Digital interfaces are the bridges to our communities. Technology can’t fix the systemic inequality revealed by COVID19, but it can help make connections with our communities better. This tool kit and website brings together emergent best practices, workflows, and tools that communities, educators, mutual aid groups, designers, artists and activists are using for community building, and how design needs to change to best suit people, right now.
If you're a community organizer, designer or an engineer, these best practices are designed to help guide in creating and designing community spaces online for participants and organizers.The big things to focus on prioritizing safety, including your participants and your own data and privacy, creating a plan, agenda or run of show for events, creating cohesive work flow, and creating intentional spaces for human connection and interaction, beyond the chat window.
“What does safety look like in digital spaces when you are basically letting [other] people into your home?”It's important to recognize you’re using tools to continue what you used to be an offline or face to face meet up, but the tools are not a 1 to 1 replacement for the offline. It’s about resetting expectations for the host (you) and the participants in this space. It’s about being extremely upfront with participants of what you will be doing in the digital meeting, of how long each section of the meeting will be, and what they will need to do, when. It’s a lot of guiding and planning before the meeting, and a lot of guiding and planning during the meeting. Much like theatre, think of this as a run of show- what needs to be accomplished, when. You need a plan because being on video can be terrifying and confusing for participants, and a video conference doesn’t ‘flow’ the same way a face to face meeting would.
Communities need multiple tools to do things, those tools sometimes sync up fairly well, such as going from Google Docs, Slack and Airtable, but sometimes they don’t.
“We would benefit from having more frameworks and ingredients rather than trying to have tools that are one size fits all.”In early June, Zoom finally added better moderation tools for hosts but not any moderation tools for participants. They also added the ability for people to share files within the chat, like images or documents. Other video chats don’t offer any of those tools. Much like advice for the engineer, people need better ways to share media and more intuitive ways to engage and moderate conversation.
Even with Zoom’s update, hosts and participants need better UI moderation. Moderation shouldn’t just fall to the host, when any participant can face harassment.
“Syncing makes it basically impossible to teach.”When it comes to latency and syncing, it’s important to remember that people need better ways to share media like audio and video, for dance parties, for school, or for organizing. People need more initiative ways to share this media in video conferencing and they need to make sure everyone is hearing the same thing at relatively the same time. Lastly, safety- none of these tools have enough moderation tools which can help mitigate so many forms of harassment.
No matter how well planned an event is, the second something breaks, the moment is lost. People will choose to use another platform with lower quality video but is more reliable.
A list of needs that designers and engineers have to prioritize when designing technology that functions easily and safely for communities online.
The project and toolkit are made in response to how communities were organizing and creating spaces of interaction during COVID19.