Read a doctoral dissertation last night and this morning on videoconferencing, and the author’s findings (after the exam this morning, he’s Dr Booth) backed up some of my experience. Videoconference is low-bandwidth indeed, compared too face-to-face interactions, and has issues of latency (the time it takes the signal to travel), resolution and screen size that reduce the amount of information it can carry.
It turns out that, if you get people together in a room at some point – ideally before they start videoconferencing – they will be much more satisfied with their videoconference experience. It’s just a guess at this stage on my part (I haven’t gone looking in the literature to see if anyone else has written about it – if they haven’t, I might), but I’m wondering whether perhaps spending some time in the same room with a person allows us to develop a mental ‘library’ of body language and facial expression information, at full sense bandwidth and resolution. Once that’s in place, it enables our brains to ‘fill in’ some of the detail that is lost in the videoconference, which makes it a richer and more communicative experience.