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Here's why it's harder to communicate on video conferencing platforms

Professors and researchers at the Department of Social and Public Communication at the University of Quebec in Montreal have taken an interest in "Zoom fatigue". In this text, they propose to take a moment to understand why it is more difficult to communicate online on these platforms than in person.

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Through Justine Lalande, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM); Hugo Mimee, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), and Stephanie Yates, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)

The Covid-19 pandemic has shaken up society on many levels, and it is clear that some changes will remain embedded in our daily lives, such as the use of video conferencing platforms (Teams, Zoom and others).

Videoconferencing has entered the world of work, medicine and even public consultation activities, whether it be for major infrastructure projectsgovernment consultations (e.g., for the mobile traceability application for Covid-19), or the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement.

Beyond the technical considerations and technological difficulties, there is a human being in front of the camera who wants to express himself - which brings its own challenges. Our research has allowed us to identify severalwhich must be taken into consideration during virtual meetings.

The "Zoom fatigue". which results from too many virtual meetings and which takes the form of a heaviness or a mental numbness, is more and more frequent. We propose to take a moment to understand why it is more difficult to consult, to be consulted, and more generally, to communicate online on these exchange platforms.

As a participation professional and a professor and researcher in the Department of Social and Public Communication at the Université du Québec à Montréal, we are particularly interested in the communicative dimensions of public participation and its implications in society.

Re-learn how to decode the "non-verbal".

Decoding the non-verbal online is much more difficult, if not impossible. It is indeed a observation shared by many researchers during the pandemic.

As pointed out by François Richer, professor of neuropsychology at UQAMThe incomplete presence of others "creates a lack of sensory input, a lack of immersion. The discussions are less fluid. You can't tell who wants to talk. You can't clearly distinguish glances or facial expressions, you can't decode the discrete signs of non-verbal language".

Note for example the that exists in institutions of higher education as to whether students should open their cameras during a lecture. It's hard for teachers to know if the class is really being attended, if students are paying attention or if they understand the material. This certainly contributes to a sense of discouragement and a decline in course interaction.

Decoding the non-verbal online significantly increases cognitive load and is one of the causes of "Zoom fatigue".. If we think we are suffering from this fatigue, it is better to reduce our Zoom meetings if possible. Let's prefer to close the camera, to make phone calls, emails, or better, to make walking meetings when possible!

The difficulties of socializing

Face-to-face meetings have the advantage of allowing socialization. Whether it is during a public consultation on a project or a hot issue, in a waiting room or at a café, it is for many an opportunity to meet people, to exchange on the life of the neighbourhood, to take news.

During its experience with virtual public consultations, BAPE noted two major drawbacksThe lack of a social dynamic in the rooms, during the work and during breaks, and the lack of rooting of the commission in the dynamics of the community.

But how do you recreate that opportunity online?

To fulfill this need for socialization, some public participation practitioners have noted that some participants were logging in early to simply chat during the connection period before the meetings started. A great way to socialize in an informal way in a context of citizen participation.

Finding solutions to the needs of kinesthetic people

In recent years, many innovations in public consultation have enabled kinesthetic people (who often need to touch, not just see and hear) to actively participate in public consultation processes, whether for energy, transportation, or health projects.

For example, the During its public consultations in 2019, the Réseau de transport de Longueuil offered participants interactive activitiesIn this case, they were asked to create their ideal transportation network by drawing on a map the desired routes, the location of the stops, the frequency of passage, while respecting certain constraints in terms of budgets and human resources. By diversifying the ways of consulting, it goes without saying that a greater diversity of people is reached.

However, the pandemic and remote consultations have further limited the opportunities for active participation of people with kinesthetic disorders. Unfortunately, few examples are documented to explore the possible avenues for these individuals in the context of online or remote consultation.

Linking the personal and family environment with the professional context

Finally, a major challenge that was exacerbated during the pandemic was that adapt its work environment and agenda according to professional, personal or family constraints.

By revealing his private life environment to the camera, some fear some form of invasion, or may be subject to discrimination. In addition, introverted people seem particularly at risk of burnout in the context of online participatory meetings and exchanges.

Let's not forget that good old-fashioned methods These methods always work, especially since they avoid creating a digital divide with those who are less comfortable with technology. This can be done through phone discussions, informative emails, or better yet, by sending out explanatory videos that you have prepared to replace Zoom meetings.

Let's take a moment to review our online communication and consultation practices. Let's recognize that we may need to integrate different solutions - that sometimes a break from the screen is necessary, but at other times our need to socialize is greater. But above all, let's remember that we need to adapt technology to humans, not the other way around.

These key challenges were identified through the research work of Hugo Mimee and Stephanie Yates, as part of a report for the International Association for Public Participation, Canada Chapter.

Through Justine LalandeD. student, Department of Social and Public Communication, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM); Hugo MimeeLecturer - ESG UQAM, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM), and Stephanie YatesProfessor, Université du Québec à Montréal, University of Quebec in Montreal (UQAM)

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read theoriginal article.

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