Know your tools

Zoom is ubiquitous at the moment, but different platforms have different strengths and serve different purposes. Here is a guide to the best way to use some platforms that are popular now, along with instructions about how to use them.

Platform Guide

by Shelby Bushell, Vanessa Dang-Lam and Emad Saedi

At a glance

Deep dive guide

I said the other day that I’m softening but it’s more like I’m melting. I’ve had a general resistance to moving towards online because all my training is around making performance for bodies assembled in space, and I really, really believe in it. But I’m also a form junkie, and so as time has gone on, I’ve started to think about what forms could we use to build performance right now, and I’ve been getting excited about using existing platforms in new, performative ways.

— Maiko Yamamoto

If you send out a link to the Google Doc, as opposed to filling in everybody’s email addresses to invite them, everyone shows up in the dark as an anonymous animal. It was a really interesting experience as a performer to both feel so connected to all these little anonymous animals jumping around, and to each other. But also, yeah, it was so informal. It was so casual. It really felt like a living room, like we were together in a living room or something.

— We Quit Theatre, on performing the show 805-4821 in google docs

Zoom is not really a deaf friendly platform. Because when somebody speaks they automatically become highlighted so the yellow box follows the person who’s making auditory sounds. It’s sound focused.

— Dawn J Birley

Because of the way that Zoom processes audio. It keys speakers on and off, and the algorithm that does that is not without bias — there are people that it will layer over somebody else. The computer is working against your ability to be unbiased. It’s documented, at least historically, that these voice recognition algorithms that prioritize one person speaking another are very male biased. They key into lower voices.

— Ian Garrett

I think that hearing folks have an ability to filter out irrelevant sounds and focus in on the sounds that are pertinent in any given situation. And deaf people also have that visual filter. And so maybe there are visual distractions in our field of vision while we’re trying to attend to somebody, but we can filter those out in order to give our visual attention to a person who’s signing. However, in Zoom, that becomes very difficult, because there’s so many visual distractions in so many spaces. And so what we do is we need to sort of establish some rules that will govern how we are engaging with one another.

— Dawn J Birley