Face masks, social distancing, spatial barriers and different aspects of adaptive measures have come to place in what we know as the hyperconnected pandemic. Different aspects of our daily lives have been transformed and will continue to adapt as certain actions become more effective than others. A multi-layered approach in different areas from our zeitgeist extends to the initial steps that can inspire change. Taking care of our planet should also be part of the main focus.
Certain methods for remote school learning may prove how students accept or reject certain strategies. Keeping students interested is the main goal to tackle some of the pandemic’s strong impact in their lives. Screens are portals to faster reactions which can ignite the much needed human connections in an isolated world.
Facial expressions help human interaction but as face masks are becoming increasingly essential in every aspect of our lives the relationship with a piece of cloth seems to add an extra layer of personality. When the nose and mouth are covered and the eyes and eyebrows are on view the fragmentation of human identifiers receive a hit.
How does non verbal language affect the people who don’t know sign language?
This brings a wider opportunity for language originated by hand movement to evolve into a mainstream channel. There are other types of personal communication but more people would not be put aside if sign language becomes at the reach of more people or even taught in schools or workplaces. In times like these, the complications of needing a voice (literally) are beginning to be experienced and understood. Even though transparent face shields are available to show our smiles this raises the question about how communication is always evolving. Mouth movements create spoken words thus helping people in reading lips. By doing this, language is not hidden but reborn. Covering the mouth mutes our social self but welcomes a sanitary consciousness to the people around us.
Several brands have been using sign language as a paradigm of social inclusion, the real inclusion here is to use it as a moral standard in everyday operations instead of presenting a marketing strategy disguised as the lack of corporate manifestos. With our current worldwide pandemic we can witness different communication guidelines for sanitized environments, touchless interactions and social distancing routes. Reopening in different phases must be done with care and easy to understand measures. Warnings outside stores and infographics explaining rules are not enough if the human element do not reinforce these instructions.
The retail experience has been affected to a point where it will have deep changes in its different locations and formats. Certain products will evolve from packaging, size and even mutate or disappear. Staff wearing face masks and creating consciousness of health safety can help to create a safe business environment.
A wide variety of face mask models from different companies are being sold. A door has opened for this products to be destined in different celebrations and social gatherings. Complicated illustrations or styles are an option but the fastest choice is just wearing a generic design. They rank from health protection up to a fashion statement. Even when a human being talks their physical speaking is not visible but they are shouting through semantics. The void of spoken word is full now more than ever with text messages, photos or videos. This covered world unveils the need for sharing more than ever. Sharing is human, protecting others should too.
We are connected individuals and we will be divided or socially alienated if we wear a face mask or not. It will create a health related stigma. When a public leader wears a face mask in public the essential semiotic of codified health messages and social unity resonates in a call to action: no one can survive alone. Until a vaccine is found or countries lower their health restrictions a face mask will help us to identify someone who understands health etiquette in a pandemic era. Other barriers shall appear, it is our goal to overcome them.
Communicating and socializing in the physical world has been transformed we like it or not. The unborn and younger generations will see instructions on courtesy greetings pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 manners as if they were from another planet.
The children, teenagers and young adults in the 2020 generation are the ones whose school life and hence their surroundings will be in constant evolution. This time becomes a green field for creativity and unimagined solutions in different fields. Adults and elders will see a before and after with a discovery of nostalgia. Coronababies are the ones we eagerly want to see grow up to share them the world they missed trough old videos and images.
Medical staff with gloved hands, plastic face shields and face masks from disposable fabric or materials are a global warming threat. We have been educated to throw them in a safe way but no to recycle them in an Earth-oriented process. The whole chain and cycle of waste is again affecting our planet but this time the leading role is a dangerous virus pushed by our aggressive disobedience to several climate crisis warnings. Once again, history slaps in our faces whenever we do not listen.
Even when those essential and life saving objects are reusable they must be washed and disinfected which raises more questions to correct procedures and safety guidelines. We are at the verge of saving lives with a climatic toll. This nearly indestructible relationship shapes how we can find responsible solutions to the issues we are confronting.
The beauty industry is aware of this. Single-use pods may present complications and different interactions to department stores whenever a client wishes to try on beauty products. Some countries may restrict consumer interactions for the sake of health regulations. The massive trial of products will impact the efforts in recycling. We started to get used to gather used pods of cosmetics or coffee, plastic and glass bottles or other recycling materials for them to be recycled in special containers. With a pandemic this process was affected and so do our future if we don’t find the correct procedures to rethink ways of recycling better. Global sales of lipsticks are projected to fall into a 70% loss. If mouths are covered then lipsticks are being replaced by tattoos which last longer and do not make a mess with face masks on. Special formulas or lipsticks can solve the flashy pampering of the makeup routine.
More than ever clothing must adapt to organic, recycled fabrics or a special mix of materials that pose no danger to our ecosystem. We have the technology or are near to discover how to make all these Earth-friendly findings mainstream. Loungewear could evolve into formal wardrobe if online meetings are a regular fit into our lives. Caring for the environment should not be expensive. This moment poses questions to the haute couture tradition. Who will wear expensive clothes if there are no cocktail parties? How about New Year´s End celebration? What will be the dress code for a pandemic Holiday celebration online? Formal pajamas? Products will continue to be released but at what stakes their market profitability is in a risky position? The current state of fashion will learn what the customers are willing to pay for. Social networks will again expand the reach or contraction of fashion.
Garments with social distancing in mind can appear in different shapes. Room in the outside world is really coveted. Expanding the fabrics into conic or trapeze structures which can be linked to crinolines can help reinforce the space we need to socialize. With today’s technology the textile industry can present these shapes with lighter and even eco-friendly materials.
The structures of the new products for home environments will range into softer curves and textiles. Ultra breathable fabrics and lighter materials will help the body to have a better blood pressure and freshness. Ornaments may appear on flip-flops, bathrobes, hats or even blankets. This is a time where the textile world has a huge opportunity to reshape conscious consumption and industrial design can create useful multi functional objects when indoor life becomes the standard for the most of us.
Tomorrow’s waste is made from today’s resources. These elements achieved its final goal in the best case scenario or when their main function is not possible and they are not useful or not needed anymore. Materials can be smartly chosen at first hand to reduce pollution with a close relationship with the upcycling process.
Stocking face masks may seem the normal approach once the world faces a pandemic emergency. But what other resources do countries should have in advance? Artificial ventilators? Plastic gloves? Disposable shields? Curtains? Food, but how much and with what quality? The list grows exponentially when thinking of the whole world. Where can all this fit in? And how much energy, power and carbon footprint will it produce?
Schools that are transformed into hybrid systems may confront the dilemma to continue activities with a physical presence and as an alternative they will consider making room for online teaching at the same time. Does this mean that more teachers need to be hired? Students may create their own schedule considering health restrictions?
These challenges continuously rebuild the fears of parents and students that are not willing to take the risk of leaving their own safe spaces and personal bubbles. Who decides which students must show up at the institutions? The dilemma that exists is that education is always needed. But at what risk? How will it evolve? If some households don’t commit how can students get help?
How about teachers whose main activities will only be online courses? Two factors come in the picture: finding the student and the teacher. Reaching students in remote learning systems are dependant on a huge number of factors.
This time in the digital evolution will fast forward certain individuals into the planning of online learning tools that have existed before but the COVID-19 pandemic forced regular schools to force the velocity and adaptation on this way of working. The discussion falls in that remote education must be considered an essential element from now on. This pushes the pressure to the faculty staff.
How can the school system aid and create a learning support hub for parents with different levels of education and also clear coveted time to guide their children? Even separating students into different schedules and taking classes outdoors —if weather permits— does not guarantee a free risk location. This means that the family structural interaction needs to evolve once again but with external help. Parents need guidance and also support from the education authorities in order to communicate and integrate another role in their personal lives as educators to the members of their families. Having access is the key.
Will there be a special kind of permit for parents to take time off work to attend this courses? And not just by attending in person to the classrooms. But if this task can be integrated in the office life? When health uncertainty expands its reach a well designed home school program where the parents are the teachers’ right hand can help in several aspects of education. Federal and local laws can make this happen, think of it as a maternity or fatherhood leave but focused in learning how to help teach students at home.
Maybe we should start proposing something radical: education leave must be considered as of tomorrow’s learning essential aid. Having this social-nurturing dedicated experience would hopefully deliver data to support and justify if this strategy can work or not. Nothing replaces the classroom experience, it will survive through learning evolution.
Virtual fatigue is a real burnout to some. This moves forward the post digital shift in the search of some resilience to nurture healthy habits. The contradiction is that you may be reading this words in a screen where a tremendous amount of media is available. So a balanced syllabus with different learning methods can help. As of today, this change is moving at a tremendous speed but the results shall come during each semester or cycle. When different generations advance and decide their career goals the data will show us what was wrong and what was right.
Nonetheless, there will certainly be real life learning experiences when remote school is unavailable or halted due to other factors. Short classes may help but in this case the syllabus must adapt into finding the real essence of different subjects and also finding the time into promoting discussion between students, teachers and professionals. School experience completes social traits. At what point is each student deforming itself from online learning?
Helping parents with the acquisition of technological equipment extend the reach of the classroom. Not by asking for loans because that will hurt the family’s economic structure. Home internet networks are so unstable at times that every person who need or wants to be online has had a malfunction now and then. This anxiety for a reliable connection foreshadows an addiction and necessity to an instant reply. Technological infrastructure can be available but unfortunately not every country can have it at the same time. Governments, foundations, corporations and individuals who can chip in must create a stronger alliance and the results of this will be worth the effort. The generations to come are our future. We know this. How about helping them right now?
Post digital people will starve for the analog way of doing things. Paying for this experience could be a premium, back to basics with contactless payment. Now that is retro futuristic!
Simple times without a threatening virus around us is what Post Digital People, (PDP or PoDiPe for short) crave the most. Screen fatigue produces Zoombies in a grid. The binary simulation is a virtual relationship that human beings are eager to harvest in the one hand, and in the other, this creates anxiety in some cases or loneliness as an extreme burnout. Watching someone through a screen or living together in the Post Digital World is much needed as a balanced manner. This transforms human relations once again. We shall adapt. We can make it feel better. It will not be the same as a face to face relation but by doing this the communication will not be lost.
Connected and hyper connected actions are part of what shapes our zeitgeist. All the data compiled in every second of every hour of every day can be useful and is being analyzed as you read this words. Artificial Intelligence can help us accelerate processes but without human minds a purpose cannot be fulfilled. Or is it? Post-pandemic people will eagerly search for human contact and new experiences focused on physical interaction.
Privacy is a luxury online and offline. Clever and informative design tools should be implemented to make the user know when its privacy is compromised. By doing this, each user can decide how much of its personal data or digital remainders is willing to waive or release. Personal information should be respected but online “coexistence” is possible with the exchange of treasured kilobytes of data.
Wearing a mask is not enough but it helps. The grid we are living is rendered by stamps on the floor limiting the spaces between us. Keeping distance helps saving lives and with a face mask on in public spaces the percentage of protection grows substantially. This spatial grid reaffirms its function by placing each human being in the location between intersections. As a chessboard, our movements must be cautious when moving in public areas. In stores, buildings, and schools placing arrows on the floor will turn ourselves into vehicles made out of flesh and bones with the constant danger of bumping into each other. Maybe a human transit app like Waze for safe distancing between individuals will show up someday and tell us which zones are with high demand of pedestrians. We are in a real life Twister game board but the twist here is to be immersed into each circle. This game is a real life experience in the pandemic life. Whoever leaves the invisible bubble within each circle looses the game and turns its own existence into peril.
Blocking the external world may create the illusion of safeness. This voluntary (or not) isolation can lower the risk of spreading contagion. The world can be prepared, constant education, patience and tolerance are the clues. But what happens when we must go out?
Frank Lloyd Wright’s 1956 Mile-High Tower was a contradictory utopia that in different cities has evolved into a more compact structure. Now more than ever we may be looking to a much needed answer. Living, studying, working and having recreational activities in a near radius could expand a health safety net in order to evolve into a societal bubble whose restrictions will be limited when another pandemic strikes.
Sport venues should be reorganized and conceived not just for sanitary and safety awareness. Tracing different zones and routes showing ways the guests move around the place in order to get to the seat they are searching is a titanic endeavor. Leaving two or three seats between a person is a safe choice. But how many tickets will not be sold? Whenever restrictions are lifted the audience must remember to take care of themselves and the ones around them in public and closed spaces. This solely impact exposes the complications in sustaining the business of entertainment, sports and other live events because social distancing is the norm to stop spreading the virus that has been affecting our lives since the beginning of 2020. Hotspots for spreading the virus into sports players or the fans is the price for live entertainment.
When talking about airlines their conditions change because they decided to block middle seats. As restrictions are lifted the world health issue is shadowed by a financial focus because the middle seat is free for more passengers to travel and transform each plane or bus as a contagion-risk experience. When the first enclosed transport medium solves this equation more companies will dig into solving the seat distribution or dividing zones in their own units.
We can consider schools and work life in a business opportunity that we may have never seen before. Remote learning, remote working, remote life. Streaming events pose a different question. Not just by creating a different experience but by legal rights that vary in regions. Having a lot of intellectual property limits can impact in the reach of sharing content. We have seen that years ago when anyone could visit a website or play content from another country. That is a bygone era. The search for a free internet is an illusion. There appear to exist more frontiers online than offline.
Our spatial routines will be modified in the long term. Acoustic divisions were removed in the sake of a limitless ambiance at offices around the world. We may experience the return of the adaptable cubicle once corporations begin to move back into their headquarters. Or as some other companies suggested, workers can do their job from a remote location. But is it worth having all that empty space? Will we see new and huge corporate buildings being sold to regain monetary value as profits are a main focus to shareholders? Will those empty skyscrapers transform themselves into museums or interactive experiences showcasing the twentieth century corporate life? Elevator jams, before contactless adaptations were annoying, with the healthy modifications the enclosed adventure of moving upward will rearrange personal priorities for when having lunch up to having a smoke.
Architects will ponder on how free wall spaces will change into creating concentration rooms and where the acoustic will help in a successful remote meeting without interference or disturbing noises from the outside or the inside. If air flows so does noise. Will glass doors or walls be replaced in the search for needing privacy in a closed home or at the office? Transparent surfaces as dividers will evolve in meaning and the symbolism of its own structure may build an almost invisible protecting barrier.
If the world was flat (digital way of speaking) in the last decade due to the explosive growth of the internet some countries that have restricted social movements the world faces a bumpy road. It is still flat because of instant communication but with bumps, downhills and uphills caused by regional conflicts, streaming rights or sanitary lockdowns the flow of information may be at risk. In the real world this translates into health restrictions that may impose the standard of an international sanitary passport along other nationality documents that will be required for each traveler.
Rethinking efforts on restrictions can solve certain issues in short term. Foreshadowing the next actions are critical for our society and governments must be better prepared. Sharing real data is an incentive to react in a determined strategy. The coming years will be the most important in our disciplines, we must regroup and keep creating. Doing more with better solutions is part of the steps in understanding this crisis that will help us in solving future pandemics.
We have been in a germs and virus related world all of our lives but now we are aware of this microscopic danger and we must truly believe that creative consciousness can enlighten solutions. This a time in history that will be printed in text books or shall be highlighted in the new media that future generations will use to learn about us. Maybe a downloadable ethereal and holographic multimedia experience will show how our pandemic age ended or evolved as they will (hopefully) know.
Rethinking our world is a goal we should achieve by thinking together, acting together and growing together. Only then, we shall write the finale we are determined to share.
David The Agency (2017)
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