• Dean Anthony Gratton

Covid19: The Future of Engagement

Updated: May 26

We are in the strangest of times, where such challenges invariably bring about both new ideas and some incredible creative thinking. 

Establishing a new normality

The coronavirus (or Covid-19) pandemic has altered our mindsets toward technology, inasmuch as our relationship with it has become far more accepting and our dependency is increasing exponentially. Most of us have broken our typical routines and behaviors; we are all creatures of habit and yet, in these unprecedented times, our patterns of behavior have been massively disrupted, causing us to re-evaluate our lives and, in some instances, causing erratic behavior such as violence, anxiety or depression.  


Ultimately, in an unconscious attempt to “put things right,” we have created new behavioral patterns and have developed new routines to establish normality in our daily existence within a locked-down nation. 


Cross-species transmission

Along with our altered mindsets, we have also changed the way we interact with technology. From the young to the older generations, we have discovered new ways to consume content and, more profoundly, to communicate with others. For example, here in the UK we have Nan’s “Long Distance” Easter Lamb (from Tesco Food Love Stories), showing how we can still enjoy an Easter lunch together, whilst apart, through the use of technology adoption. And this new mindset will, no doubt, also influence how we choose to learn and work. I don’t think this will be a temporary thing either – I really do think this will allow us to reconsider how we choose to engage with others – probably forever!


Many reports suggested that a pandemic like the coronavirus was inevitable, with scientists and biologists predicting that “playing god” with cross-species transmission (CST) for example, would lead to such a crisis. This is where a foreign virus inhabiting a species mutates and is transmitted to a new host species, in turn infecting that host. From this point on, it further infects the new host’s population, as was depicted in the film, Contagion, where we saw the virus being introduced into the human food chain. What’s more, the ability for the virus to rapidly mutate is alarming, since we have already witnessed the coronavirus mutate several times across as many continents.


A psychological need to see

We know that the only way to stop the spread is through isolating ourselves from others and, as mentioned above, this has led to a shift in the way that we choose to communicate, not only with those nearest and dearest to us, but with those we shop from, work with, and socialize with on a daily basis.


With teenagers, for example, there has been a surprising shift from texting to “TikToking,” a new trend that has become as infectious as the virus itself to those young people in self-isolation. It seems that the lack of physical contact has injected a psychological need to “see” as well as hear or read words from their peers. This leads me to believe that the virtual world for future generations will have just as much relevance as the physical world and that much can be accomplished from a distance. Some will see this as a negative evolution; a step away from the contact we all innately rely upon for our species to thrive. But others will see the potential for innovation through an evolving remote framework of collective shared thoughts and ideas.


We have adapted many aspects of our lives

With many schools, colleges and universities currently closed, children and students have also had to adapt to how they learn. Moreover, remote learning is something that third-world countries have, to some extent, benefited from, having been a point of focus for technology giants such as Microsoft and their new offspring Teams. Now, more than ever, an infrastructure of distanced education is being viewed as a crucial move on a global scale. Setting these systems in place can go some way to eradicating the future break down of education in times of crisis and, likewise, reinforce a sense of normality for those children who cannot benefit from physical teacher-pupil interaction during this period.


The coronavirus pandemic has raised many questions, not just about how we manage such a horrific event in the future but, more so, how we might engage, socialize and work from this point forward. It's no surprise that, with lockdown having been enforced across the world, along with social distancing, we have modified many aspects of our lives to overcome this period in the hope that the virus eventually fizzles out and dies, and we can then return to normal – if anyone knows what that is anymore!


Until next time …

Perhaps, with this new way of engagement, we can shift away from the stereotypical 9-to-5 idiom and instead, create more flexible working hours – working in a way that suits our individual lifestyle and needs. This will accelerate the “Future of Work” discourse, which has been debated for many years. With the impact that robotics, automation and so-called artificial intelligence may have on our jobs and salary, a lot of employees are worried about their future need and purpose. This terrible virus has, if nothing else, shone a light on the way that human value can be generated through the most challenging of times and highlights the collaboration that technology and humanity can have to ensure that the world we live in stays safe for generations to come.


The need for and our reliance on technology has never been so important, since “if we can’t “connect” with our hands, then let’s be sure that we can always connect with technology.”


So this is where a “keeping safe and staying at home” Dr. G signs off.



Originally published in Technically Speaking.

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