Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

Archive for March, 2021

COVID-19 Vaccination

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Second floor vaccination facility at Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY. Everyone wearing masks and socially distanced. In the far background are some of the great soldiers attending the people receiving the vaccine.

I’m an Emerging Media professor at Hunter College, Department of Film & Media Studies and this past school year, I have been teaching entirely on Zoom. This semester, spring 2021, I’m teaching a new course XR Development & Design. We started the first few weeks with apps that are relatively easy to introduce and start using – A-Frame and Spark AR. A-Frame is a webvr framework that utilizes HTML, CSS and JS; it’s built on top of the javascript framework three.js that has been around for the past ten years. A-Frame makes three.js much more accessible and with an understanding of HTML and basic JavaScript, students can start constructing 3D virtual worlds that reside on the web. Spark AR is FaceBook’s augmented reality tool to create filters and other virtual artifacts that reside on Instagram or FB. Now we are getting started with Unity, a much more complex application that facilitates virtual reality and augmented reality and desktop and mobile projects… – it’s an application that allows you to build projects across platforms.

I first proposed the course a year and half ago, before the pandemic and I received an institutional grant to afford equipment for the course. I put off the course for a semester (a year ago, I had planned to teach it in fall 2020). Due to the pandemic, I understood that a VR course in which students would be sharing Oculus headsets and iPad Pros, wasn’t going to work and that it would have to wait. Sadly, I had already purchased some of the equipment, equipment that has since gone obsolete such as the Quests that are now probably slow in comparison to the Quest 2. However, as it became clear that the pandemic was not miraculously going away by Easter 2020 or summer 2020 and that the Trump administration had entirely failed to rein in the spread, I decided to re-tool the course for primarily online in order to run it this spring. Thus far, I’ve seen amazing projects created by the students and I’m excited at how they are adopting these new tools for storytelling and documentary.

Now with a new Presidential Administration in place, one that recognizes the gravity of the pandemic and has taken a much more professional roll out of vaccination, I am feeling more confident about a return to in-person teaching. One of the purchases for the class is an iPad Pro (I got funding for two, but due to the pandemic only ordered one). I ordered the iPad Pro for its LIDAR 3D scanning capability with the hope of scanning the students and having 3D versions of themselves populate their projects or scanning buildings to tell location-based AR stories… The course that I’m teaching is technically a hybrid – both online and in-person. In order to make the in-person a reality and to utilize that iPad Pro with the students, I signed up for the vaccine and this past Friday, February 26th, I received my first dose at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn.

Biking my way from Flatbush to Crown Heights, I envisioned a line, who knows how long (regardless of having an appointment scheduled) and nurses attending the vaccine receivers. This was not at all what I encountered. I locked up my bike and walked up to two soldiers standing outside a long white tent adjacent to a sports facility building. I told them that I had an appointment, they asked me to pull out my documentation that I had filled out the forms and an ID and ushered me forward through the tent. At the other end, was another soldier, who again told me to have my form and id ready and sending me into the building. Up three stairs was another solider who directed me to the end of one row of a series of tables staffed by many soldiers, each sitting in front of a laptop in the lobby of this large gym. The last solider at this row of tables smiled and waived me forward. I presented my driver’s license and printed proof of having filled out the appropriate forms. He did something on the computer, perhaps searching for my appointment and verifying my data. He then directed me to a line with about six people, a line running outside a gym entrance.

I only waited in this line a few minutes. As I peered into the gym, I saw a highly organized and socially distanced temporary facility. Along the perimeters were curtained enclosures and in the center white plastic fold out chairs with people waiting. I anticipated having to wait on one of those chairs until my number was called. Instead, I was directed upstairs to another, smaller outdoor gym that was transformed into a bubble, a temporary interior gym. It had the same layout – along the walls curtained enclosed areas, each administrated by two soldiers and white plastic chairs spread out in the center. A solider escorted me to one of the curtained “rooms” where I was received by two soldiers, one behind a desk and another across from the chair that I was asked to sit on. They asked that I verify that I consented to the vaccine and asked me if I had any questions. I had been trying to find out what vaccine was being given at this location and had not found the information, so that was my first question – it was Pfizer which I was pleased about. I also asked when the second dose would be and was told that it would be in three weeks and that I would receive an email with the date and time. The soldier across from me then asked me which arm he should inject, I pointed out my left arm. The soldier injected me and told me to take a white chair and wait for 15 minutes, he handed me a paper that had hand written the time when I should leave – 2:09pm.

I sat, took the selfie above, scanned email and waited. At the far end of this gym, there was an exit and just before the exit a table with two or three soldiers who checked the time on people’s paper slips as they exited. As my minute arrived, I got up, walked to the exit, showed the soldiers, my slip, in their eyes I saw a smile as they waived goodbye.

Besides the surprise of the entire facility being militarized and feeling like I was in a movie, ET came to mind, the vaccination was incredibly smooth. No waiting in long lines, no anxiety about being inside a space with many people as everyone wore a mask and was socially distanced. The soldiers were at once courteous and efficient. It was an amazingly swift, efficient, reaffirming experience. Reaffirming in the power of a professionally organized federal, city and military collaboration. It was a visceral experience of coming out of the fog of lies, misinformation and ineptitude to a vaccine rollout that may be relied upon.

Now, I am hoping that the students who feel comfortable meeting in-person and who take all the appropriate precautions will gather for some 3D scanning following spring break and we can add a new layer to the course.

Written by ricardo

March 1st, 2021 at 8:38 am

Posted in COVID-19