"Virtual Conscription: Living (or Just Surviving) in the World that Zoom Made

Type: Virtual Panel
Sponsor Groups:
Poster #:
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM (PST)
Room: Virtual 13
Organizers: John Elrick

Call for Submissions

CFP: American Association of Geographers 2021 Annual Conference
Online Session

Virtual Conscription: Living (or Just Surviving) in the World that Zoom Made

This panel seeks to explore the world that we are collectively (and unevenly) coming to inhabit – a world of catastrophe, crises, inequality, and online forms of communication that allow “working life” to proceed as “normal.” Zoom and other business platforms are increasingly transforming the day-to-day routines of teachers, prisoners, parents, service workers, patients, toddlers, delivery drivers, “gig contractors,” college students, artists, and grievers. Yet, they are resoundingly criticized in everyday circles as soul-sucking excuses for actual human connection. While there’s no doubt that Covid-19 and the need for social distancing helped unleash Zoom as a way to carry on during this particular crisis, it’s also true that neoliberal administrators have long desired a means to facilitate remote labor on behalf of market efficiency, actual people be damned.

How is this serendipitous-for-some forced conscription onto digital platforms affecting human connection? Are there ways to generate creative collaborations and experiences on these platforms beyond the market logics that they were originally designed to facilitate? Or are we doomed to a lifetime of business meetings? Might we produce online spaces of encounter and genuine dialogue? Or should we accept the conditions handed down by techno-utopians and corporate managers?

We invite folks who are interested in probing and undermining the alienating forms of sociality emerging under pandemic conditions and (digital) market logics that much of humanity has been conscripted into: the sociality facilitated by video conferencing. Take note: The organizers do not seek a conventional panel adhering to the dictates of professional organizations. Nor do we want to follow the “best practices” of corporate entities. Instead, we envision this panel as an experiential one in which people try (and potentially fail) to create meaningful types of inquiry, expression, and connection in spite of inscrutable digital divides. We are excited to call for contributions that take the form of discussion, poetry, performance, visual art, or anything else you can think of. The following list is by no means exhaustive:

-Experimental engagements with the parameters of platforms like Zoom.
-Media performances and poetics that probe the limitations and/or possibilities of remote labor technologies.
-Explorations of intimacy, friendship, and solidarity in a moment of physical distance and online communication.
-Inquiries into the effects of video conferencing on architecture and social space.
-Personal observations and anecdotes about communicating, teaching, and/or performing via business platforms.

If interested, please send a brief proposal of approximately 200 words to Anthony Fontes (awfontesiv@gmail.com) or John Elrick (jelrick@berkeley.edu).


This panel seeks to provide a space to explore the world of video conferencing. The organizers hope to construct a space wherein participants can critically explore, discuss, and play with the form of the "business platform" as a means of intellectual and creative engagement.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Panelist Anthony Fontes American University 15 1:30 PM
Panelist John Elrick UC Berkeley 15 1:45 PM
Panelist Alexander Tarr Worcester State University 15 2:00 PM

To access contact information login