The uses of video conferencing in the business sector are well documented, as the need for many businesses to communicate frequently with colleagues around the world grows increasingly in our modern day ‘global village’. Telepresence video conferencing is so well developed that we can fairly accurately create the experience of a face to face conference with participants from Texas, Adelaide and Dublin all able to take part from the comfort of their own offices. It seems odd, though, that audio visual conferencing seems to be struggling to take hold of the personal communications market. Although Skype is very popular for those who wish to communicate with friends and relatives abroad, there seems to be very little demand for mobile telephones which allow us to see the person we are chatting to.
In its early days, video phone technology was extremely pricey, costing users about 90 dollars a month. Currently, however, modern technology has reduced the costs to next to nothing. Webcams and highly advanced smart phones mean that cost is no longer a factor in discouraging us from using video conferencing. In its early days, many people thought that videotelephony would become widespread, but it is still used fairly rarely.
This may in part be because videophone calling tends to be a poor substitute for real face to face conversation. The conversation tends to be focussed around a video screen and a small camera, and participants often look at the screen rather than the camera, which prevents them from having direct eye-to-eye contact with each other. Some have theorised that videotelephony may be less popular than expected because people actually prefer less direct communication. Texting, instant messaging and email are much more popular than video calling, which suggests that written conversations which can be executed at one’s convenience is, for most people, preferable to recreating the experience of face-to-face conversations. In addition, some people see video cameras as an intrusion. ‘Why does my friend need to see what I am doing?’ ‘I don’t want to feel I have to look nice for a phone call,’ and ‘I don’t feel comfortable being watched’ are all common responses when people are asked about this kind of technology.
It does seem interesting that video conferencing has proved so popular and effective in business, but most of us are reluctant to embrace it on a daily basis. Perhaps telepresence video conferencing puts too much pressure on us to be fully involved in a conversation, when actually we quite like to be able to do the gardening or cook dinner while chatting to our friends and family. audio visual conferencing does seem to be here to stay, though. Perhaps we had better just get used to it.
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