Teams backgrounds – not a fan

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Microsoft Teams has several useful functions, and I enjoy using the platform for my online classes. As already mentioned several times in other post, my absolute favorite is the possibility to share – almost anything – with my course participants.

But then there is the so-called background effect. In the beginning, when we ‘teamed up’ online, I found this function useful as well, even funny at times, when people became creative with their own background images (one of them created a background that made him look like he was sitting in a Star Wars spaceship – spectacular!).

However, the novelty of the background effects wore off quickly. I still understand why people use them; mainly to protect their privacy especially when they have no office of their own, and even when they do, they sometimes feel a need to protect it. I have to accept that, but I do so only grudgingly, because – more often than not – the background effect seems to limit the quality of the transmission. ‘Seems to’ because I cannot prove it.

I have come up with several theories as to under which circumstances the background effect is okay and when not. What I find most disturbing is what me and others have come to call the ‘Harry Potter -‘ or ‘Invisibility Cloak Effect’, when parts of a person’s body disappears. It is almost always around the edge of the head and whenever someone moves. Since I advise people to move as much as possible and avoid sitting statically for too long, I have a conflict of interests here.

Another factor influencing the quality seems to be the real background in front of which the user of a background image is sitting. My observations suggest that if someone is sitting with their backs to a room, the background effect has a harder time holding on, and the HP Effect is stronger. On the other hand, if you sit in front of a wall, a screen or paravent, it is not sooo bad.

As it seems, those who love their background images don’t care about my complaints, don’t realize HOW much it disturbs me, or don’t care.

The Harry Potter Effect is not the worst problem. I also believe the whole quality, from sound to image stability, suffers when the additional feature of the background effect taxes the system. Here the quality differences might also depend on the quality of the respective internet connection. I do not know, I am not an expert. However, I pride myself on having some IT experts on my side.

Since there is nothing I can do about some people’s love of the background effect, I thought maybe I should try embracing background images myself. A certain background could be used to trigger discussions for instance. So I started searching and uploading my own images and playing around with them. However… I mean, honestly, don’t people see themselves? Me sitting in front of a background image: a) I covered large parts of it so would have to move for my course participants to see, and b) guess.

This brings me back to my favorite Teams feature; the sharing function. I have made myself a long list of different desktop backgrounds. Easy to share, easy to talk about!

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