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From digital meetings to digital space

Over the last few years, the Christmas present of the year has often been a digital device – headphones, fitness bracelets, VR headsets or robot vacuum cleaners. More recently however, when it comes to Christmas, there has been something of a protest against all things digital.

In 2018, apparel from recycled materials won the accolade, in 2019 it was mobile security boxes – where you can store your mobile devices to enjoy some digital downtime. Something that can perhaps be described as digital related,  but whose purpose is to enable you to escape from the digital world. What is the favourite this year? Camping stoves – back to nature. About as far away from the digital world as you can imagine.

And while for us, digitalisation is mainly a medium for doing something, more often than not in recent times, it has come to stand in the foreground and even to get in the way of what we actually want to achieve. As a consequence, we have an urge to free ourselves from digital technology away from work.

This has become particularly apparent in these Corona times. We are missing out on personal face to face contact, we are understimulated when it comes to getting out and about in nature – which is often the case in the dark days of November – where snow remains conspicuous by its absence. Nor can we dream of going skiing or some exotic travel destination in the immediate future as the way things look right now. I expect many people are dreaming of the Christmas holidays as an opportunity for a digital detox, as digital tools have generally come to be associated with work.

However, we are facing a different kind of Christmas. A Christmas where we may have to reassess our social behaviour patterns. A Christmas where perhaps, we especially need to rethink how we should interface with our older friends and relatives with whom we normally socialise. In which case, digital tools can be a way of involving everyone, and helping people to feel less lonely.

When I stepped into the bedroom of one of my children not too long ago, I could see that a video meeting was in progress. Not in the sense that there was an ongoing dialogue – nobody was in the room at the time, but they were connected just in case they happened to walk by each other. A way of expanding the physical room with the aid of digital space. An opening for informal meetings rather than a planned conversation.

Bear this in mind over Christmas, when many people, especially the elderly, cannot be there with us. You don’t always need to talk, it is perhaps enough to connect rooms together, so if anyone happens to walk past and meet, they can exchange a few spontaneous words that help reduce the sense of isolation. A digital meeting room as a way to escape loneliness in a Corona safe way.