child with phone and teddy bear

Communication in the Time of COVID-19

by Simon Gould MOTAT Senior Exhibitions Curator

This WhatsApp message from my 72-year-old mum in the UK is not one I ever thought I’d receive but these are not ordinary times. As we become familiar with phrases like “social distancing” and “self-isolation” we’re also jumping onto Zoom, HouseParty, Teams and other communication tools, many for the first time. Crises, like the one the world is currently gripped by, are scary and horrific in many ways but they have a way of making us more resourceful, making us pull together and see what’s actually important. Encouragingly, in a world where we are often too distracted and materialistic, it seems talking to our whānau and friends is right up there, no matter how spread around the country and the world we all are.

MOTAT’s exhibition ‘Get Smart’ tells the amazing story of Kiwi communication from snail mail to Morse code and most of the way to the present day. It’s well worth seeing when MOTAT re-opens but what’s really interesting today is how we are using these smarts.

So, as this story of communication in the time of COVID-19 unfolds, here are my top 6 ways my whānau has benefited this week:

  1. 1. Trumpet lesson Tip: Check your microphone settings! Great for the kids in the class but I felt sorry for the teacher who had just come off a night shift in a supermarket.

2. Tai chi from the living room, for socially distanced, spiritually enriched exercise.

3. Birthday Drinks Not an ideal way for my wife to celebrate but we still had a party, and nobody had to drive home.

4. School reunion It’s only taken 7 years since I moved to New Zealand to talk ‘face-to-face’ with my school buddies. See, it’s even working for blokes.

5. Watching a movie remotely. Old school this one, I remember doing it with a friend and a phone with a long cable dragged to the telly, as teenagers. But now you can share your movie experience with a group of friends, see all of them, choose what movie it is and when it starts.

6. Muesli bar delivery service.Slightly off topic but still about sending messages down wires. My son just rigged up a fishing line from the kitchen to my COVID home office (his bedroom) and sent my afternoon tea along it in a cup. Thanks!