Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

Dressing for Zoom


Anne says: There’s no surprises that lockdowns and working from home from impacted the way we dress for work. This week a number of articles caught my attention – all of them highlighting the changes in our work attire but also focusing on naming the style, like the “Zoom shirt”!

The Zoom shirt? Yes, seriously! Before we go into dress styles, let’s reflect on a few adaptions to the nomenclature of video-conference calls.  We’ve adopted the “Zoomification” of the video call, like we use the term Google when referring to search. “Do you want to Zoom?” is referring to joining a video call. Then we needed to further modify our experience – enter the Zoom backgrounds, allowing us to change a chaotic kitchen table or living room backdrop into something, more professional or aspirational. Then, after too many “quarantinis” (think quarantine martinis typically with friends in the evenings), we experienced Zoom fatigue. It appears now, as distributed work becomes prolonged, we’ve started to change the way we dress, enter the Zoom shirt. The Urban Dictionary defines it:

 … a shirt or blouse that’s kept on the back of your desk chair to quickly be presentable for video conferences.

We’ve already had the jokes about tracksuit pants, shorts, pyjamas and the like, items that can’t be seen on the shoulders up video call – but how many people are now adjusting their casual work from home style for a specific “work” shirt? According to the Guardian article, LinkedIn are citing 42% have adopted the Zoom shirt. In fact, there appears to be a new industry emerging around dressing for Zoom – who would have thought??!!

Along with the selection of the Zoom shirt is how it expresses your work mood and of course, it needs to match or complement your Zoom background! But wait, there’s more… there’s the Zoom scarf, the Zoom sweater and… the Zoom bra (see the New York Times article).

The Wall Street Journal article provides the science behind the power of clothes – it’s called “enclothed cognition”, according to Dr Adam Galinsky. He’s now extending his studies to encompass the current work from home pandemic effect on the way we dress and work, including “…the phenomenon of wearing something dressy above the waist and casual sweatpants or shorts below screen level for video-conference calls” (aka – the Zoom shirt). His previous work has already found that a connection between how we work and how we dress but how the Zoom shirt, a half-dressed effect, can alter our mindset – we’ll need to wait for the research results!

There’s a number of other research studies cited that suggest wearing something more formal signals to the brain that it’s time to concentrate or think differently, and why we change when we get home into casual clothes, again signalling to the brain it’s time to relax.

But I wonder if these theories will hold up under the pandemic conditions. It’s not just work from home we’re dealing with, it’s a more complex working environment with additional conditions that are impacting our concentration and ability to work. We’re already at home, so will changing into casual clothes at the end of a Zoom meeting signal time to relax?  Will putting on a Zoom shirt (or scarf, or bra) really provide the change in brain signals that have been noted in pre-pandemic studies? Or are we just confusing ourselves when our work environment stays the same and now includes work, family and personal lives?


No, social media isn’t destroying civilisation

Jakkii says: Last week Anne shared a couple of articles on The Social Dilemma. This week, I want to share some articles that are a bit more critical in their reviews of the film, and I want to do that for two reasons: one, because I had some issues with the film myself, and two, because I think the core problems we’re facing as a society are critical and require diversity in perspectives, nuanced discussion, and robust debate. And whether you, in the end, agree with any given position – the one in the film or one of many presented in reviews of and discussions about it – you’re always going to have a more informed opinion when you understand more about the topic and the arguments surrounding it.

Firstly, an obvious and glaring issue with the film is one Anne pointed out last week – it doesn’t even pretend to propose any real answers amidst the hand-wringing and wide-eyed stares. Richard Seymour, in his article for Jacobin and from which my contribution this week draws its name, says the answers it does suggest only serve to undermine itself by illustrating the moral panic that lies behind the film:

If you think all that sounds like moral panic, you wouldn’t be far wrong. The dead giveaway is the enormous gap between the purported problem and the solutions — tax data collection, realign financial incentives, and no devices before bedtime. This is a documentary made for worried parents, #resistance liberals, and #NeverTrump Republicans.

Beyond this though, one of the primary issues can be summed up in these quotes from Anna Rawhiti-Connell, in The Spinoff NZ:

“All too often, conversations about social media are all about the powerful, manipulative tech companies. They are seldom about society – what we want for ours and the role of technology in it – and I don’t see a lot of progress being made if we continue to strip ourselves of agency in this debate.”

“That is to say, it’s an alarming watch, there is a lot that’s right in it and there is cause for great concern. It’s also disempowering to the point of literally rendering people as pixelated voodoo dolls inexplicably controlled by Pete Campbell from Mad Men (actor Vincent Kartheiser, in case that reference is lost on you).”

Social media doesn’t exist in a vacuum, nor is it used by automatons completely devoid of thought or entirely removed from society. While we must grapple with the realities of social media companies and platforms – their almost-oligarch status, or the unintended consequences of employing mechanisms that draw on behavioural psychology to try to keep eyes on screens & sell more ads, for instance – we can’t afford to lose sight of other truths about ourselves and our societies that exist with or without social media. While our moral panic applied to social media instead of rock music or video games may be borne of the realities of the 21st Century, it serves no one to forget that people have managed to do things like radicalise themselves without social media. Bullying existed before social media. Propaganda existed before social media. This is important because even if we somehow manage to solve some of the problems of social media that amplify these issues, they will still exist. 

Writing for The Verge, Adi Robertson says:

Old-fashioned business, media, and politics still play a powerful role in shaping what we see online. Misinformation peddlers and propagandists include world leaderspolitical parties, and military figures, as well as celebrities minted on film or television — people who can and should be held accountable in their own right, not dismissed as inevitable byproducts of “the algorithm.” Similarly, web platforms aren’t just run by code. Senior Facebook leadership, for instance, has reportedly intervened to protect right-wing misinformation from its standard moderation process.

And I think this is a nuance the film ignores, as well. While it, in its own simplistic way, looks at the workings of Facebook or YouTube and how they recommendations keep people on the platform, it really doesn’t spend time exploring the people behind the content. Business, media, personalities that make a living from being “provocative”, and on and on. “Fixing an algorithm” doesn’t hold any of those people accountable for their actions. And maybe it doesn’t stop them from moving on to the next platform we ‘accidentally’ design.

In Slate, Pranav Malhotra writes:

Although The Social Dilemma attempts to raise awareness around important issues like design ethics and data privacy, it ends up depending on tired (and not helpful) tropes about technology as the sole cause of harm, especially to children. It also omits the very voices who have been sounding the alarm on Silicon Valley for a long time.

This leads to a discussion about another critically missing nuance: inequality, covering a range of aspects like socioeconomics and race. Pranav adds, “These inequalities actually influence the design choices that the film so heavily focuses on—more specifically, who gets to make these choices.” If you have already seen The Social Dilemma you may have spotted this already, but if you haven’t, you might on a rewatch virtually all of the people who designed these products are white dudes, most of them now very wealthy. By allowing them to dictate the narrative around design and ‘how this all happened’ in the film, to me we seem to be repeating the mistakes of allowing them to be the ones who made these design decisions in the first place. Sure, there’s a selling point there that ‘the people who made this now think maybe that was a bad idea’, but do they necessarily deserve a redemption arc? Are they the voices that should be raised here? Maybe not – or at least not theirs alone.

I’ll leave it there as I think that gives a flavour of some of what this film won’t give you. That’s not to say there aren’t important questions to be asked about social media, tech and ethics – of course there are. But as with most things, The Social Dilemma is only giving you a part of the story. There’s a lot more to think about and consider, and I would certainly urge you to at least read through the perspectives presented in the articles linked here. I’ve also added a link to a great list on Fast Company of 11 books to read after watching the film. And for yet another perspective, make sure check out the link at the bottom of today’s Friday Fave to the Sydney Business Insights podcast episode, where they also discuss The Social Dilemma.


Around the House

Jakkii says: How great is it here in Australia starting to see restrictions either being eased, or in a timeline for easing? Good work everyone! Obviously, we can’t get complacent, we need to keep social distancing, following the restrictions and washing our hands. It also means still spending time at home, so here are some things to check out this week while you’re busy doing the right thing, staying home and staying safe!

Friday Funnies

US Election Friday Five

Bonus: What voter suppression looks like online

Misinformation Friday Five

COVID-19 Friday Five

Bonus: The inside story of the WWE ThunderDome, a futuristic arena built for the pandemic, which has had 130,000 total entry requests from fans since August

Work Friday Five

Tech Friday Five

Bonus: Digital governance is the ‘new normal’ — here’s how we can keep it ethical

Trump vs TikTok, WeChat, China Friday Five

And in Australia: TikTok execs say it didn’t take part in security probe into app

Social Media Friday Five

Bonus: ‘The Real Facebook Oversight Board’ launches to counter Facebook’s ‘Oversight Board’

Sydney Business Insights – The Future This Week Podcast

This weekThe Social Dilemma, our first movie review on The Future, This Week. We bring in everything we’ve learnt about social media over the past three years.

Sandra Peter (Sydney Business Insights) and Kai Riemer (Digital Disruption Research Group) meet once a week to put their own spin on news that is impacting the future of business in The Future, This Week.


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