MARCH 15, 2020
CODEC: 77,700,000


With the world in quarantine mode, the city I live in announcing all non-essential businesses are to close temporarily, and the CDC saying that there should be no gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, my mind has once again turned to how important it is for artists and community centers (like, say, churches) to have a way to build community online.

I was talking about it with a friend tonight and realized that one of the most important parts of a vibrant online community is the participation of everyone involved.

As I noted in my blog yesterday (if you caught it), the best experiences I've had playing video games have been experiences in which I was playing with others. The hours and hours I dedicated to playing PUBG were a great example of this. That PUBG squad also had a group chat that was used with semi-frequency. But as soon as the PUBG games stopped happening, the chat died. The text-based chatroom wasn't as powerful of a force for community as the game was — because the game required something of us all. It put us on a map and dropped us out of a plane and made us speak to one another. It made us say "there's a weapon over here" or "another team is entering the building, watch out!"

The chatroom demands nothing from us, and as such, we don't participate.

What does it mean for a church or an artist to utilize an online space that requires participation? I don't know what a healthy interaction model is, but I want to think more on this.

A livestream with chat requires too little. All text feels inessential because anyone can type a message with ease, and as such hundreds of meaningless messages stream by your eyes in a moment.

A Zoom call where everyone has equal prominence requires too much. It is intimidating to be looked at by dozens of people all at once. The user-interface itself feels wrong: who would possibly want to see nothing but a grid of people staring at you? It discourages you from interacting by coming on too strong.

Here’s an idea for what interesting participation for a musician might look like, but it's admittedly pretty artsy: What if a musician decided to livestream a concert in their house or in an empty venue (as many are now forced to do), but they had a projector behind them and asked everyone watching to turn their webcam on and go to a special site. The projector would then project a ghostly version of their silhouette on the screen behind the artist, dozens of silhouettes all together in a digital crowd. You could see yourself swaying to the music and become a participant in a way that a screen usually wouldn't allow.

If I was watching a concert and my body was somehow projected onto the screen I was watching, I would give it my full attention!

I wouldn't look away, or talk to someone else in the room. The interactivity would require something of me, and I would rise to the occasion.

We need to figure out what these healthy interactive models look like. How we can turn the digital spaces we have into communal ones.

Especially in times like this, when we need community most.

P.S.: This is the first entry of this site where I ended it and had NO idea what header image I could possibly use. I ended up choosing blurry stock photo people, because that felt sort of like what I meant by my artsy example? What should I have used to graphically represent this entry?