One of the biggest things to realize here is that people have created workarounds and work flows during some of the most trying and stressful times. COVID19 has created upheaval, danger and urges post communities had not previously faced. People are using tools that just don’t work for what they are trying to use them for.
People have created their own ad-hoc solutions when tools fail.
It’s hard to organize a few people online in a meeting, but communities are having to organize tens and hundreds of people into digital meetings, and they lack moderation tools, UI engagement, to better communicate before, during and after video conference calls. They are using five tools together to accomplish one thing. The cognitive overhead and mapping of digital organizing is incredibly overwhelming.
Right now, communities need multiple tools to do things, and those tools sometimes sync up fairly well, such as going from Google Docs, Slack and Airtable, but sometimes they don’t. Generally, communities and groups are having to do a lot of labor to use all of these tools at once, because there isn’t a better and cohesive alternative. Schools and educators have this issue too, syncing up on classes on Zoom, using Are.na to track students' work along with Github, email, and Google docs. People need better ways to allocate all of these resources. United We Stream, a network of clubs to foster DJ music and club culture during COVID19, had intense digital duct taping issues. For example, they used Twitch, Facebook live, and hundreds of Facebook pages to stream from, but had to manually copy paste their live performance links into every Facebook page they streamed from.
This is really key. Individuals need a plan when hosting an event online, in theatre, this would be called a run of show. This is giving people time limits, themes, and specific constraints if you are running a panel or conference or community meeting. It’s upfront planning for that ‘run of show’ of deciding that there will be X minutes for X events, and it’s planning, meticulously, how the meeting will unfold and then sharing that with so participants aren’t confused when the event starts. Video doesn’t allow for meetings to happen off the cuff, people need to know when they are allowed to talk, and how they are allowed to participate, and what is expected of them during the time they are in the video call or hang out.
Ritual can have many different meanings to different people but in this case, it’s thinking of choices or actions that can situate the participant in what you’re doing. Ritual can be like lighting a candle, and having everyone do that at home. It can be making things feel fun or cheeky with their offline counterparts, like creating fake mics for karaoke, or using a video game to ‘travel’ to an artist talk, and be in a ‘white cube’ space.
No matter how well planned an event is, the second something really breaks, the moment is lost. People will use another platform with lower quality video but that is more reliable and doesn’t crash. For example, one creator recounted running an event over Vimeo Live, but the event experienced major issues with thousands of people in the chat and kept crashing. The creator went to Zoom the following week. Zoom wasn’t their ideal platform, since the video quality wasn’t great, but Zoom is reliable.
Things feel really flattened in video conferencing. This is where intentionality matters, such as planning the rhythm of the event which such as short and long talks, video, planning or even exploring new spaces for certain kinds of talks all comes together as a way to create a more cohesive experience or even using a new kind of tool or space to ‘host’ an event. For example, holding artist talks in Animal Crossing or going to a 3D space like Mozilla Hubs for a dance party. These designed spaces create special, with different UI than other video conferences. Asking participants at home to pick up a mic, ’traveling’ to a destination. While at first, this would seem more friction filled experience, it allows for more delight for users because it adds more intention to the activities.