Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Skyping.

She appears to us
through the Skype screen,
in a blazer, white turtleneck,
and the "impossibly tiny eyeglasses"
of her generation.

The technological advances in interviewing
have brought the committee into a seminar room,
and the connection (having been acquired my someone - not me)
allows us to peer into her apartment.
I confess I feel voyeuristic.

While she answers my colleagues' questions,
I'm scanning her wall of books,
a strange ceramic owl,
the flitting tail of a - well - a cat?

When it is my turn, I speak too loudly.
She recoils from her little webcam,
and my colleagues chuckle.

"Can you see me," I mean to say,
but I say "Can you hear me" instead.
More laughs on my side of the transmitting abyss,
and then - 2 seconds later - her own chuckle.

I get the hang of it when the ball
gets passed to me again.
"Can you imagine," I say,
"a use for Skyping with a student?"

(I'm off book. My colleagues gasp.)

"Yes," the candidate says.
"They could bug me when I'm at home."

2 second pause for her, I assume,
and our laughs reach her gustily.

After the connection is terminated,
my colleagues compare notes.
I stare into the black eye of the webcam
and wonder if she's still watching us.


  1. I need to get Skype going for conferences in my online-only classes (*not* for the students to bug me at home; they'll have to stick to email for that). I'm actually a bit worried about backgrounds. Maybe there's someone selling the equivalent of those old photographers' backdrops, updated for modern Skyping situations?

  2. I hope Tingle actually looks like that...AND I hope Yaro looks like his avatar. That'd be very cool.

  3. Tingle's avatar actually looks more like a psychiatrist than a professor to me -- too neat for a professor, I think. But definitely appropriate to the persona.

  4. Cassandra, why bother with Skype? Use something like WiZiQ, or just a text chat.

    With WiZiQ you can use images and a virtual whiteboard, without having to show the students that you are less-than-professionally dressed.

  5. @CC -- you can buy photo backdrops often cheap on eBay.

    My biggest worry about doing anything professional from home that involves sound is the dog. OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG there's that dog I hate going by outside! Bark bark bark bark bark bark bark!

    She barks for approximately a minute per day. It WOULD happen during the interview.

  6. @introvert -- thanks; I'll check it out. I know I want voice (tried using just text chat last time, and wasn't happy -- too much delay for good interaction), and also the ability to screen share (so we can look at drafts and my pre-written or spur-of-the-moment comments on them). A colleague has used Skype successfully for all of the above; that's why I was headed in that direction. She's also done some reading that suggests that letting them see your face now and then helps establish "presence," but I'm not at all wedded to that part of it.

    @Dog -- thanks; I think I was mostly kidding, but it's nice to know there are options available. I wonder what my students would make of, say, an ocean background? I actually have a window at home with a really cool view, but I'm not sure how to set things up so that would show up.

  7. Oh, yes, and Dog -- I suppose one really shouldn't suggest duct tape (or a muzzle) in this situation? Friends with small children have threatened to use it in similar situations (but no, not followed through; bribes to said children and/or spouses who might take children out of the house during the critical period have usually been the solution). So maybe a crate, a bowl of treats held below camera level, and/or a walk with a supportive friend?

  8. Sometimes (hangs head in shame) she goes to ... doggie ... day care. And that's where she'd go. (Insert long story about canine social skills, stimulation, not chewing furniture, etc.)

  9. I've done the Skype from both ends (interviewer and interviewee) and it's mighty freaky.

  10. @Dog -- let's see: she's happy, you're happy, furniture's happy (or at least intact). Sounds good to me.

  11. I had this one professor last year who had Skype himself but would get all hypocritical when other people use it. He'd always be like "I hate Skype," and "Skype is distracting me," and "for the last time Anastasia, please stop Skyping whilst I lecture."

  12. I keep thinking about Derrida...ugh. I moved my desk so that the wall behind me is now the one covered in colorful fabric from Starvistan. Look! So "ethnic!" Give me a job, you bastards!

    In reality, I'd take it down...


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