Another dot in the blogosphere?

Natural vs artificial backgrounds

Posted on: August 2, 2020

Two days ago, I mentioned that I attended a Zoom-based meeting to celebrate the graduation of a few Masters students. I opted not to use an artificially generated background and relied on what I had in my study instead.

Obviously not all will agree with that choice. They might wish to embellish or hide natural backgrounds as a matter of personal choice.

Zoom, with natural background.

I choose to use a natural background in part because it suits my purpose — it is a study, it looks studious, and I teach via video conference if it is necessary.

It is also for pedagogogial and technical reasons that I opt for a natural background. An artificially replaced background requires software algorithms to work hard to keep track of where the person is. This creates artefacts when the person moves.

At the latest Zoom meeting, a participant with an artificial background tried to show an item by holding it up. But since the Zoom algorithm is optimised for people, it removed the object from view. If a teacher did the same, her students would not be able to see what she was trying to illustrate.

The choice of a tool is not straightforward. Once chosen, its usage is not fixed because its designers and creators cannot foresee every contextual use. This is why the choice and use should not be left only to vendors and administrators. The actual users need to weigh in as well.

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