I have been feeling at a bit of a loss with finding things to blog about lately and since I have not been able to travel physically, not even into work and everything is being conducted over platforms like zoom it made me wonder about the backgrounds we choose for our zoom meetings and why.
The work from home arrangement has allowed us insight into colleagues homes, life and personality that we don’t normally have access to. While zoom has some security issues with zoom bombing, there is one kind of zoom bombing that is welcome and that is the impromptu arrival of pets into meetings, at least that kind of intrusion is nice.
For zoom meetings you could be really cool and have the perfect study with elegantly displayed book shelves as the perfect background or you could select a virtual background on zoom. I love watching panel discussions or news reports where people are interviewed from their homes. I voyeuristically love looking at peoples book shelves. Most people have surprisingly tidy shelves, including a surprising number who seem to organise by colour at least to some extent.
Books are a bit of a statement tool when coordinating the work from home image, check out this story in the Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2020/apr/07/our-new-lockdown-game-judging-famous-people-by-their-bookshelves and note the Duchess of Cambridge’s elegant penguin hard cover classics, cynically I suspect they are more for appearance than reading. Personally I really love an element of chaos in a persons study but I am the queen of chaos. Ours is a home occupied by three voracious readers so our bookshelves tend to be overflowing, with books piled up on the floor when we run out of space. (Really it is not hoarding when it is books, at least that is what my partner and daughter claim, I personally think the occasional clear out is not a bad idea). The coolest work from home image in the Guardian story is that of Rishi Sunak the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with his uncontrived collection of books and casual working arrangement. Another example of the voyeuristic reward of people working from home was noting the piles of books behind Anthony Fauci as he testified from home to the senate committee, I noted he had a pile of books two columns deep, there is something deeply reassuring in the uncontrived proliferation of books.
Unfortunately my work from home arrangement has had to be set up in what is essentially our junk room, it was previously Bronte’s sewing room but has been temporarily requisitioned by me as a work space. Sadly it is a chaotic jumble of sewing related items so I opted to create a virtual zoom background.
You can use a number of pre-installed backgrounds, the northern lights is nice but a bit on the dull side, or you can upload your background of choice. If you wanted you could upload an image of the perfectly styled study and pretend it is your actual study. At least one staff member uploaded holiday locations for her zoom backgrounds. Me I uploaded my ideal escape space: the inside of the TARDIS just what I really need a timelord with a TARDIS to take me away from all of this. My geek colours are showing but no surprise to anyone who works with me.
If you were really sneaky you could create a background that is a screen shot of you looking attentive and then walk away, no one would know you have done it and as long as no one asks you a question you can wander off. Bronte told me she read a story about a kid schooling from home who used a screen shot of himself looking attentive and then just walked away, when his mother called him on it, he replied to the effect of; well there are 25 other kids in the class, she (the teacher), will never notice. His mother didn’t know whether to be furious at him or impressed, he was 5. Our little digital natives catch on quick.
Adding a fantasy zoom background is easy just find an image, screen wallpaper works great, save it to your PC and then upload it to zoom. The BBC has made available some fantastic empty set images to use as virtual backgrounds with your video meetings. I am considering switching from a TARDIS interior to the set of the Young Ones or maybe the flight deck of the Liberator from Blake’s Seven, (showing my age and geek affiliations again).
What is your perfect zoom background? Where would you rather be than in that meeting?