2 professors warn using wedding pictures as Zoom background is a “microaggression”

by Peter Heck · May 18th, 2020 1:09 pm
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Two officials from public universities have sounded the alarm on what they see as a serious problem emerging from the expanded use of online video platforms: wedding pictures.

Amy Bonomi is the director of Michigan State University's Children and Youth Institute, and Neila Viveiros serves as an associate vice chancellor for academic operations at the University of Colorado, Denver. Calling virtual services like Zoom and Skype, "a ripe setting for unconscious bias," the two researchers issued a press release warning of the potential microaggressions transmitted through these platforms.

"Unconscious bias includes using language, symbolism, and nonverbal cues that reinforce normative social identities with respect to gender, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status," Bonomi said.

The researcher, who serves as faculty within the Human Development and Family Studies department at Michigan State, went on to provide an example.

"For example, when the virtual background of a Zoom meeting attendee has pictures of his or her wedding, it unintentionally reinforces the idea that marriage is most fitting between opposite sexes," Bonomi said.

Bonomi and Viveiros also cautioned against engaging in seemingly benign conversations like what family activities participants have engaged in since quarantining.

"While these experiences are valid […] they can crowd out the experiences of people with minoritized social identities," the report said. "For example, asking about ‘fun family things' prevented several Latinx attendees from sharing their experiences of losing family members to novel coronavirus."

To avoid such offenses, the pair of academics recommended strategies like using "inclusive language," forcefully "challenging microaggressions," and including "time bounding" in online experiences, a phrase meaning taking frequent breaks.


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