At the Front Porch Republic, Jeffrey Bilbro writes about how we might be grateful for, yet not satisfied with, Zoom and other distance-learning technologies.
In this strange season during which so many of my conversations are mediated through pixels, I’ve been trying to reckon honestly with the goods and shortcomings of these digital tools. In the context of my profession as a teacher, I’m grateful that I can continue to convene my classes through Zoom. And yet I find myself exhausted by trying to facilitate genuine conversations through this medium, for reasons that L.M. Sacasas articulates well. I want to be both grateful for what these technologies enable me to do and yet also clear-eyed about their very real limits. In this endeavor, I’ve been helped by two metaphors: tinned fruit and a prosthetic hand. Both of these help us properly name and understand the substitute goods that digital technologies can make available to us. (And yes, I’m going to try to use Wendell Berry to come to terms with Zoom. I hope he never sees this essay or, if he does, is gracious enough to forgive me.)