Blog N° 20
In this and upcoming blogs I will try to provide a possible structure for teaching dance via video conference.
The format I have developed is the result of a year and a half of research and lessons given and taken by others.
Let's start by defining some terms .
I have chosen the definition from one of the most authoritative English language dictionaries, the Oxford dictionary.
Format: - the general arrangement, plan, design, etc. of something -
Structure: - the way in which the parts of something are connected together, arranged or organized; a particular arrangement of parts.
Virtual meeting room - A reserved space on a bridge allowing multiple participants to meet.-
End user - A person who is the user of a product. In video conferencing, it would be the person making or receiving a video call.-
Endpoint - A video conferencing device.-
Virtual backgrounds - A simulated environment that appears behind a participant in a video conference.-
Space and time
We dedicated Blog number 13 to the perception of space and time. Here we will integrate some further reflections on these two very important and complex topics.
A video conference is a virtual meeting of real people. It takes place in defined places more or less distant from each other and is assembled in a non-place shared by all the participants - a - virtual meeting room -.
Each participant - enduser - has the possibility to customise the form and thus to a certain extent the content of the screen view - endpoint -. For example, by choosing the gallery view or by pinpointing the teacher or a specific participant. This second option isolates the user from the view of the other participants, excluding him from the dynamics of the class.
To follow a video conference you don't have to be anywhere in particular, i.e. if you have to do a dance training I don't have to be in a dance studio. I have had students who have taken choreography workshops in a space of 2 metres by 1 metre.
This makes it possible to use it in practically any physical location.
In addition, for those who need to follow a video conference without dancing, the several platforms have created ad hoc virtual backgrounds both to protect the privacy of their flats and to possibly camouflage a formally unsuitable environment. These backgrounds do not foresee large movements of the user and above all do not work in perspective so they are completely useless for a dance class.
The only limitation for participating in a video conference is a sufficiently fast connection.
Time in a video conference also flows differently and is marked, or rather must be marked, by frequent regenerative breaks, both physically and psychologically. Working or following a dance lesson in front of a monitor requires much more concentration and cerebral mediation between two not completely synchronised worlds than a face-to-face lesson.
Virtual reality tends to be totally immersive, interfering with the subjective temporal perception of the user.
This effect also persists in the subjective perception of real time immediately after a video conference.
As after a trip on a vehicle, in which our body is moved in space, but without moving physically, after a video conference there is a buffering phase lasting several minutes to pass from one state to another.
As after a dance or sports training it is also useful and healthy to take a short Warm-down time, to allow the body and psyche to return to a state of rest (in this case we could also say a state of reality).
!! Remember that we often do video conferencing from home, i.e. in a place that is our refuge and not normally dedicated to and/or suitable for the activity we have just engaged in. Perform simple ritual actions such as
closing the device you have been working with, putting the moved furniture back in its place, changing the room if possible, changing clothes and/or taking a shower can help the instructor and participants to metabolize the physical and psychological work just done.
In the presence class this process happens spontaneously, because after a training session, one takes a shower, changes clothes and has to walk to the next place.
Cognition and communication.
Several scientists, psychologists and educational scientists have been dealing with the communication system of video conferences in the past years, trying to make this communication as natural and effective as possible. And it is thanks to these studies that the various companies have been able to come up with quick and adequate responses to the explosion of requests over the last two years due to the pandemic.
We should always remember that none of the published studies refer specifically to the use of video conferencing for a dance or sports lesson.
Perhaps this will happen in the years to come if digital communication, especially video conferencing, takes hold in dance and sport outside of emergencies as an additional form of communication.
Below I would like to mention an article by Petr Slovák that I found particularly interesting, even though it is dated (2007), because it examines the cognitive part of communication by comparing the face-to-face system and the digital system of video conferencing.
In his article he analyses existing studies on the subject and highlights several aspects to make a video conference more natural and closer to a face-to-face meeting. I have chosen two of them, because I think they are very relevant to the purpose of my research.
One is deixing and the other is creating an isotropic layout.
- The word deixis originates in linguistics where it is used to describe a process in which the words depend on the conversational context (e.g., the word "I" - the context is in this case the actual speaker). In papers cited here is the aforesaid word used in a slightly different meaning as a way to transmit any kind of material that is discussed by the group at the moment (e.g., paper used to draw diagrams on, document discussed, blackboard or slides used etc.)). From this point of view it is exceedingly important to support deixis during VMC and this need should not be underestimated. - (https://cyberpsychology.eu/article/view/4205/3246 )
In the case of a dance or sports teaching, this aspect refers mainly to the type of framing (Blogs 18 and 19), which must be designed in such a way that the movement can always be understood in its dynamics and clearly contextualised in space and in relation to the previous and following movements.
Before talking about the second aspect, let us remind what is Isotropic means: something that is isotropic has the same size or physical properties when it is measured in different directions.(Cambridge Dictionary https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/isotropic)
- Another method is based on
isotropic layout of the recorders - each participant has more than one pair monitor-camera (one pair for each of the co-speakers - Figure 4). Although this setup had a very positive response from the users and in some views had been very close to face-to-face it also contains serious drawbacks. Because of multiple streams being send from and to each participant, this layout is very bandwidth demanding. Also there is a need of n(n-1) pairs monitor-camera for n participants. Therefore this method could be very useful for repeated discussions between three to four users, bigger groups get to be very costy. A detailed discussion is supplied in -
Although this solution is too expensive and impractical for the type of video conferencing we researched, the idea of digitally recreating the physical presence of the other participating users is a crucial issue in order to make the video conference more effective.
Although since 2007, the year Slovák's article was published, research and exchange between scientists and artists has been extensive and has produced remarkable results, especially in the field of performance art, there is still no simple isotropic solution suitable for video conferencing. It cannot be taken for granted that in the future, especially in dance institutions, a solution will not be found that recreates the physicality of face-to-face classes on a virtual level.
Whether it makes sense to go in this direction or not, is difficult to determine with the sensitivity, the ethical and psychophysical perception we have of the body today.
In the future, the teaching of dance at a distance will certainly represent an asset for the exchange of information and content and the dialogue between different cultures and realities.
For those interested in this type of literature, there are few articles on the topic: temporal perception in relation to digital communication and virtual reality. Below are some that have helped me in my reflections.
I have not found any comprehensive studies on the subject, if any reader knows of any, I would be grateful if they could let me know.