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How online video conferencing changed the world in 12 weeks

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Published on 13 July 2020

Alex Connock
Alex Connock

A visiting professor at the University of Sunderland has brought together a collection of work encapsulating how video conferencing has changed how we all live our lives.

Dr Alex Connock, an academic and executive in media, has edited a new book – You’re on Mute – poking a Zoom lens into the explosive, viral spread of online video calls which have impacted almost every segment of society and the global economy during the pandemic. 

"Everyone at the University of Sunderland, in fact everyone in the North East, the UK, and most of the world as a whole, from four year olds upwards, has been forced to engage with video conferencing in the past few months.

“That has created huge changes in education, healthcare, entertainment and much more in our lives.  It has literally changed how we communicate.  This book is a first step to getting to the bottom of those changes.”

From Facetime for critically-ill intensive care patients, to Hollywood TV shows streamed from iPhones, the way we live has forever changed.

Online video conferencing jumped forward a decade in a matter of days. In office life, primary schools, events and board rooms, human drama suddenly moved to the digital mosaic of the Zoom/Teams screen. 

The book includes chapters form senior industry figures in digital media, academia, business, theatre, healthcare, politics and sport in the UK and US - people who were there when key tools were used for the first time.

This includes:


  • Hospitals: Ian Haig, Director of Operations for the COVID19 response at London’s St Bartholemew’s Hospital, explores the increase in, and protocols around, live video for patient communications during outbreak - and even the distressing but necessary introduction of end-of-life videos.



  • Hollywood – Out of Office: Social TV expert Diva Rodriguez reveals how Entertainment evolved in Hollywood, with major television programmes produced by Zoom almost overnight, and processes changed possibly forever. The stars best able to handle the change? Those who had grown up self-shooting in social media already – like the Kardashians.


  •  Sport: The Zoom Olympics: Scott Field from the British Olympic Association reveals how parallel live chats on multiple video tools at once enabled the BOA to re-organise and re-motivate 33 sports teams from Athletics to Showjumping, Canoeing to Cycling, in a dramatic change of plans from Tokyo 2020, to Tokyo 2021.


  • Theatre:All the World’s a Zoom: Michael Diamond of New York University recalls how Shakespeare dashed off King Lear and Macbeth in a previous lockdown, and discusses how modern playwrights, excluded from Broadway theatres, used video.


  • Education: Lessons from Live TV Sports: David Brook pools his experiences – CMO for major TV channels, sports pundit and university lecturer – to find that multichannel learning actually teaches better.


  • Music and Leadership: Dr Pegram Harrison of Oxford University shows how a choir setting itself the challenge of performing Bach’s dramatic and complex St John Passion online reveals as much translatable information about management skills and self-awareness, as it does about low-latency telecoms connections and 18th century choral traditions. And he gives the technical detail on how to do it.


Dr Connock added: “I love coming to Sunderland.  The students are always proactive and engaged with the transition to digital media which is taking place all around us.  This type of communication is one that graduates in the 2020s will need to master, and I am certain Sunderland students will achieve that."

‘You’re On Mute: Optimal Online Video Conferencing in Business, Education &

Media,’ Edited by Alex Connock is out now and available here.