As many of you know, Zoom has gone from semi-obscure to famous during the Covid lockdowns because lots and lots of people have gone from working in offices to working at home, communicating via videoconference.
There are a great many other videoconferencing services, but Zoom has become the most famous in pop culture in the US. In a Zoom videoconference where each participant is looking at a computer screen or, perhaps a tablet, a series of boxes shows each participant.
In any video conference, if each participant doesn’t want to look preposterous, she/he is sitting back a bit so they are roughly centered in a horizontal video image that includes whatever is behind them. Countless stories about video conference faux pas in which dirty laundry, disorderly piles of junk, arguing children, etc., etc., show up in the background have spread online like wildfire.
General videoconferencing advice is to clean up and organize the background your camera will reveal so you look a bit more professional. If all participants are in cubicles, however, the image can also be boring – gray or tan cubicle wall material behind each person with various pieces of paper thumb-tacked here and there.
One of Zoom’s features is virtual backgrounds. Virtual backgrounds allow a Zoom videoconference participant to replace their real background with a computer image instead of what is actually behind them. Zoom provides several potential images – as PG recalls – including bland modern offices, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, photos of deep space, etc.
A Zoom videoconference participant can also substitute his/her own background using a computer image file in a couple of standard formats.
After a couple of Zoom videoconferences, PG decided the various Zoom suggested virtual backgrounds had become passé and created one of his own.
PG’s background is a photo of J.P. Morgan’s office in New York City, as preserved in a museum there.
John Pierpont Morgan was an American banker who dominated corporate finance in New York City during the Gilded Age and, as you can see, he had a nice office.
Since PG has started using JP’s office as a Zoom virtual background, he has definitely not looked like a generic talking head in multi-person videoconferences.
So, for those who participate in videoconferences, what other backgrounds might you suggest?
PG has added a couple of possibilities below.