Poor Connection: An introspection via Webcam

Artist depiction of woman on a webcam through the seasons.
Image Credit: Kat Cassidy 2020

In her illustration and accompanying blog post, Kat Cassidy a digital illustrator and recent graduate from the Edinburgh College of Art portrays her experience of learning digitally at the University and the questions that it asked of her …

This illustration is a reflection on the passing of time, adaption, hope and uncertainty and, ultimately, a pixelated reflection of myself.

Software like Zoom and Blackboard have been a really beneficial quick fix to the problem of social distancing. With basic hardware and a decent connection, remote teaching and independent learning has never been easier. And yet, through video calling, we have found what it means to be together and alone all at once. Group calls that end with cheery goodbyes are met with the harsh and unmatched silence of an empty room.

As these calls became the norm, I, like many of us, often found my eyes drawn not to the flat digital facsimiles of my friends, colleagues or tutors but to my own little box- curious to see what I and others might find there. How did I look? Was my hair alright? What could people see of my childhood bedroom? Unlike Narcissus at the pool, this wasn’t a matter of vanity but performativity. Did I appear okay? Every once in a while, I’d catch myself with a sad or concerned look on face and would quickly replace it with a smile. As the months went on, however, I found myself feeling deflated and caring less about my appearance – rolling out of bed and logging onto a call, tired of putting in the extra bit of effort and the continuing façade of wellness.

This illustration depicts a call in which I have no choice but to face myself- or even, five versions of my previous self as the pandemic progressed. As introspective as I always have been, I have found myself more frequently asking myself: How has this situation changed me? How have I remained the same? How have I overcome the hurdles self-isolation has presented me with in my final term of studies? What does the future (namely, my future as a graduate) hold? Time changes everything- I am certain that each version of myself would have a different answer to each of these questions, at varying levels of confidence. Still, they are important questions to ask so that we may continue to positively persevere and grow.

Nonetheless, we are ultimately social creatures and forming support groups that exist outside of your own head is an important way of coping in situations such as these. They are something that, I believe, should be promoted by our educators and peers as much as our continued learning. Having people to lean on, even when physically apart, is as important as it is to be honest with ourselves.

As we continue to talk about the “new normal”, I believe it is important to remember we have tackled these trying times. Again, looking back, it’s nice to see how far I have come since moving back home, all of the hard work I have still been able to see to completion and graduating despite all that has been thrown my way. Hopefully isolated learning won’t be a permanent resolution for students and tutors alike, but our abilities to admitting, out loud, when we are struggling and to address our hopes and uncertainties about the future will be.

Photo of the author and artist Kat Cassidy

Kat Cassidy

Kat Cassidy is a digital illustrator currently living in North West London and a recent graduate from Edinburgh College of Art. She enjoys using her work to tell stories that raise questions, spark conversations and open up safe spaces to discuss a range of important topics. She achieves this by creating visually playful imagery that blends current social issues and pre-existing mythologies to give ideas character. Above all, she enjoys making bold and compelling illustrations that aim to educate and empower.

@katcassart on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter, www.katcassart.com

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