Author: Ricardo Sosa, PhD
All design educators
Perhaps you, like me, have always taught and presented at conferences in a standing position. As it turns out, how we use our bodies is as important in online interactions as it is in face-to-face situations. It took me a pandemic to fully appreciate this.
This is a deceptively simple recipe that I learned only after a few awkward online teaching sessions and virtual conference presentations. During the lock-down in New Zealand in March-April 2020, I managed to setup a working space from home that included a desk with a PC plugged to two screens, and a small couch where I read and occasionally use my laptop. So, when it came to teaching and presenting in conferences, my default choice was to do these things while sitting down.
The first sessions felt awkward for a number of reasons. In one class with 60+ students we had the videos turned off, so I was talking to a screen with minimal feedback except some emojis in the chat area. Even with smaller groups where it was possible to see their faces and hear their voices, after a two-hour session something felt odd. The best way to describe it is that I felt as if I was again starting to teach and the twenty years of experience had vanished.
In one of the sessions, I decided to stand up. This seemingly simple change changed everything.
It was only then that I made the connection: Of course! Teaching is something I have always done not only standing, but walking, pacing along the stage or around the studio. By standing up, I felt at ease again while teaching and presenting, and only then I realised how extremely awkward it is for me to try and present my research or teach a topic sitting in a chair.
I am aware that this recipe has an ableist angle, but a way to think about this is: When transitioning from f2f to online interactions, reflect on what bodily experiences you can maintain, as it may surprise you how unaware you had previously been to how they are a fundamental part of how you perform and behave.
- A means to reposition your webcam
- A lapel or lavalier microphone, if possible
- Easiest recipe ever: when teaching or presenting online, stand up. That’s it.
- This will bring back some familiarity removed by the transition to virtual.
- If you can, get a wireless mic or one with a long cable, so you can move around if you want.
- That’s it!
Notes on ingredients
Obviously, great ideas have been written about the lived body, here is one that I think is particularly accessible and relevant for designers: https://doi.org/10.1145/2442106.2442114
We also recently characterised the importance of physical and social contact in the teaching of creativity here: https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2019.1628799
I’m currently collaborating with roboticists in a project on Kinaesthetic Creativity, feel free to contact me if that’s a topic of your interest.
Reflect on how you dress, what habits you follow before/after a session, the idea is to pay attention to the new situation, rather than mindlessly land in situations by inertia.
I have made the mistake of using the laptop mic while presenting, which meant that the volume levels varied when I moved even a few inches away from the computer. To avoid this, use earphones or a more professional microphone that adjusts the volume as you move.
Svanæs, D. (2013). Interaction design for and with the lived body: Some implications of Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI), 20(1), 1-30. https://doi.org/10.1145/2442106.2442114
Sosa, R., & Kayrouz, D. (2020). Creativity in graduate business education: Constitutive dimensions and connections. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 57(4), 484-495. https://doi.org/10.1080/14703297.2019.1628799