2020 has been a great year for Zoom, with its stock price seeing a total rise of 500%. This, despite recent slowing, has made it one of the most successful businesses of the year. Having filled a place long-thought of as inevitable by many spectators, this development has been regarded as a matter of when and not if.
More specifically, the success of Zoom has taken place alongside 2020’s significant rise in online distance work. In the right place at the right time, the simplicity and broad feature set of Zoom made it a perfect fit for the expanding professional online environment. Even Microsoft is trying to capitalise on the success of Zoom with Microsoft Teams. The success of Zoom does raise some questions, however, about the maximum penetration that online live communication systems might hold.
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The Promise of Live Online Communication
There has been an idea in science-fiction for decades that video communication would eventually become the standard. 1927’s Metropolis was a famed early example of this, set in in the distant future of the year 2000. While certainly not common at that point, the writers Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang weren’t far off.
Video communication, it was thought, was just a natural evolution. Communicating over voice was a former necessity, after all, when video calls were not an option. Since voice calls were fundamentally an attempt to let us communicate as we do in person, when the technology for video calls arrived, its adoption should naturally be universal. At least, that was the sentiment.
The problem with communication is that it’s exhausting. As Mental Floss explains, many reasons tie into this. One is the difficulty of reading the social clues which we often rely on upon through smaller video screens and poor video qualities. We’ve adapted to not needing this on voice chat, but when we need to on video but can’t, we can easily get frustrated.
Another issue comes from the focus on just our faces. In video communication, attention is focused. We become much more self-aware, and this can put added pressure on us to perform up to recognised social standards. While there are many other components also playing their parts, the result is that video communication leaves us drained in a way that text or voice-only communication does not.
In 2020, the biggest success story for this form of communication has been with business in Zoom, but this is far from the only time that modern video communication has worked well. Education has also been a standout, where interaction between teachers and students requires more visual elements than text alone can convey.
As an older example, video games have also seen some significant visual communication advantages on platforms like Twitch. A one-sided affair, Twitch has long stood as more of an entertainment-focused experience ever since it started back in 2011. This one-sided approach has proved key in this regard, as it allows the audience to engage without what would otherwise be feelings of stress. A more interactive illustration of this is found in the modern Dungeons and Dragons, board games, or online live casino landscapes such as Betway. These casino games available in the Betway lounge offer a wide variety of titles with live dealers in the place of straight digital readouts. Essentially, this means that titles like live roulette, blackjack, baccarat, and more are a fusion of online convenience and land-casino appeal. Again, this is accomplished in a semi-disconnected and lower-stress manner.
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When and Where
We now have the technology to transfer most forms of communication in the video chat world, but just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean we will. Ultimately, the question of direction depends on the exact methods we use, and whether continued use will end up costing more than it’s worth.
For distance work and education, the continued expansion of visual chat seems inevitable, as it allows us serious advantages which are usually worth the cost in stress. For more casual communication, however, the current patterns paint voice or even text as being the preferable option. Alternatively, one-sided systems like in Twitch chat and live casino games could mitigate issues of stress entirely, though how strict these systems are could limit their feasibility outside of entertainment. With the 2020s poised for greater communication technologies and capabilities than ever before, the coming generation could set the precedent the decades that follow. The lines are now being drawn, is just a matter of where they lie.