What Words Capture the Ways We Interact Now?

by | Feb 1, 2023 | What I'm Thinking | 2 comments

[Zoom attendees and pizza at the second Hybrid WikiWeds hosted by WikimediaNYC on December 28th, 2022, at the Brooklyn Public Library. ]


How do you refer to people who aren’t on a screen when you’re in a hybrid (Zoom or other digital platform plus this other thing) meeting or gathering? This is a serious question and I’d love it if readers would offer some answers.

We can’t say the people who aren’t on screen are “in person” to distinguish them from the people on the screen. Everyone on the Zoom is “in person.” They are live and interacting in the present moment.

We can’t say “in the room.” Again, everyone in the meeting or gathering is in the room. Some happen to be on a screen in the room, but they are in the room.

We can’t say “face-to-face” to refer to the people who aren’t on screen. After all, the faces of the people on the screen are actually larger and more compelling than those of the people who … aren’t on Zoom.

I have heard the expression 3-D to refer to those who are not on the screen. Should we say “embodied”? “Physically present?” Recently I heard someone refer to people on the screen as having light + energy, while the people not on the screen had mass. Having light does not mean having the speed of light squared (to fulfill Einstein’s famous E=mc2 formula in which c2 is the speed of light squared). And there is a question as to whether a hybrid event, with people on screen and off (I was going to say that maybe that’s the answer—we can refer to people as “off screen,” except that in a truly hybrid event everyone is on the screen, even if some of them are in the same physical space.

I’d love to see some responses—even if the responses are along the lines of that I’m making this too complicated!