Thursday, August 12, 2021

aping Spock - why you see me go 'Star Trek' when I leave zoom calls

It struck me recently that I've developed an unusual habit on zoom calls (you may have noticed it if you've shared a screen of postage-stamp sized faces with me) - which involves me usually 'doing a Spock' from Star Trek when we say goodbye.

But before I explain what it's all about (other than a love of Trek), it may be useful to rewind a little bit to before the start of the zoom calls - all the way back to the end of 2019, when few of us had used zoom for meetings at all, before they became our new norm.

When this great transition began, I wondered about how such a dramatic shift in how we (professionally) interact with each other, and the loss of usual physical cues and customs we practice together, might impact on our shared working relationships - so as far as possible, I've tried to introduce models and habits when I'm on zoom that mimic the prompts and sensations people may have otherwise experienced, had we all be sitting in the same room together.

Now all those practices will probably form the basis for other blog posts in the future (assuming people might be interested to learn a bit more about them) - but for now I wanted to focus on Spock.

Most people who know Star Trek will know about the character of Spock - and how his species are famous for not only revering logic above all else, but also trying to avoid having direct physical contact with others unless absolutely necessary (which offers them a clear advantage in pandemics!).

When distancing began in the spring of 2020, there were lots of ideas floating around as to how we might introduce a new custom to replace the handshakes we now could now no longer engage in with other people we met with. Ultimately, the 'elbow bump' became the norm, but many made concerted efforts for it to have been the Vulcan hand gesture.

Traditionally, when we end spending time with each other, we enact some ritual to mark the closure of the conversation or activity - with friends and family, that's been a hug; and with professional colleagues it's a handshake (but these can sometimes be reversed!),

Zoom robs us of the ability to maintain many of these physical practices we used to rely on to signify to each other than we'd satisfactorily concluded our conversations (a handshake), so I wanted to try and introduce something other than a cursory "see you, then!" before hitting the big red button to end the call.

And that's where Spock comes in.

At the end of each encounter or episode, when Spock was leaving a meeting or parting company with someone, he usually raised his hand and intoned "live long and prosper": a wish for the future of the person or people he'd gotten to know a little better as a mark of respect.

And that's the wish that most people know - but given our precarious economies and changing shifts in employment, it might seem almost insensitive to wish that someone would prosper in the apparent face of diminishing opportunities, and the ongoing shrinking of the welfare state to offer us security.

So instead, I prefer to use the response to "live long and prosper" - "peace, and long life": in this chaotic and turbulent world, being able to find peace is perhaps the most desired state for most of us; and the fear of pandemic and shortening of our lives because of it (which has already started to happen with average life expectancies now going backwards), is an equally potent hope that we might have as much time as possible to keep finding ways to achieve and enjoy that peace in our lives and with each other. 

So until next time, keep on Trekking, and...


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