually appear. Finding no spiritually adept monks there to greet them, those demigods might become angry. 

Happily, after some thought and meditation, the monks concluded that the spirits would be called only by the live voices of monks in prayer, not the disembodied sounds of a recording!

[*The quality of YouTube audio does not do the chants justice, even for mere mortals -- quality recordings give more sense of the live experience. I can attest that no angry spirits materialized on playing the chants in my home (neither vinyl nor CD).]

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