Physical dissonance in an online world


As I’ve mentioned it at the end of my previous blog post, this online Viva Voce event was significant regarding two specific aspects: the theme of my doctoral study, and the extraordinary period we are all going through right now during this coronavirus crisis.

Indeed, one of the contributions of my thesis relates to the online sharing of tacit knowledge with regard to the Ba concept. If my findings could confirm that this concept deserves to be updated (both the Interacting and the Exercising spaces can now exist online), I have been more cautious than other scholars who claim that the Originating Ba can also be online (e.g. via online video conferencing tools). According to Nonaka & Konno (1998), the Originating Ba can only happen when people are face-to-face in physical spaces because it is the only way to grasp the complexity of physical senses and psycho-emotional characteristics of human beings. This very issue was not entirely part of the scope of my study, and this is the reason why I suggest that further empirical research needs to be undertaken to better understand what is at stake here.

This is particularly important now that an increasingly large number of people are working, collaborating and communicating online because of the quarantine imposed by a large majority of world governments. Even if this is a temporary situation, working remotely from home and online will likely become more widespread after the crisis is over. The reason why I insist on that matter is when I come across information such as in the tweet of Prof. Gianpiero Petriglieri who explains (on behalf of one of his therapist friends) that if some people feel exhausted after video conferencing calls, it is because there is some kind of ‘dissonance’ between our mind (which is ‘online’) and our body, which is in a different physical space. He further explains that it is “easier being in each other’s presence, or in each other’s absence, than in the constant presence of each other’s absence.” and goes on explaining that this is due to the fact that our bodies ‘process so much context […] and information‘. A beautiful example of how the various Ba (spaces) co-exist and influence knowledge sharing, with all the challenges that it implies. This issue is not only relevant to the sharing of tacit knowledge on rich media tools but also on virtual reality technologies (VR).

And you? How do you feel when you’re meeting colleagues (or friends, relatives) online? Does it get easier with time? Or is there always some feeling of uneasiness? Why so? Please drop me a line in the comments here or on Twitter and let’s discuss it.

Online Viva Voce in a time of turmoil


Wait… didn’t I say I was back on track? 🤔

I was. But something happened in the meantime:

  1. The coronavirus crisis
  2. My Viva

Not that I’m looking for excuses. However, these two unrelated events generated more stress and anxiety than I would have forecasted and ultimately, it prevented me to freely express myself on this blog for a while.

The good news is that I’ve passed my Viva (subject to minor corrections). Yay! Of course, this event was supposed to happen in Edinburgh, but since my flights were cancelled, the borders shut down, and a majority of European citizens put in quarantine, there was no other choice than to make it happen online. I have therefore defended my thesis on Zoom, thanks to the flexibility of my two examiners, my panel chair and my director of studies. The irony is that my PhD adventure ended up almost the same way than it started: online. (My interview to get the PhD funding happened on Skype six years ago while I was still living in Geneva).

The Viva went well. Not only the discussions but also the setting itself. It was almost as if we were having this session face-to-face. To the extent that while the examiners were deliberating the outcome of my examination, my dear director of studies ‘invited’ me for a cup of tea…online 😊 When we were finally both invited to come back to the virtual room, the external examiner told me the result. I had to ask him to repeat it twice… not because of some malfunctioning audio-video feature (as one could logically expect it), but because of some emotional turbulence on my side…(ahem). Truly, the only thing that I (terribly) missed, was the possibility to give & receive hugs and invite my colleagues for a drink in a nearby pub. But an online drink was quickly organised to celebrate my success, and soon I was able to be congratulated by all my colleagues online.

So why do I talk about this experience? Not to self-celebrate my personal achievement (although…). More so because this event was significant regarding two specific aspects: the theme of my doctoral study, and the extraordinary period we are all going through right now during this coronavirus crisis. This is the topic I cover in my next blog post. Coming (much) sooner this time. Stay tuned.