The fish-tank is supposed to be a calming yet enlivening feature in interior decorating. If your aesthetic is more ascetic and aseptic, maybe even ascerbic, something that lives and maybe also breathes and moves can add a touch of life. It is fascinating to observe how even cold-blooded creatures can add warmth to an interior’s atmosphere. Their graceful dance gestures metaphorically towards lively ideas, motile intelligence, and unpredictable divagations. Your zoomroom is a place of thought.
Instead of an aquarium one might have plants, or a terrarium, or film outside in a landscaped garden with water-features.
Don’t have any of these at home? Consider filming outdoors in a public park.
Stuck indoors? Research libraries and their digitised manuscript collections are your friends. That’s just one example; I am amongst assorted things a medievalist, so that’s where I hang out online for fun. Every area of knowledge has their own thing that’s like digitised manuscripts …
The example above is from the Luttrell Psalter, Add. MS 42130 in the British Library (c. 1325-1340, made in England, in Latin; this is on f. 185v). You can flick through a selection in Turning the Pages™️, read the whole digitised manuscript—I recommend the “view: folio” and “direction: right to left” route for maximal manuscripty feel—and read more about it here. And here’s the full catalogue entry. All this is for free, to anyone anywhere in the world: exemplary public humanities, public service, “outreach” as in-bringing, and why paying taxes to fund shared things like public libraries and their librarians is A Common Good.
But I digress. Back to important zoomscapological matters: if you are looking for a zoomiverse companion animal to adopt, this manuscript is one of the best places to find one. You will find my dream pet and favourite medieval unicorn on f. 179v.
If you follow #MedievalTwitter, you may occasionally happen upon animated manuscript gifs. Any manuscript image can be turned into one. In only a few days, you could create your own. A little longer, a few weeks, and you could make a whole short film. Getting close to the beginning of the new term and the academic new year? In need of stress relief? What better way to procrastinate while being productive?
Ready-made virtual analogues of the aquarium background abound. While any video can be used as a zoomscape, it can be of supplementary relaxing and therapeutic benefit to spend time online perusing this specific genre. Viewing film of our natural world, forest-bathing, gazing meditatively into tranquil pools, standing at a safe distance from rushing waterfalls, marvelling at cetaceans leaping in and out of the ocean.
Going beyond the most luxurious home aquarium imaginable, you’ll find webcams in places like our local Vancouver Aquarium. You could film a segment and play it as your zoomscape, or fully zoomescape into live immersion in an other other world via that other virtual world behind you.
(Out of view: the baby otter cam. Yes, that might be how I have been spending time at home when it’s too hot to be outside or to work. I am a Ginger. Our brains fry and we melt above about 21 C. Also, we are at present outside regular working hours. Yes, these still exist.)
Underwater already seems like alien universes, and adds an otherworldliness to your online learning space. Ambient suggestions: a place of wonder, of questioning, of questing with a respectful distance. An awesome place, that awe complicated by the awful. Here’s a delightful recent example:
Ending this post with a favourite gif, from Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind …