Is this thing on?

Is this thing on?

Watching Nancy Pelosi spluttering over a malfunctioning mic at a protest rally, I am struck by how even the most confident and accomplished performer can come undone when technology fails. The true extent of the failure is also clear: this clip of Pelosi is now all that the rally will be remembered for. It could be worse. In science fiction over-reliance on technology invariably leads to doom or dystopia, but for most of us it only leads to embarrassment and irritation.

Last week we had to get in touch with the members of our virtual team, which includes students from the University of Limerick, the University of Central Florida, and Univesité Diderot Paris. My UL classmate got the ball rolling with a group email and a post on the designated discussion board. I replied, and so did some teammates from Paris and Florida. However, later on in the week I got another email from my UL classmate expressing concern that no one from the other institutions had replied. My classmate had not received the other replies, and it soon became apparent that some of our teammates in Paris and Florida did not get our emails and/or could not get access to the discussion board.

This highlights one of the main problems with virtual teamwork: it is often impossible to tell whether your message has been received or is being ignored. Perhaps it is the uncertainty which makes technological failures truly annoying. It was not Nancy Pelosi’s dead mic, but her uncertainty that made her flail about: “Is this thing on?”. No Nancy, no it is not.

(Image: Screenshot of C-Span news footage)

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