A Cardboard Cutout · 7 November 2020

Same picture. Different story.

I decided I would make a cardboard cutout of myself for meetings. Not so I could slip out unnoticed, but to see if people are really paying attention.

I do not move much during virtual staff meetings (which is another story). I sit there and pay attention and try to soak in the information. Not that I am always successful, but I try. But after somebody pointed out that I do not move much during staff meetings, I decided that I would try something new. Actually, I decided to try something new after watching a student of mine attend a meeting with four or five of his digital clones.

If you have attended any Zoom meetings, you know that you can put in virtual backgrounds. You can be in a cathedral or library or museum instead of your own home. You can be on the moon or in space or outside the pyramids. You can put yourself just about anywhere you want with those virtual backgrounds. You can even put yourself with yourself if you want. Or you can make a cardboard cutout of yourself to attend your meetings.

I decided that I would take a picture of myself sitting there in a meeting leaning against my wall It is how I have attended meetings so far this year. I would not be moving of course, since it is a picture. Then, I would make said picture my virtual background. Which would be odd. I would be sitting there in a meeting with a picture of myself leaning against the wall. But if I lined myself up correctly, I would just be there in front of myself.

Why in the world would I want to line myself up with my background in such a way as it looked like I was just in the same room as I always am? Simple. I could then get up and walk away and see who noticed that I did so.

I ended up taking several pictures to test my prank. I discovered that I had to have the camera in one position when I took the picture and in another position when I used said picture as the background. But I figured it out. I even tested it on a friend of mine to show him the prank that I was going to pull. It was a good thing that I tested it, because I found out that the shirt I was wearing was too similar to the color of the background. My background self partially showed through my real self during that test.

Well, I ran out of time to get a new shirt that was a completely different color to my real background, but I still wanted to pull my prank. My new plan was to stay off screen for a little while to see what would happen. I would listen so that I could have something to write about. So I set up my virtual background and joined the meeting. I made sure I was nowhere in view of my camera when I clicked the mouse. The only thing showing when I joined the meeting was my virtual background. Unfortunately, I had that shirt that would not have worked, so I went out of the room to change. I figured I would be back before anybody figured out I was not there. How long could it take?

I was quick. And when I did come back, one of my friends, Mike, said something about me not moving. Then, he actually talked to my background, “Miyoshi, move.” Apparently, my prank worked. They thought I was there. Just not moving. So I walked into the picture and sat down. I even took a drink of water. I got a laugh from Mike, but anybody else who was laughing was muted, so I had no idea whether my prank was well taken or not. Ah well. I suppose virtual pranks get virtual responses. I did get one virtual handclap. At least I virtually think I virtually saw that. (I was later assured that everybody laughed and enjoyed my prank.)

I am not a prankster, but I got a kick out of carrying out this prank. I know the execution was flawed, but I am glad that at least some people enjoyed it. When all was said and done, I had fun sending my cardboard cutout to our virtual staff meeting. And as you just read, I eventually attended myself.

© 2020 Michael T. Miyoshi

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