Spark

The internet can bring us together, but only if we have the resources: professor

Working or learning from home isn’t so easy if you lack private space, software, hardware or even a strong internet connection, professor Aimeé Morrison says.

‘People are trying to process in real time the new ways of doing things,’ says prof

Not everyone may be tech savvy or can access the tools they need during this mass shift to working from home, says professor. (Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock)
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The internet has been invaluable in bringing people together during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's important to remember not everyone may be tech savvy or can access the tools they need, says a University of Waterloo associate professor. 

"We tend to think because almost everybody has a smartphone in their pocket, that now we've all somehow become digital natives. And just because I know how to filter an image on my Instagram, I'm going to know how to set up a secure video link. That's not the case," Aimée Morrison, associate professor of English, told Spark's Nora Young.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over 4,600 confirmed cases in Canada and more than half a million worldwide. To fight the spread of the virus, officials have urged people to stay in their homes and away from one another if they can. 

This has led to an influx of people working, learning and socializing online, sometimes for the first time.

Coping without usual resources

Morrison notes many people don't have at home what they have at school or work, be it private space, software, hardware or even a strong, stable Internet connection. 

Aimée Morrison is an associate professor of English at the University of Waterloo. (Submitted)

"When we send people away from where all of the resources and supports are, it's kind of unfair to demand that in addition to being good at whatever it is you're supposed to do, now you also have to be your own IT department, your own HR department, your own employee assistance plan, your own cafeteria."

Morrison says she and her colleagues have had to adapt their usual ways of teaching to consider that now, some students can't work like they usually do. 

"People are trying to process in real time the new ways of doing things."

Humour can make things easier

That real-time processing is especially evident when one looks on social media, where people are sharing countless jokes about physical distancing, working from home and struggling to buy toilet paper, Morrison said. 

"It can help you feel a little bit more reconciled to your own experience or begin to see the humour in your own situation, because you're able to reach out to people who are outside of your self-isolating household," she said.

She adds focusing on humour makes it easier to digest the grim news coming out hourly as the pandemic spreads and economic conditions worsen. 

Internet fulfils original purpose

Morrison says the pandemic reminds us what the internet's roots are.

"The Internet was kind of designed to be able to survive some type of large-scale disaster and allow people to continue to communicate with each other," she said.

"The thinking then was that the generals hidden in the mountain in Colorado could discuss things with the politicians hidden in the bunker in Washington. But it turns out all of us need to communicate with each other, even in times where we cannot be physically proximate."


Written by Justin Chandler. Produced by Nora Young.

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