• Is San Francisco “back”? I audited its parties to find out

    I lately had the luck to return to San Francisco for the first time since the pandemic, and I was very keen to discover whether the place was “back”.

    There had much been much talk on tech Twitter in the intervening period on the collapse of San Francisco (and by extension) the Valley as the world centre of technical, and therefore in these days cultural, innovation: people were supposedly moving out of town to Hawaii or Austin or back to Europe with the opportunities presented by the shift to remote work; the role SF played as the thriving hub of ideas, talent and capital was indeed now supposedly anachronistic: startups were, Twitter asserted, now, more than ever, emerging all over the world due to a democratisation of access to market opportunity, capital, and know-how; and with the house prices too damn high, the urban innovation too damn slow, and the variety in human experience too damn narrow, it was often announced on my Twitter feed that enthusiasm, people and fun were heading elsewhere.

    Yet lately, a certain amount of content-marketing on Twitter asserted that the place was “back”. https://twitter.com/bonatsos/status/1600562432836919296?s=20&t=wDfK9NT4wrrO2WrVWD27BA The challenge with such proclamations of course is that they are exactly what one would expect to hear, corruptly, from the people most keen for this to be true when it isn’t.

    So I thought I’d inspect the situation. Is SF indeed back?

    The metaphor of “coming back” here has the following mapping: there is an authentic space that represents SF’s true or best self. The locus of its actual self had passed outside of this zone, gone walkabouts: events have made it “lose itself” and so it was, apparently, looking to find oneself, chart the journey back to that authentic zone of self.

    The San Francisco of yore

    That authentic zone of San Francisco’s self is the reason I care about this, for San Francisco has always been the place I believed to be closest to renaissance Venice of any place on earth at the present time. Yes, the architecture is an embarrassment; yes, the level of European-style civic competence and style is flatly wretched, as attested by the contiguity of the homeless and the staggeringly wealthy, and the absence of any modestly competent form of public transport; yes, there are limits to the available range of human thriving.

    But such classic objections only bring into sharper relief the astonishing flourishing of human ingenuity, cultural influence, and power to invent the future that San Francisco has lately piped out. SF in the 2010-2020 time-period has been a place of scintillating intellectual aliveness, human hopefulness, and creative inclusiveness. Hanging out in SF imbued one with a sense of creative possibility that made any other city, even London, feel pedestrian by comparison.

    All of which is to say that the prospect of the place having lost its mojo made me sad.

    Analysing towns through their parties

    One can always test the pulse of a city at a party, the only form of human social activity where people come close to being themselves. Parties are of course also the most fateful of human activities, where more new collaborations, ideas, relationships, and simple good feeling occur than in any other human activity. It’s easy to see in the rich human texture of a party at the heart of community the overall quality of its culture: the mixity of people, whether the ideas are revving, whether there is optimism and gumption, whether there is a creative open-ness to the future of human experience and how it can be sculpted towards greater futures.

    In the past, San Francisco parties have been an open book on the underlying cultural vivacity of the place. They were characterised by at least the following four notable

    1. A great mixity of interesting people
    2. Intense intellectual engagement with ideas
    3. Generosity, inclusivity and positivity
    4. An open-ness to new forms of life

    So with this in mind I attended a few parties in SF as I passed through- to audit the situation of the town.

    1. The mixity of interesting people

    In the great parties of the past, San Francisco exhibited an entertaining mixity of people from inter-related technical spheres.

    So you’d be sipping a gin and tonic by the sink at some house-party kitchen, and over the course of an hour you’d find yourself exchanging with a rich menagerie of different characters: a Nasa engineer, someone tinkering with robots, a neuroscientist, the dude who runs growth for Facebook, a performance artist. To find these people one would admittedly have to parse out a string of early-stage founder bros, but such was life.

    Returning to San Francisco, I found that the mixity remained strong. Perhaps there has even been an improvement. Where before you might chat with a Tesla engineer, now you chat with an ex-Tesla engineer working on an electric flying car. The NASA people now seem to have their own space companies. The ML people are looking much more cheerful about life. The fringe intellectuals seem to have remained in town, and there was a good mix of left-wing Berkley types and artists in the mix. There were mercifully few VCs. And there were an encouraging number of people working on ambitious climate tech, perhaps 10 years slower than they should have been, but at least going at it was charisma now.

    All in all, I’d rate the mix of characters as outstanding. This felt “back”.

    2. Intense intellectual engagement

    I recall in 2012 being at a party on a boat in SF (an Icelandic ice-breaker-turned commune, not a glitzy yacht), where there was a six hour conversation I dropped in and out of fastened resolutely to the topic of Bitcoin. In London at the time, it was relatively tricky when discussing the topic to get beyond “is it a scam, or not? It’s probably a scam” , there was a total absence of knowledge or curiosity.

    But at this boat-party conversation there was a striking depth and curiosity to the discussion: talk went deep into different mining protocols, technical hard ware, governance, alternative protocols; it danced through the history of economics, the technical details of cryptography, the practical questions of self-custody vs centralised exchanges; it got lost for an hour on the percentage chance of a catastrophic security vulnerability. It was, for me, far too long and detailed. I was there to have fun. But I was very impressed by the intellectual depth and honesty, as I passed in and out of the conversation over the course of the long night. I was particularly struck by the combination of play and research: the hosts were in fact mining bitcoin to heat their boat.

    Returning to SF, the new topic on hand is, predictably, generative AI, and I found a very similar energy of intense intellectual engagement. SF flocks to the latest hot thing, but it does so with a ravenous interest in the ideas that support it. The limited shelf-life of the concept of prompt engineering, the nature of AI systems as really just being mnmeonic devices, the field of possible architectures of chaining these LLMs together, the fundamental scarcity of new training data, and a possible coming ceiling in the capacities of such systems.

    Part of the fun of SF is that the people who do the fundamental work are part of the conversation; how good is GPT-4? “Well, I’m chief architect and reports of its intelligence are overblown. We’re still struggling hopelessly with the bullshit problem, and we may need a whole new approach.” Getting “insider” takes on things, seeing the mode of speaking, the method of thought: this is simultaneously demystifying (the people doing the work are not inaccessibly intelligent, as one might suspect) and you get a hot-off-the-press casual insight into what they actually think vs what they boast about on Twitter. And even if Deepmind continues to do the most important work in AI from London, it was nice to see some signs of competence and confidence on the SF AI scene.

    One note of concern was that there was a quirk of conversation in SF in its glory years that all conversations wound up eventually in fundamental physics, typically with a Stanford researcher present to chaperone the quality of the discussion. While quantum physics and information theory did come up fairly regularly in the latter stages of conversations, I felt the seriousness of engagement and the depth of understanding wasn’t quite what one would expect from a 2014-vintage chat.

    It’s difficult to say whether this is evidence of a broader decline in intellectual vivacity, but I would say that it’s something for the town to keep an eye on.

    3. Generosity and positivity

    A particular merit of SF in the glory years was its positivity. Not the angry Paul Graham kind of self-promoting positivity (he’s anyway more Palo Alto than SF), but the softer kinder enthusiasm for the new, the willingness to get excited by others’ ideas, the unselfish enthusiasm for the transformation of the world by anyone for the better.

    And here SF if exactly as one would wish to find it. In the UK, when one explains one’s project or startup, the default reaction “oh, like [your annoying competitor]”. In SF, introductions, ideas, positivity flows. It’s almost therapeutic the level of positivity.

    I’m not sure this quality ever left the town, but it definitely remains there.

    4. Open-ness to new forms of life.

    At the heart of San Francisco and the valley during its glory years was of course a high level of engagement in the annual explosion of imagination that is Burning Man: a giant engine of imagining how the world could be different. And with the return of IRL Burning Man, the city was palpably vibing back into that marvellous admixture of hands on engineering, playful formation of new communities of action, speculative science-fiction and good old fashioned fun that characterised its greatest moments.

    Meanwhile Polyamory remains a staple of conversation. This is important, since polyamory indicates a willingness to think outside of the strictures of normal societal thought. On the other hand, it would be nice if other forms of human institutions (democracy, say) were to attract the same level of creative interest from these talented communities.

    One concerning point is that there remain to my knowledge no known examples of Polamory in San Francisco actually working in any kind of nourishing long term way, and a lot of intellectual bandwidth is given over to the “communicating of emotions” etc that forms part of the local methodology; that said, even if polyamory in SF is yet more more comically incompetent than it was in 2014, this must count as a return to the authentic self of the city.

    On this front, then, San Francisco is also firmly back.

    In conclusion: the parties show that SF is back

    So, in sum, San Francisco seems to be largely back, returning to its authentic self. A scintillating mix of diverse talents bustles around the parties; people are excited by the future and intellectually engaged with it; there is generosity and positivity in the inclusion of a tourist like me; and people are still curious about and energised to invent new forms of life.

    It was a relief to discover that a typical long conversation still includes reference to quantum physics and Burning Man and polyamory. One might speculate that it does so for the very good underlying reason that physics is the fundamental picture we have of reality; because burning man is the greatest party on earth; and because sexuality is the reason we’re all here in the first place.

    There have also been no meaningful improvements to public transport, the problem of homelessness, nor building regulations.

    As a concluding note, I was once again very struck in fact by how industrial San Francisco remains: as one drives around the small city, there are endless scruffy industrial plots and storage areas whose value for housing one imagines would run into the tens of millions of dollars. It seems as though some competent local governance and changes to building regs could be very useful in tackling the deficits in the city, so that it can do even better in the future.

  • Applying SpaceX’s production process to the development of memorable experiences

    I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t had time to do a write up of our first prototype of Karl-Heinz StockHausen’s Kugealauditorium, a project I described in a previous post. Anyhow- better late than never, so here’s an update on KA2.

    Recap of the project

    For Kugelauditorium, our plan is to develop an open-source recipe for spherical concert halls that are cheap and easily deployable. We’d like to create a universal instrument that can provide for its users expansive psychonautical journies capable of vehicling them to the outer reaches of human consciousness, or, if not, then at least give them an engaging audiovisual experience. The provisional dream is “a Kugelauditorium for every garden”.

    For that to be the case, we need a very simple and cheap design that anyone can knock together in no more than an hour or two, that’s sufficiently magnificent for human consciousness that it is more highly valued than, say, a lawn. In other words, something an order of magnitude or two simpler than any present-day equivalent immersive sound experience, but at least as compelling.

    To develop such an ambitious recipe, we’re engaging in a rapid prototyping methodology loosely inspired by the Starship development system currently being executed by SpaceX at Boca Chica, Texas.

    Obviously our project has much more upside for the future of human consciousness, but SpaceX’s work bakes in a few pretty robust insights about project management, decision-making and building towards ambitious future scenarios in a speedy way.

    Their method in a nutshell is to optimise for the number of iterations in the development process. So rather than even trying to get everything right first time, they build speedily and iteratively and holistically. The genius of this method is various:

    1. First, it forces simplicity. With the luxury of time, one can over complicate anything, and one will. By insisting on an improved prototype each month, we force selection of the simplest thing that will work. Relatedly, because one has to spread the budget over many prototypes, you have to select for cheapness.
    2. Second, by aiming for a holistic working prototype each month, one has to think everything through together- you can’t go too deep on electronics or speakers for example, and completely forget about the structure. So one always remains tied to the whole end user experience, and everything has to be thought through together- and this means that solutions at the intersection of different parts of the system emerge.
    3. Third, since everything has to be designed so that someone else can build the next version somewhere next month, the whole is optimised for easy reproducibility and transparency of design. Since the goal is a widely deployable open-source Kugelauditorium design, this is fit for purpose.


    We began the project in April, and aimed for the first prototype in May. This interestingly led to an initial budget estimate of $50k for a KA being compressed down to a budget of about $12000- the merits of a tight time scale eviscerating all indulgence.

    Here’s how we did it:


    We built the dome using a very simple compact kit provided by Build with Hubs. They provided just the joins between struts, and the struts themselves we got from a hardware store for $150. They came in 50 odd 240cm round poles, and we cut them at a single point in the correct ratio to waste no wood (1179 vs 1221mm for short and long segments, if you’re interested). There’s a nifty thing on their site that helped calculate the ratio. Using two spherical domes, placed one on top of each other, we could get a fully spherical dome for $400. 

    Timelapse of dome construction
    The two hemi-domes joined together


    Next, for speakers, we got two cheapo 5.1 surround sound speaker systems that took care of amplification and presented a total of 10 channels to address. That allowed a 360-degree sound experience, though only 2D- as the speakers were all arranged around the middle rung. On the software side, we used standard tools . All of this part was done by Tomek Smilok.


    To simplify things on the light side of things, which was not our main focus, we used sound-reactive LED strips, so as sound travelled round lights were activated with the moving sound (this saved requiring programming the light by itself) and provided a glimpse of how the light can in future be super-additive to the sound. This was the work of Iannis Bardakos and friends, and involved lost of soldering.


    Tomek created an improvised symphony entitled ‘backpain’. Of course, till you have a Kugelauditorium in your garden, you won’t have the faintest idea of the magnificence of the experience but here’s a sense of it.


    Phenomenologically it felt relatively spectacular, definitely tremendously immersive and engaging.

    The faces tell the story of the wondrous phenomenological adventure
    KA2 at a distance.

    That was Kugelauditorium 2, (KA2) and it was pretty epic. The experience of the surround sound was great -one felt held as if a spirit in space, and it was unexpectedly comforting- I suspect the final instrument may have some pretty potent psychotherapeutic uses. Visually, the full sphere looks more than twice as cool as the generic hemi-dome, justifying the indulgence by itself, and we were able to get a glimpse of the full experience. Undoubtedly, this represents an instrument that every garden in the world should possess.

    Total cost was $1200, and it took a Saturday to knock together.

    Areas to focus on in KA3

    We figure that a dozen or so iterations will be enough to get to something truly masterful, so we have no time lose in keeping iterating. The next prototype will be built in London in July, with the following one likely in August by Californian sound artist Sarah Stevenson.

    The principal limitations in KA2 were:

    • The sound was limited to ten channels and was only 2-d (360-degree surround but on just one plane)
    • The positioning of people in the structure was at the bottom not in the middle
    • We didn’t really have time to experiment with the music.

    The key issue we’re addressing in KA3 is the first, making the sounds fully three dimensional and over many more channels, including the capacity to map the sounds to that space in software easily. We’ll also aim to develop the structure so that a person can be suspended in the middle.


    KA3 spec: our main project here is to make the sound fully 3-D. So we’ll use the same basic dome structure, but use stronger wood to create the possibility of a single person being suspended right in the middle to enjoy the fully three-dimensional sound immersion.

    We don’t know how many individual sound channels are required for fully-3D maximal precision of audition, but because the dome structure has 42 joins (from top to bottom at the different layers: 1/5/10/10/10/5/1) and because is 42 is more than 10 and because audition isn’t terribly spatially accurate, we’re going on the basis that 42 will more than cover it, and 41 in fact since there is no lowest point. That we guess will be perceptually equivalent to having 1000 speakers in terms of spatial precision (we may be wrong about this, of course).

    For simplicity for the next version, we’re cutting this 42 down since 32-channel audio is relatively easier to manage from a hardware perspective, so we’ll aim for that, provisionally with 1:5:5:10:5:5:1 at the different levels of the dome (or perhaps 1:4:6:10:6:4:1), and a subwoofer at the bottom to make 32.

    The basic diagram of the architecture is like this:

    So our complete recipe for the kit (not including lights) for the KA3 will be this:

    • Two geodesic dome kits from Built with Hubs (it’s cheaper to get your own sticks, but these kits including sticks are very convenient- (2* £275)
    • two multi channel DACs, specifically the Cymatics Audio live player LP16 (£215*2)- this was the most exciting piece of kit to discover, as 32-channel DACs normally set you back $3000.

    So in total we get to £2300 before cost of any lights we may add. Not bad, but still touching $3000 and twice as expensive as the first prototype. We will need to build efficiencies into the prototyping process, but we should still get 12 prototypes in for the original Bitcoin which was swapped for the dream of a Kugelauditorium.

    With this recipe, we can get to a fully spatialised 3-D sound and that will help us answer these questions:

    • Are 32 speakers enough for fully spatialised sound?
    • Does the hardware work and is it simple to set up
    • What is the experience like building music in this set up?
    • And are slightly thicker broom-sticks sufficient to hold a person suspended in the middle

    We aim to have the prototype built for end of July, the work taking place not in Burgundy but in the crypt of a chruch in Holloway, UK, under the auspices of Merijn Royaards. The hope is that he audio hardware will be fit for purpose, and so future iterations will be able to reuse the same hardware.

    I’d love to express my thanks to, among other in what was a glorious group project, Tomek Smilok, Alix Faddoul, Iannis Bardakos, and Primavera Di Fillipi for actually building the thing.

  • Which is more memorable, a Bitcoin or a Spherical Concert Hall?
    The Kugelauditorium, the world’s first and only spherical concert hall.

    Bitcoin is undoubtedly a magnificent crypto-asset, but how does it stack up to peak experiences in lived life, in its overall value?

    Does the moral choice to enjoy possession of bitcoin survive consideration of the alternative possibility of creating a spherical concert hall, for example?

    Though I’m very long on bitcoin (which is already at c. $50k), and therefore tempted to hoard my stash till my dying days, I am also long on the value of human experience, which I think of as the essence of the value of our miraculous existence.

    This presents a specific practical question: what should I do, hoard my bitcoin or turn it into magical experiences in a spherical concert hall?

    In this post I set out to decide. I’m assuming you know all about Bitcoin, so I’ll focus mainly on describing what a spherical concert hall is, on the basis of the only example that yet existed, before comparing the relative value of owning a Bitcoin vs such a concert hall.

    Part 1: The short, glorious history of the Kugelauditorium

    The so-called Kugelauditorium was a spherical concert hall built by architect Fritz Bornemann after a musical concept from electronic composer Karlheinz Stockhausen for the West German pavilion at the astonishing Osaka 1970 world fair. It charmed half a million people in its brief existence, but has not been re-attempted since.

    Design of the structure

    The basic idea of the ‘Kugelauditorium’ was, in Stockhausen’s own words, to create “a spherical chamber, with a platform, transparent to both light and sound, hung for the listeners. They could hear music coming from above, from below and from all directions.”

    A view of the Kugelauditorium’s interior space

    3D sound arrangements

    The wiring diagram of the spherical concert hall

    Concretely, this was accomplished with a huge spherical Buckminster Fuller Dome, in which a raised platform, transparent to sound, sat up to 500 people roughly in the middle of the sphere. A total of fifty sets of loudspeakers arranged in 7 rings allowed sound to be played from any point in 3-Dimensional space. You can see how it was wired above.

    Karlheinz mixing 3-D sound in the Kugelauditorium

    Stockhausen is pictured above standing at the sound desk, where he could control the position and trajectories of up to ten individual sound channels, using either a ten-channel rotation mill made to Stockhausen’s spec or instead a spherical controller designed by Fritz Winckel of the Electronic Music Studio at the Technical University of Berlin .

    Manipulating the sounds

    The Kugelauditorium was something between a concert hall and a new musical instrument, and enabled the invention of a new, completely 3-Dimensional form of audiovisual music, one in which the content of the musical sounds and their spatial paths, accompanied by light trails, were composed together, to produce dynamic structured murmurations of enshrouding audiovisual sound.

    A flock of starlings in a murmuration: What does it mean? These flying  patterns are more akin to physics than biology, bu… | Murmuration,  Starling, Birds in the sky
    Eyeballing a murmuration of starlings helps conceive of the possibilities of 3-D music.

    Audi-visual music

    Though I haven’t been able to learn so much about the visual component of the Kugelaudtorium, it’s clear that the visual environment was as much a part of the music as the auditory one. Below you can see the auditorium in a state of darkness. Just imagine all the different motifs of lights-sounds flying around the interior. Just imagine how much easier and better this could be done with today’s electronics and software!


    A note on audiovisual interactions in perception

    Work over more than a century in multisensory integration in humans has detailed the many ways in which sight and sound interact, and their different specialities for perception. For example, sound has much high temporal resolution than vision. Three bleeps played simultaneously with two flashes of light can lead to a visual experience of three flashes, as sound dominates vision in matters of time. Spatially, though, vision is more precise than hearing, so when you see a flash in space played at the same time as a bleep, the perceived position of the bleep will be pulled towards the sound in experience.

    This suggests that an experience of location in space much more precise than the spatial resolution of human sound perception can be accomplished by addition of correlated light- an extraordinary possibility.

    Compositions in spherical music

    Stockhausen, Zimmerman and Blacher among others composed extraordinary new compositions for this unique space.

    Medien Kunst Netz | Stockhausen, Karlheinz: Mikrophonie I
    Inscrutable, yet magnificent, Kugelauditoirum score from Stockhausen
    Stockhausen talking about his music

    Sadly it is of course impossible to re-experience this music till we build another such space.

    What happened to the Kugelauditorium?

    Vastly ambitious for 1970, Stockhausen’s Kugelauditorium rocked the Osaka world fair, and enjoyed more than half a million visitors.

    The project was however beset by technical, social and financial issues, and never made it back to Germany, where it had been constructed; instead, it fell into ruin, and in the fifty years since its heyday no further attempts have been made to create such a spherical concert hall.

    Overall, it seems to me to be a first attempt at a potentially outstanding genre of musical experience. Is there any town or festival in the world that wouldn’t appreciate the play of a contemporary version of this instrument? Is there a composer who wouldn’t light up at the chance of creating for this medium (assuming the right tools). Is there a festival goer who wouldn’t love to chill to whatever, say, Nils Frahm or Jean-Michel Jarre could cook up? It seems unlikely.

    It’s thought provoking indeed to look at some of Jarre’s audiovisual work, for example this from Notre-Dame cathedral:

    Part 2: Financial vs experiential capital

    There’s a serious question that all of us implicitly answer through the living of our lives, that is much more general than the one I’m posing here, which is roughly: to what extent should we value experiences over things? Or alternatively, what is the relative value of financial vs experiential capital?

    There are many ways we can come at this question, and I’d be very interested to hear other frameworks. But given the (perhaps illegitimately binary) choice: which would you rather possess, some bitcoin or a spherical concert hall, I come at it by thinking of which of how the two rank in terms of their uniqueness, perceptibility and generosity.

    Implicitly, I’m saying that we should optimise in this world for these three elements.

    a) Scarcity of bitcoin vs spherical concert halls:

    There are 21 million Bitcoin VS zero spherical concert halls.

    On this front, it’s clear the concert hall wins. There have been zero examples of this form of Being in the last fifty years, whereas 18 million bitcoin have already been mined, even if no more than 21 million ever will.

    Overall, though, the world is awash with Bitcoin but entirely lacks any spherical concert halls.

    So the spherical concert hall clearly wins here.

    b) Perceptibility of bitcoin vs spherical concert halls:

    Perceptibility is important, because all consciousness derives from perception (cf Merleau-Ponty).

    Bitcoin actually put a heavy weight on perception – albeit indirectly. So bitcoin owners ten frequently to Google the price of their asset, and look yearningly at the prices from half a decade ago etc. These experiences are of low quality, linking mainly to avarice, and not challenging or inspiring the perceptual systems.

    The Kugelauditorium, by contrast, is perhaps the greatest object of perception invented in the 20th century: challenging, bending and stimulating the senses in astonishing, transformational ways.

    Again, the spherical concert hall wins.

    c) Generosity of bitcoin vs spherical concert halls:

    While Bitcoin can in principle be given away, its sky-rocketing value disincentivizes spending it, let alone donating it. Meanwhile, sadly, your bitcoins make your friends unhappy as they all wish they had this chancey asset to their person instead of you. Their lives are diminished by your luck.

    Bitcoin is, then, a zero sum game, at the individual level. If you own a bitcoin, that means that somebody else doesn’t. It is at best non-generous, and at worst an act of avarice, to actually own one.

    By contrast, everyone will obviously want to hang out in your Kugelauditorium. It is by nature a shared social space that purveys to its occupants riches from the outer frontiers of what is experientially possible in the human mind. It is inherently a generous concept.

    One might also consider electricity consumption. The total bitcoin network usage is as much as 121 terra-watt-hours. If we divide this equally between the c. 18 million bitcoin in existence, each existent bitcoin consumes roughly as much energy as a house in the US (7 MWhrs).

    This is quite ungenerous to a struggling planet. But the energy consumption of future Kugelauditoria may be similar, so on this sub-point it is a draw.

    But overall Kugelauditoria are inherently much more generous.


    Looked at through these lenses, it’s better to own a spherical concert hall than Bitcoin. I have therefore liquidated by Bitcoin holdings to fund the creation of a second Kugelauditorium.

    The task of creating the second Kugelauditorium with contemporary materials, electronics and software is spine-tinglingly laden with possibility. It should be orders of magnitude easier, cheaper and more elaborable building a spherical concert hall now than it was 50 years ago. I expect that we may be able to create something relatively astonishing.

    Since I have no idea how to build anything, I have created this form for anyone who wishes to help.

    The main areas where we can anticipate the need for help to begin with are:

    • Design / construction of geodesic dome
    • Rigging of speakers and lights
    • Electronics for pushing the light-sound around the sphere
    • Software to enable speedy creation and sharing of audiovisual compositions
    • AI programs for translating existing repertory of music into audiovisual 3-D sound.

    Once again, do please sign up to help here.

    We have a preliminary spot in Burgundy for building the first Kugelauditorium; the intent is to open-source the designs and findings in the hope that every town around the world, or at least one other group, will eventually build one for themselves.

  • Taking Burning Man Online with the Sparkleverse.

    Burning Man is Going Online

    To many of those who co-create it every year, Burning Man isn’t just the best party in the world, it’s the best place in the world. For the sole purpose of the experience of doing so, seventy thousand people engage in the pleasurable inconvenience of conjuring an ephemeral city in a desert, and collectively then live almost every aspect of human existence differently therein: home, friendship, food, architecture, time, connection are all re-invented and re-experienced every year at Burning Man. As gatherings go, Burning Man is the most all-encompassing, philosophical, and real.

    This year of course, the Burn has moved online, something that presents a legitimate opportunity for skepticism to anyone who has been to the ‘real’ thing.

    Indeed, the idea of an online version seems at first blush wholly far-fetched given how the regular embodied experience would seem to be almost the logical opposite of online social experience as we know it: it is after all the distance from interruption, the freedom from surveillance, the transcendence from the wretched seniority of seeming over being on social media, the sense of a pause in the everyday run of things that permits the participants of Burning Man to open up and live in full-bore openness to each other, in freedom from the banalities that dominate their everyday consciousnesses.

    It demands simply an act of collective imagination

    But Burning Man is and always has been an act of collective imagination. And imagination is a human attribute that doesn’t evaporate when we interact with computers. To certain of us, then, the online burn presents an opportunity to re-express the magic of Burning Man in a new medium, not to mention a wonderful opportunity to connect and experience joy in these dubious times.

    BM org have seen this too, and with the luck of already having themed the 2020 Burn as the Multiverse, invited a handful of teams each to create a ‘universe’ in this ‘multiverse’.

    The Sparkleverse Recipe to Bring the Burn Online

    We at Sparkleverse are one such team. Having experimented with 9 online parties at scale during the lockdown within the CoReality Collective (the learnings from the first of which can be found here), we have a particular philosophy and perspective on the possibilities of experiential profundity that a mixture of active participation and the right kind of technology can accomplish. We believe the online Burn can be just as real as the physically colocated version. And we’re keen to facilitate anyone else who is ready to believe similarly in participating in and enjoying this years’ Burning Man.

    To share our thinking, and perhaps to inspire participation, this is a sketch of our design thinking and approach for the online Burn. There are twelve core features we have implemented and which stand ready to go.

    1. Simple, accessible web technology

    Unlike the rest of life, Burning Man apsires to radical inclusion. Anyone and everyone is welcome. When on the Playa, nobody cares who you are in ‘default reality’. As an aside, this has a quite unexpected experiential status (freedom from status and prejudice, that only goes to reveal how regrettably potent and all-encompassingAnd while there are certain geographical, financial and logistical inconveniences associated with attending that mean that at the actual burn West-coast affluent Americans are rather too generously represented, the spirit of the place could hardly be more welcoming.

    This is one of the aspects of the Burn, So in designing the Sparkleverse, we aimed for maximal accessibility (ubiquitous web-based technology) and the simplest possible ways to create in the space.

    2. Potent tools for space creation

    The astonishing and distinguishing feature of Black Rock City is that it is built each year by its participants from scratch in the salt-pan of a harsh and featureless desert. (The same is true of the real world, if only with a more historic time-scale). As one wanders around BM, it is this subtext- that everything you see, despite its ambition and magnificence, is built without supervision by the very participants among whom you are roving,- that lends every moment of lived existence therein a certain joyful inclusiveness: “we built this”. Rather than being a mere spectator, one has

    It is this radical participation, entirely decentralised, entirely welcoming to all and every flavour of creative impulse, that is internal both to the magnificence of what results, and it to its felt significance. Because anyone who can build may do so, the results is the unihibited creative expression of the widest possible diversity of consciousnss, given the participants.

    So we have created tools that allow anyone to open up a space.

    3. An explorable Playa level

    The Playa in physical Burning Man is an immense space seven miles wide, with a horseshoe of camps accounting for the city suburbs, and the wide open desert Playa the equivalent of the nearby countryside or park space. This fearsome desert space is the receptacle for all the fun that then takes place, once populated with all the art, camps, etc etc.

    For online burn, we wanted to retain the iconic horse-shoe and overall layout, while adding a Sparkling diamond trashfence- a fence that encases the whole., which acts both as a border and as a trap for any wind-strewn matter-out-of-place (moop).

    There will be two methods of navigating this Playa. The bird’s eye view mode, which will allow people to hover over it, clicking into whichever experiences they please. And True-Burner- mode, where you will be placed with video avatar and ambient audio on the Playa and pootle around at locomotory or bicycle speed – more of which later.

    4. Camps

    Because you live in the desert for a week at Burning Man, where and how you camp plays a key role in the constitution of your experience. Camp at the burn is mostly where you sleep, where you eat, where you build, where you host, and where you experience the most engaged community. It is the power of collaboration in camps that gives rise to some of the most delicious shared experiences, and camps are often the kernel of real-world communities who come back year after year.

    For our digital camps, we allow people to add a second-layer map ‘beneath’ the Playa, which people can click through to from the Playa. On this second level map, Camp creators can then arrange a set of images that each lead when clicked upon to a . You can see how many people are within each of the rooms in a camp, and enter any of them by clicking.

    People will be able to sleep in digital tents in their camps, and more generally camp will be a place to which digital burners retreat to chill with their friends before another sortie into the indeterminate adventures available on the broader Playa.

    5. Art pieces

    Alongside (and indeed within) camps on the Playa, Art pieces and performance venues are part of the necessary ornaments of the Playa.

    When you encounter an art piece, you can click through to a special space featuring an embedded iFrame of any web experience, accompanied with video chat so you can talk with your fellow burners as you admire the art- the source of many a fine encounter at the actual burn. There will also be information about the art and a message board to leave thoughts and admiration.

    6. Performance spaces

    So much of one’s experience at Burning Man is in encountering spaces constituted by their human presence: not just something. to view, but a social world to interact with. Unlike the contemporary web, these experiences are *hosted*- actively shaped live by the behaviour of their creators and participants.

    Performance spaces in the Sparkleverse are mediated by Zoom rooms. Don’t worry, this most banal of business tools can be made to sing with the right technique (see the Sparkleversity, whose function is described below.) They will include anything and everything, from comedians, DJs, philosophical discussions, interactive mermaid shows, workshops in yoga/ mindfulness/star-gazing/origami and any of the other myriad things that imagination will bring forth.

    7. Pleasurably inconvenient entry

    One way of understanding Burning Man is as a sequence of experiences that gradually distance the participant from the preoccupations of their everyday life. Loss of contact with default reality is accomplished as much by the journey to, as the contents within, the burn. In this, the road trip out from, say, San Francisco or Mexico City, is a key part of the experience.

    There will be two ways to onboard into the digital Playa. The first is excessively convenient: you just go in. Heroic mode, by contrast, will replicate to some small extent the experience of a roadtrip to the burn. You’ll be put in a car for an hour (we were talked out of 8 hours because it’s ‘not feasible’) with three other burners. You will then be in a time-locked capsule where the only thing to do is watch the cactuses going by and the diminishing count-down timer, and chat to the fellow occupants of your virtual vehicle.

    Besides the company you keep it will be boring of course, but it won’t be boring of course because you will be gleefully making new friends, building anticipation and feeling the claws of everyday life gradually slipping away from your consciousness as the great wide-open reaches of its potentiality begin to open up.

    8. Digital camping

    During onboarding, everyone will have to make a choice about their specific bedding arrangements. A choice of RV, Hexayurt, Kodiak tent or standard tent: for all their creativity, burners have their preferred ways of living.

    Your tent will then find a space in camp or on Playa. It will have space for up to four occupants. It will be lockable, so as to create space for intimate sharing and goodness. We recommend people sleep inside their tents with computer on- so they can be woken by friends who’ve come to find them to advise them of some exciting happening the missing of which sleep can be no excuse.

    9. Serendipity on the Playa

    While we will reluctantly permit a “bird’s eye view” mode in travelling the Playa, this has the limitation of lacking limitation. In the physically co-located Burn, when you encounter someone on the outer edges of the Playa, they haven’t just clicked to get there. You both won the right to a sense of joy at the mere fact of interacting with each other because by necessity you committed an hour of their life to cycling or wandering out there.

    So heroic mode will see you constrained to human speed on the Playa, with a little video avatar, and ambient audio. What you give up in convenience you’ll more than make up for in the joys of encounter. Often it is during this journeying interspace that the most magic encounters happen.

    10. Live schedule, with pot luck button

    When I went to Burning Man for the second time, I was surprised and disappointed to realise that a schedule existed, which seemed to contrary to the spirit of anarchic discovery. Yet my prejudice has since mellowed: some burners embrace the schedule, informing themselves of magic happenings and zipping around the Playa to intercept them. So we provide easy access to a “what’s on now” and schedule to allow this technique to find effective expression.

    While there is a schedule for burning man, the decentralised immensity of creativity often means that there is also call for a “pot luck” button, where you’re simply thrown into the next experience without any awareness of what it is. (See also ‘Dust storms’ below for another example of designed vulnerability to what happens next).

    11. Digital costumes

    It is a matter of great intrigue in human affairs, the power of the costume. The act of dressing up has tremendous effect on consciousness. Dressing up can reframe how we think, feel, act and perceive. Unlike a 3-D avatar, it also holds space for our face and eyes, for who we are. It is this mixture that makes augmented video, not 3-D avatars, the path to ‘virtual reality’.

    And so goes that at parties, dressing up is an act of generosity both to self and to other. To the self, it garners freedom: it allows us greater motility in exploring fresh facets of our potentiality. When others see us in costume, they are likewise freed up from the preconscious prejudices and habits that suck the potential from most everyday interactions. So costume is a vastly important piece of. This is best done by physically dressing up, but even then there is an important role to be played by digital costume.

    This is where Snap filters come in (and to a more banal extent, zoom backgrounds). We have SNAP to thank for arguably the most joyful approach to technology in the contemporary tech-o-sphere. I for one thought that when they IPO-ed claiming to be “camera company” that we were being treated to vacuous salesmanship, but I was wrong: snap filters are the source of digital costumes of the very best quality. And with Snap Studio 3, we are.

    So we’ll be creating lotsof costumes for this digital world, and we encourage you to do so too. There’ll also be digital costume making workshops in the digital realm.

    12. Mixed reality spaces

    A little analysis reveals that the fundament of conscious experience- the human body- is just as real in the event of an online Burn as it would be at a Burn on the Playa. It’s just that the bodies are spatially separated (even if they remain temporally unified).

    Nonetheless, leveraging the immediate physical world is an important aspect of the Sparkleverse product at its best. So we are encouraging performers and artists to have their co-participants leverage their immediate environments a bit like physical costumes to help amplify their sense of immersion.

    At CoReality parties we have had great success with mixed reality hot tubs for example, where everyone runs and enters their baths while placing their device on a well positioned nearby chair so they can have the sensory experience of sharing a hot tub at a distance.

    These kinds of experience will be numerous in the Sparklever.se.

    13. The Sparkleversity

    Burning man is created by its participants, and since this is the first time it has been attempted online, there is call for a resource of shared materials to educate, inspire and animate the sense of capability and participation of those who fancy taking part.

    So you can find the Sparkleversity here.

    14. Heroic stats and achievements

    For the most part, Burners have the impression that they are heroes. This impression is accurate. The mere fact of survival on the Playa, a desert lacking any native resources for survival such as water and with brutal temperatures (both hot and not at all), excites people to embrace quite unusual levels of physical exertion. One experiences hunger, thirst and tiredness in new and powerful ways that collectively animate the body, in turn leading to an amplified capacity for pleasure and perception.

    For the post part, this element of proceedings will require mixed reality participation (cutting off water supply in your flat, participating for long periods of time, eating only when back in camp), but we help this along on the product side by letting participants know when they’ve done noteworthy things such as each milestone of 12 hours spent on Playa. Serious burners will do the whole 192 hours.

    By making these achievements public on their profile, alongside the list of all camps visited, the infectious heroism of others may inspire all burners to new heights of participation (as well as providing a new vector of discovery).

    15. Burning Man Information Radio

    To those who Burn each year, Burning Man Information Radio provides a joyful accompaniment to the adventures around the Playa. Listening to this very diverse and amusing station gives a sense of presence and community across the immense distant reaches of the Black Rock party universe, amounting to a form of ambient emotional perception, which one often pipes into the brain while manoeuvring around the hot sands.

    So we’ll be providing access to this marvellous radio station from our top-bar where the whimsy and magic of what’s going on not just in the Sparkleverse but across the Multiverse can provide a sustaining accompaniment.

    16. Dust storms

    In much of human life, we have the illusion of mastery. But in fact, our being and our consciousness are the emergent property of our interaction with the environment: we are vulnerable to the world, it pipes into us and constitutes us.

    At Burning Man, an important feature of the overall experience is the occasional and unheralded dust storms that obliterate all visibility and hound the skin with a rough sandy pasting. When such “white outs” strike, the burner scrambles desperately for the nearest hiding place. This is a great source of positive ‘noise’ in one’s path through the Playa, as the scramble to the nearest place and the sense of being safely enshrouded often gives rise to rich and unexpected moments of connection.

    Thus, at random, a digital sand storm will power across the Playa rendering useless all navigational devices / schedules etc. You will have one option and one option only: to head to the nearest space and hang out there for the duration of the sand storm. A wonderful chance to meet interesting people.

    17. Gifting

    There is no money at burning man, and the power of this absence is difficult fully to appreciate until experienced. It takes a day or three fully to adapt to interactions with other people entirely unmediated by commercial interests. One just receives and gives, without expectation that one such act should beckon another.

    In the Sparkleverse, it will be possible to send digital gifts to other burners via their profiles.

    18. Portals to other universes

    From a first person point of view, Burning Man is staggeringly scale-agnostic. That is, as you manifest your personal journey your consciousness will be occupied entirely at one point by the smallest thing -a tiny gift for example- and the next point by the largest – an immense art car, or the the burning of a vast 100m high Man. And the one is equal to the other.

    In this way, the experiential tapestry of the whole is fractal: you pass through one experience into the next and it always feels like a continuous progress forward regardless of what it is that currently colonises your mind.

    The Sparkleverse is only one of several universes that together make up the multiverse. And we want to encourage people to flow as freely as possible through the tapestry of the mulitverse. For this reason, prominently on our Playa there will be portals. to other universes through which one can pass back and forth in unfolding the grand extravagance of digital inventiveness being manifested across this seminal happening.

    19. The burning of the man

    It would be remiss to reveal how we have imagined the centrepiece, the epic coming together that acts as the conjoining mnemonic and experoential landmark of each burn, a . of the whole. But imagine it we have, and we can’t wait for you to experience it first hand.

    How to get involved

    Build week is just beginning at this moment (August 23rd, 2020). There is plenty of time to get involved. We welcome you to add whatever you wish to add to the Sparkleverse. This will with luck be a seminal online happening, bringing together people from around the world in an act of co-participation and joy that can energise. To go ahead and create something, go here. To educate yourself about how to go about doing that, you can sign up for a webinar here.

    The Burn itself is August 30th-September 6th. You can get tickets here. They are donation-based, and on sale now.

    If you have any questions, please check out our FAQ or be in touch here.

  • Memorable dreams
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    It isn’t just because our dreams are more interesting than our actual lives that they’re so worth remembering. There’s a further advantage: detailed dream-memory fosters the understanding that can enable us to recognize our dreams as they occur. If we can do that, then we can have the pleasure of taking control. And lucid dreaming, as this is called, is about the most entertaining private activity known to man.

    What makes dream-recall difficult is the way memories are stored in contexts. To recall a memory, we re-activate the state we were in whenwe first stored it. If you learn something when diving after jellyfishwhile wearing a false moustache, for instance, you’ll recall it best when re-submerged, re-moustachioed and back chasing the jellies.

    The problem with remembering dreams is a kind of Catch 22: you’re either in a dream-state, and therefore too asleep to be doing any remembering; or else you’re awake, but outside the dreamy context where dream-memories cluster. To escape this bind requires tactical nous: you need to begin your dream-recall before your dreams have entirely finished.

    Fortunately, our dreams are very punctual: they tend to fit our sleep schedules exactly. So by setting your alarm as little as ten minutes earlier than normal, you can reliably wake during a dream, not after it. Here is your opportunity: it takes a few moments fully to exit dreaminess. Get recalling with pen and paper during this period, and you’ll be thrilled with what you can remember.

    And by practicing dream-recall like this daily for three weeks consecutively, you’ll find an almost surreal extension to your powers of recollection. You’ll remember multiple dreams- and in astonishing, filmic detail. Why such improvement? Because you’ll have come to understand the thing you’re seeking, you’ll know the quirks and foibles of your dreams.

    This honed sense of their characteristic style will then allow you to spot your dreams for what they are- when you’re inside them. While dreaming, as you get down to installing a swimming pool in your E-Type Jag, or whatever, you’ll no longer find it it all very sensible, as one generally does. Instead, you’ll think to yourself “this sort of nonsense happens only in dreams”. Such a realization will allow you to draw the conclusion “this must therefore be a dream”. And once you know that, you can begin exercising control.

    The delights that follow are up to you.

  • 21 things we learned from hosting our first online party
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    Parties are at the heart of most of what is good in human life: love, friendship, fun, escape, spiritual exploration. It’s obviously therefore of great importance that we continue partying despite any physical distancing. But how to host decent parties online?

    It’s not like anyone was attending online parties before the lockdown.

    Last week, I gathered with a few friends to form an experimental collective devoted to exploring how to make online parties actually good, actually real. We decided to call ourselves the Co-reality Collective, in line with our purpose.

    And so last weekend we threw a party. It took us about two days to organise. And it was certainly a learning experience. Here are twenty-one of those learnings…

    1) The party begins with the invite

    If your online party is real, behave accordingly, beginning with a proper invitation! Credit to Eszter Balogh for the great visuals.

    We chose to theme three things heavily with our first invitation, in order to begin to structure party-goer expectation in profitable fashion. We emphasized that the party was real; that it would be a network of spaces, not one boring Zoom call; and that a quest would be involved. Double down on this early impression of reality with Eventbrite ticket purchases and other ‘real world’ elements of party experience.

    2. Party appetite is international- so time your party accordingly

    It Is Time to Reimagine Global Governance

    We had significant contingents wanting to come from the UK, Sweden. France, Germany, UK, East-Coast US, West-Coast US. The timing that just about worked for all these fine party people was noon-8 p.m. PST, which was 8 p.m-4 a.m. UK time, 9 p.m-5 a.m. in most of Europe.

    I liked that people joined from all over the world!

    Loved the breakout rooms where you put with strangers for a random amount of time, loved dancing with people around the world, loved the shows/performances. Sounds quality was much better than I was expecting

    3. People are grateful for instructions

    Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 00.25.44.png

    Very few of our guests had been to an online party before, so it was necessary to provide a helping hand with quick tips on the tech and the technique to ensure everyone was comfortable and set up to succeed.

    4. Queuing is part of the fun

    Parties are journeys, and to have a truly good time, you need to win the right to have that truly good time by putting your time in in the queue like everyone else.

    We staffed our queue with bouncers (Maz in La, Frederick in Sweden) who vetted guests for costumes, party-commitment, etc to make sure that everyone who made it into the party deserved to be there.

    5. Greet every guest, and introduce them to someone fun

    Screenshot 2020-04-03 at 23.14.42.png
    Guests must be warmly greeted and served a drink on arrival 

    Everyone deserves a warm greeting, and to have a glass of virtual Prosecco. And then they need to be able to start making friends.

    Here we used Zoom’s breakout room functionality to establish little conversational pockets for people to connect in smaller groups. It works surprisingly well,. and even extreme introverts were able to begin enjoying the party from the get go.

    6. It’s the people who make the party

    Partygoers get out what they put in.

    At every party, but especially at online parties, you rely on the people who attend to invent the fun. We found that making the event invite-only added enthusiasm, safety, and commitment.

    7. Your partygoers need a map

    If your online party is real, people are going to need to be able to find the fun. A visual map of the party excites imagination before the party, and provides a guide during the party. Our guests loved seeking out where the fun was at, and for that a map was key.

    We soon learned a digital map is also key so people can find their way back to rooms they’ve left. Eventually, simply sharing access to Google doc with all the live rooms proved a neat way to give people a sense of orientation and control over where they wanted to go.

    8. Don’t forget the toilets

    The toilet had no host. It was just a live-stream to an empty toilet space, where people could chat and exchange party tips.

    We’d provided toilets as a joke, but they ended up proving a really popular location: a neutral zones with no background music or strong demands on expected party behaviour where people can chat with each other unsupervised, back-channel and gossip and understand what is going on, and do things like make out or take illegal drugs (which we do not endorse).

    “That familiar FOMO you get at parties when you realise you’ve been chatting in the toilets for 2 hrs and everyone else might be having a better time, or might have just left”

    Party Toilet Enthusiast Feedback

    9. Use Snapchat for your virtual costumes

    People dressing up is critical; and partygoers who went to the effort of preparing (sometimes several) real-world outfits acclaimed the benefits. It got them in the mood!

    But Snapchat filters on desktop provide incredible virtual costumes as back-up/additions, and at we saw all manner of angel, cow-boy, child, old man, animal. egg, potato and cross-dresser.

    We can’t recommend the desktop Snap camera highly enough.

    10. People really, really like to dance

    We knew people might want to dance. We didn’t know they’d love dancing so much that the dancefloors would be open for ten hours, almost always packed

    One of our DJs in fact spent the entire party manning the Golden Gate Dance-floor. Sorry about that Jonathan! In any case, people love to dance – especially perhaps during the lockdown- so prepare accordingly.

    11. Use Twitch for higher quality audio

    For background music, you can use Zoom audio. Go to “share” then click “share audio” then go to advanced and click “just computer audio” so you can play e.g. Spotify on your computer so everyone else can hear it decently.

    But for high quality danceable audio, mute the Zoom room and pipe in some Twitch audio (which you need to remember to regularly link to in the dance-floor chat / and/or share with the map)

    12. It never gets realer than when you bring everyone together

    A midnight ritual that brought all the international party-goers into conetmplative silence and sharing of experience was the highlight of the party

    In the middle of the party, we closed down all but one of the rooms- the cabaret- to bring everyone together.

    We then held a ritual, where people brought their hands to the screen if they’d been personally affected by the pandemic, and then everyone joined those who had been as we all did so. And then people were free to speak to their experience from all round the world as a group, and many did with amazing, emotive stories.

    It was a very striking moment amid all the fun and silliness to have the reality of the pandemic made personal and visible, a moment of international solidarity and sharing. And then we danced it all out to Bohemian Rhapsody.

    ” my hairs were standing on end and I felt electricity in my body when we all put our hands up together. It was important to have us all come together at this moment and have a ritual, amongst the general partying and chatting other times. Followed by Bohemian Rhapsody – perfection.”

    “I thought it was wonderful!! It was really really touching to put our hands to the screen, and to talk about how this was “real”. I actually shed a tear at that point. The continual repetition of “this is real” was important – it is real. It is sad this is all the connection we will have for months, but you made it *real*, it’s true.”

    13. Your best performers are your guests

    Performances are great, but when they are shared in full vulnerability by your partgoers, and witnessed as such, they become magic. Poems, songs, and even a strip-tease added a great deal to people’s memories of the party.

    14. Deep and meaningfuls call for Yurt spaces

    At normal parties, people often wind up sharing their deepest feelings in a drunken early-hours-in-the-morning corner somewhere. We found that small, yurt-like conversational spaces where a few people could chat intimacy and openness made for great deep-and-meaningful territory, without need for excessive inebriation.

    15. A bit of confusion is your friend

    Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 01.39.23.png

    We didn’t mean it this way, but things got pretty disorganised in the party. This actually ended up adding to the allure and as it turned navigating the party space into an adventure game with cluies spread across multiple social media channels.

    16. Nonetheless, you’re going to need to up your Gant chart game

    Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 15.58.44.png

    As hosts, you need to have your rooms prepped in advance, a clear rota, a comms channel (Whatsapp group) back-channelling between hosts. And a high level of coordination between everyone.

    Even with this in place, it takes a lot of proactive improvised behind-the-scenes management from a spontaneously appointed chief operating officer to mange things. And various mistakes were made with Zoom room configuration, leading to, for example, people being stuck in unnecessary waiting rooms, rooms lacking hosts, one person having to manage a room all by himself for 8 hours.

    So from an organisational point of view, get your A game on!

    17. Having a shared fiction adds to the fun

    Turns out that having a mysterious theme considerably adds to the fun. Our party was inspired by Tarkovsky’s The Stalker a weird twigh-lit film where some men try to find “The Zone”- a place where their deepest desires will come true. But they’re not quite sure they want to get there.

    Similarly, it was never quite clear to our party-goers whether The Zone was a room, an attitude, or an experience… but the mere possibility of it was enough to add a certain zing to proceedings.

    My deepest desires did not come true. But some of my desires did come true including having authentic vulnerable connections with people, having fun, dancing, watching a super sexy strip show, hosting something edgy, and going with the flow. And I met a sexy being who we had a nice FaceTime date with the next day so that was an unexpected bonus. 🙂

    Wow, what a party!! Epic!! My favorite was the Zone. I didn’t know if it really existed but once I got there… whoa!!!! 

    18. Mixed reality hot-tubs ftw

    Throughout the party, people are in real space and in virtual space. We fused the two further in the Hot-tub room, where you had to actually get into your bath and run it, and then do the Zoom call. So that everyone was in a virtual hot tub while sitting in their pretend hot tub at home.

    This worked incredibly well, and we will seek to do more mixed reality stuff at the next party.

    I felt that the hot tub experience was a fucking joy to participate in. Never saw an explicit sign saying it was the zone, so who knows, but a safe, sensual, Intimate place to see and be seen and share the joys of serendipitous loving play was powerful medicine that I am grateful to have been part of.

    “I made it to the hottub! Glorious and delightful”

    Hot Tub. Activated my divine female <3

    19. Donations can add up!

    We added an option to donate on our Eventbrite. And of our 200-odd guests, about 30 donated nearly a $1000 for the artists and DJs many of whom don’t have any secure source of income anymore.

    20. Puppets can be first class party guests

    Some of the most popular and entertaining party guests were actually two puppets who danced pretty much non-stop for 8 hours.

    THE PUPPETS!!!!!!! Mesmerising… I am in love. I want to go party with them!

    21. Reality is in the eye of the beholder

    Partygoers overwhelmingly judged the party to be as real as a normal party.

    This was a real party. How do I know for myself this party was real? Because everyone I met there was real — I could really feel your presence even across our physical distance. I know too because the experience challenged me sometimes to be more real, which only happens when I feel myself being seen. And because the next day I woke up with that precious afterglow that follows all the best parties, remembering snippets of conversation, emotions and ideas and perspectives taking root inside of me.
    This was not just a virtual ‘internet’ experience any more than a bus ride or a laundromat visit when shared with friends is ever just a ‘train’ or a ‘laundromat’ experience. The backgrounds change, but it’s the people in the foreground that see us through our lives. We are real for each other. And I know that this matters to me, because the whole night/day experience had me captivated for five hours, even after I’d just that day driven 700kms straight before arriving at our new house to discover that our digital key cards did not work (now solved, thankfully). Even though I was tired and wired, and in this state would never have sought out mere entertainment, I simply could not miss this moment of reality, because PARTIES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.

    Next party, next weekend

    This was our first attempt at throwing a party as a collective. We’ll be giving it another go next weekend, April 18th 2020, when we’ll look to learn from this first experiment and take things up a few levels.

    If you’d like to help out or attend, fill in the form here telling us what you’d be up for, and how you can help.

    Would love to hear your thoughts and ideas!

  • How to design epic online parties
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    Parties are at the heart of most of what is good in human life: love, friendship, transcendence, escape, spiritual exploration, fun, desire, music, dance, open-mindedness.

    It’s obviously therefore of great importance that we continue partying despite physical distancing. But how to host decent parties online?

    First-rate theoretical analysis has revealed that there are ten universal features to an epic party, that will require capturing in any online space:

    1. A theme or focus
    2. Great people
    3. A narrative through time
    4. Many different spaces
    5. Multisensory delights
    6. Great Music
    7. Dancing
    8. Costume
    9. Mind-altering potions
    10. Performances and entertainment

    Parties, in this model, are multi-players journeys through time-spaces of fun, that help their participants reach otherwise unattainable vistas of love, connection, joy etc. Given this, it seems conceptually certain that there are no barriers to having parties online: parties are already collective acts of imagination.

    With some friends in the Co-reality Collective, we recently put to the test whether it is indeed possible to satisfy all of these needs in an online party. What follows is an account of the design features and technical solutions we implemented to solve for that.

    We found not only that it is possible to have online parties that are as phenomenologically real as normal parties, but that some aspects of parties can actually be improved.  Truly, online parties can be banging.

    So that you can understand how to create your own epic online party, this post will take you through the four phases of the party we threw last weekend; we’ll then review learnings and present some reasons to believe that online parties may bring forth a new renaissance on party possibility.

    Finally, you’ll be able to sign up to help co-create or attend our next party, which will be happening on Saturday April 18th 2020, when we’ll be taking the architecture of online party time-space to the next level.

    The Zone Party – design and execution

    In accordance with a deep appreciation of the ten fundamental ingredients of great parties listed above, we took the time to design a party in four acts, for a fulsome spacetime experience capable of bringing people into new qualities of interconnection. Here’s how it worked:

    Act 1: Invitations and Party Build Up

    The trajectory of your consciousness in relation to a party begins the first time you hear about it. This ‘historicity’ of perception is something that Steve Jobs understood very well: your experience of the iPhone in your hand implicitly includes your first visit to the Apple Store, the aesthetics of opening the packaging, that flawless first boot up. We experience everything now as connected to the story that brought us here.

    So it is for parties: someone’s experience in the hot-tub at 3 a.m. bears the imprint of their first encounter with the party invitation, their wait in the queue, their first welcome. All of these moments are parts of a journey that collectively transports a consciousness to a new place. So it’s critical in designing online parties to think holistically and narratively.

    a) The party invitation

    First impressions are key, design your party accordingly!

    At the most basic level, produce an invitation. Prime the narrative. Ensure that the practical act of invitees inviting further people is attended to. Establish why your party is worth attending. We’ll see again and again that the level of party-goer commitment is constitutive of the quality of the party: you need to build commitment from the outset.

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    Since in our case we knew that due to philosophical confusion people tend to dismiss online parties as unreal, and online parties tend not to be parties at all but at best fragments of parties, we chose to theme three things heavily with our first invitation, in order to begin to structure party-goer expectation in profitable fashion:

    1. That this party was real
    2. That this party was a magical connection of multiple spaces together
    3. That a mysterious quest was involved

    Specifically, we invoked the philosophical question of what is real in human experience and desire, by invoking Tarkovsky’s stalker: a twighlit film where a bunch of men go in search of ‘The Zone’, a place where their deepest desires will come true.

    But in the film, they’re not quite sure whether they actually want to get to The  Zone, what their deepest desires are, and whether they really want them to come true. A bit like us with online parties.

    The graphics -kindly knocked out for free by Eszter Balogh in an hour- encouraged people to recognise that this wouldn’t be everyone stuck in the box of a single video call, but an autonomous adventure through a dynamic party space.

    b) People

    Because the party was happening online, we embraced an international crowd across five timezones, and timed the party for 8 p./m- 4 a.m. UK time, which is noon-8p.m. Californian time.

    We also made the invite-only so as to encourage a sense of scarcity, and to be able to exert some constraints on the style of people, in order to ensure that we could design the party for the needs and preferences of a specific audience.

    c) Further follow-up materials: the map, ticket purchase

    The next day, to ensure that people didn’t mistake this party for a “virtual” one, it was important to communicate, and generate excitement for, the amount of effort going into the invention of the party. So we circulated a map of the party so people could pre-imagine a little what would be taking place.


    This was Gaia’s sketch of the rooms through time. The party begins roughly at the bottom left of the picture at 8 p.m, passes through the Cabaret in the middle at midnight and ended at the top at 4 a.m. It also served as a mental model for time (for hosts and participants) and re-emphasised the notion that a chaotic sprawl of rooms would be the order of the day.

    This visual graphic would be constitutive of people’s experience throughout the party, even if it bore only a metaphoric relationship.

    It helped people build anticipation, make plans and prepare costumes. It helped frame in their minds that this would be an adventure worth preparing for. And it showed that there’d be somewhere fun for everyone.

    We also made people ‘purchase’ tickets (for free) via Eventbrite, and gave them the opportunity while doing so to donate to the artists. Again, all good hoops to jump through to ensure the right attitude on entry.

    d) Further preparation tips

    Since it was the first online party for most invitees, guidelines were key. It was important to build people’s mentality for the shared fiction, and encourage them to conceive of their own participation as contributory towards their experience at the party.

    Fortunately, we had a lot of Californians coming, whose experience of attending Burning Man each year means they understand in their bones that the essential experience of parties is one of participation, not consumption.

    Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 00.25.44.png

    So we did various further things to help people prepare, relating to the fundamentals of costumes and mind-altering liquids.

    For costumes, top rec was to actually prepare multiple outfits. Partying from home can turn us all into Madonnas.

    Second-best (and additive) costime move was to install Snap Camera. Snap camera is an astonishingly fun AR filter of the kind young people have been enjoying as a fundamental part of their social lives for the last five years, but which my generation found fundamentally mysterious. It gives anyone fancy-dress super-powers.

    For shared psychoactive substances, we advised people that it was BYOB and they need Prosecco for the reception, and spirits for the second half the party.

    We also encouraged participants to prepare mixed-reality spaces. We wanted people to pre-prepare Zoom backgrounds, so that collectively there’d be a feeling of being in the same space.

    But taking this a step back, in fact, we’d later insist  Later, in the hot-tub, admission was not permitted unless people were actually in their baths at home. The important way that proximal physical space can be used to drive the experience of virtual space is a fun topic for going deeper on later. 

    Along with further banter on the Facebook page, and hosts currying excitement, this got us to 250 excited people signed up for the party in the 48 hours between first coming up with the idea and the party beginning.

    Act 2: Entry and party introduction

    a) Queuing for entry

    We released the singular link to where the party would begin an hour before the event began. It took partygoers directly to the queue.

    The queue was an open Zoom room hosted by Maz and Frederick; operating in character as two bouncers with a high threshold of party-goer quality, they ensured that no half-hearted tourists would wind up lowering the party-bar. This is Frederick at the door. Note the virtual background.

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    The bouncers were difficult to get past

    The bouncers naturally took their time over each admission, vetting prospective party-goers at length for the quality of their costumes, snap filters, zoom backgrounds.

    Screenshot 2020-04-07 at 23.39.20.png

    The resulting length of the queue naturally provoked some dissatisfaction, including numerous complaints on the Facebook page. But these rumblings of discontent only served to advertise the reality and value of the party and heightened the pleasure people were later able to experience once they were finally inside.

    An interesting point to note here is that one of the bouncers (Fred) was in Malmo, Sweden; the other, Maz, was at her home in LA. Yet they were able to operate as a flawless duo.

    The upshot of all this was that anyone entering the party itself was committed. They’d got their ticket, they’d prepared their fancy dress, they’d queued, they’d built up some anticipation. And through doing all these things, they had cleansed themselves of the joylessness that can hobble every untreated adult human, and for which there can be no place at an actual party of quality.

    b). Grand reception hall

    I’m generally not a fan of themed passwords, having spent so many afternoons sitting in the waiting-rooms of vapid Silicon Valley VCs having to type things like  “99%perspiration” or “failfast” to get onto the wifi, but nonetheless we decided to make the passport to all Zoom rooms “thisisreal” to continuously prime the attitude of participants.

    Memory and perception are flip sides of the same coin: the quality of a party as you experience it depends on how well you’ll be able to remember it. Hence why memory-palace-techniques are key to good party-design: a journey through many distinctive spaces helps create more opportunity for distinctive memories, which is precisely the same as creating more opportunities for distinctive experience. So from the point of entry into the party, we ensured party-cipants could radiate out into a rich variety of spaces.

    This memory/perception link also shows up in via primacy and recency effects. How something begins and how something ends, are constitutive of how it is experienced.

    So a warm welcome is key. If someone is kind enough to come to your party, they need to be welcomed accordingly. It’s critical to greet guests with Greet with Prosecco, to make them feel valued and to encourade them to relax into the party by making some introductions.

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    Guests must be warmly greeted and served a drink on arrival 

    Here we used Zoom’s breakout room functionality to establish little conversational pockets for people to connect in smaller groups.

    One of the biggest weaknesses of Zoom is that individual people don’t have agency over whom they talk to, which is a shame and unlike real parties where one is in a constant game of judging whether one is going to refresh from this part of the conversation and find someone sexier or more fun to talk to. 

    Intimate conversation took place in breakout spaces

    Nonetheless, break out offer a decent way out, and we took the time to prepare rooms in advance to keep the sense of space. So we had mini-spaces “strategically poised by the canapés” and “by the windows” etc to sustain the fiction.  

    Up and until this point, the journey had been a structured, linear process

    Now we began from this entrance hall to open up rooms for free. We did so by annoucning the opening of rooms in the Zoom chats. “Toilets are now open here if you need them”. “Kitchen now open here” / “Golden gate dancefloor just sparked up with some beautiful Californian funk”. This was our Zoom equivalent of the natural social revelation of party space at typical IRL event.

    And so the party gradually became a dynamic flow of people between spaces of fun.

    c) Further rooms opened up in the first inflorescence of partying

    The toilet

    The toilet had no host. It was just a Berlin live-stream to an empty toilet space, and a few people gossiping. 

    Toilets and liminal spaces like smoking areas play a crucial role at all parties, as neutral zones with no background music or strong demands on expected party behaviour. They are therefore mini-worlds where people can chat with each other unsupervised, back-channel and gossip and understand what is going on, and do things like make out or take illegal drugs (which we do not endorse).

    Experientially, they are in some sense places where people can come up for air, or free zones- where the rules of the rest of the party no longer apply, where you can enjoy some privacy, shelter from the madness.

    The toilet was the first room we opened up, and it proved popular. Among the feedback, we were pleased to see this come through [the party contained]…

    “That familiar FOMO you get at parties when you realise you’ve been chatting in the toilets for 2 hrs and everyone else might be having a better time, or might have just left”

    We’d later find out that the Toilet space wasn’t appreciated by everyone, but for some it was fundamental. Much like toilets at real parties.

    This process wasn’t 100% smooth. When the toilet was first opened up, a partygoer called Alexander brightly volunteered to check it out. “I’ll be right back” he said, perhaps tempting fate.

    As it turned out he reappeared an hour and a half later back in the Grand Reception explaining that he’d forgotten to store the link back, and so he’d not been able to find his way back from the empty toilet and had to queue again from scratch, poor lamb. So from that point on we encouraged people to store any rooms they had visited for easy access later on their computers by copying the zoom addresses.

    And after more time, we simply released a Google Doc of all the rooms that had been revealed so far, with links and descriptions. A rudimentary map.

    The Kitchen-disco

    Another room we opened up early was the Kitchens. These tend to be the epicentre of houseparties, lying in tactically advantageous positions on the trade-routes to the alcohol and the snacks.

    In our case, the kitchen was a crazy disco

    The (Golden-gate) dancefloor

    A key practical feature of the dancefloors was the use of Twitch streams. for superior audio quality. For background music, one can  share audio directly through another’s computer (this works ok for background music) by going to “share screen”, clicking the “share audio” box, moving to “advanced” and saying just share computer audio.

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    The Golden Gate Dance Floor saw all manner of well-costumed ravers dancing around the world. 

    The Rumpus Room

    The Rumpus room was an object lesson in how to handle space in an interactive games room. Run by Iona, master space-holder and party gal, it was mad

    It’s a very energetically managed play-space of games of connection. making skillful use of breakout rooms, spotlight functionality (so you can show a particular good dancer to everyone) and so on.

    Iona has been on BBC news with her Madonna dance shows. When I get the video for this, I’ll embed it here.

    Act 3: Midnight ritual

    As we’ve examined, it is key that the party has some communal narrative and collective sense of spatiotemporal development. For this reason, we brought the whole party together into one room at its exact middle-point. Till then, the fun had been in discovering all the different corners of the party, dancing etc. Now, the community of the party came together. The management of this was quite well done, and bears examination.

    a) Building up a space of connection and performance

    A strip-tease evokes emotion in men and women alike.

    The midnight ritual began was prefigured by a fairly outstanding strip-tease conducted in the cabaret room as people began to gather. This evoked some desire and emotion in those who witnessed it and created an aura of performance on which to build. A visceral experience of desire can help bring people into

    b) Closure of all other spaces

    Meanwhile, in exact synchrony the hosts of all the rooms kicked everyone out and sent everyone to the Cabaret for the single, uniting group experience. Gradually the spaced filled up, hundreds of faces ready for the big event. The sense of coming together, or ritual and significance was palpable.

    c) Midnight ritual

    Then came the midnight ritual, which was where the implicit theme of the party -social connection and international solidarity in the face of physical distancing- was expressed.

    Gaia Harvey Jackson who ran it is an experienced conductor of such experiential rituals, and brought considerable expertise to bear in seemingly effortless fashion

    First, there was a moment of pause, contemplation, collective breathing and sighs.

    Then, as everyone came together, Gaia called for anyone directly affected by COVID to raise their hands to the screen, making visible who’d been directly personally affected. There must have been 20 people across the group whose hands went up, people who’d lost relatives, or whose partners were in hospital, or who were working in ICUs.

    It was a very striking moment amid all the fun and silliness to have the reality of the pandemic made personal and visible.

    Then Gaia bade everyone put their hands up in solidarity.

    This is a photo of Gaia at that point in time from the side: it looks unremarkable, but to experience the connection with people around the world, directly affected, to be able to communicate in solidarity, moved many tears.

    d) Sharing circle

    At this point, people stepped forward and shared feelings and experiences. A nurse in West Virginia working 18 hours shifts in an ICU. People with tales of loneliness and abandonment, fear and shame.

    e) Dance off to Bohemian Rahpsody

    After all this, there was nothing for it but for some embodioed movement all together, the finest way to bring people together.

    ” my hairs were standing on end and I felt electricity in my body when we all put our hands up together. It was important to have us all come together at this moment and have a ritual, amongst the general partying and chatting other times. Followed by Bohemian Rhapsody – perfection.”

    “I thought it was wonderful!! It was really really touching to put our hands to the screen, and to talk about how this was “real”. I actually shed a tear at that point. The continual repetition of “this is real” was important – it is real. It is sad this is all the connection we will have for months, but you made it *real*, it’s true.”

    f) Exchange of performances from within the group

    Performances are one of the fundamentals of great parties; and they’re at their most powerful when party-participants are the performers, showing themselves in vulnerability and witnessing each other in their unique being.

    So at this point, Gaia invited anyone who wished to express themselves to step forward. Poems, songs, dances, expressions of thought all poured further, in a generous, warm, supportive space.

    It was deeply moving: poems and songs people had written, dances they wished to share. This space of connection and vulnerability was for many the peak of the party.

    Act 4: The post-midnight frenzy

    The experience of having gone through to a place of deep emotional communication can give rise to a new energy, a new appetite for mayhem. Recall that we’d closed all the rooms down to create the space for this one, and so as the crowds dispersed back to the party, hosts fired back up new rooms, and the music got darker, louder.

    I must confess that it was at this point that the overall operational cogency of the party began to creak. Somebody forgot to reopen the toilets; rooms were abandoned. Hosts changed. When at 3 in the morning it occurred to me to check the grand reception, I found a journalist inside who’d been patiently waiting

    a) Reopening rooms for a second phase.

    Return of the kitchen, Rumpus room, Golden Gate dancefloor. But this time with new moods, new dynamics.

    b) The goddess yurt

    Parties require all manner of space to house different kinds of vibe. Goddess yurt was one such space that opened up around this time for deep conversation, Tarot readings, peace and quiet.

    c) The realm of divine beings

    This whacky space was almost perfect, but never quite made it into existence due to technical glitches. But rumour of it, of its divinity, of the amazing music and reiki healings, was enough to add some magic to the winds of possibility blowing through party-goers’ minds.


    There is a phase towards the end of any sprawling party where a second wind comes about. Normally a few gate-crashers have shown up with extra alcohol, as happened here. People are inebriated, they’re elated, they’ve made friends and connections and this is the phase where the most meaningful unexpected experiences tend to emerge: moments of romantic connection, vulnerability, intellectual epiphany and so on.

    It was as our party had begun to enter this zone, that rumour of the existence of the hot tub began to materialise

    d) The hottub

    Throughout the party, there had been significant speculation that the hot tub, if and when it opened, might in fact be The Zone.

    This is just the kind of credible rumour, a phantom paradigm, that helps to enliven the horizon of what might happen next at any party. Party-goers after all always exist in a productively indeterminate relationship to the future. They’re never quite certain, what is true, what might happen next? It turned out that, at least the existence of the hot tub was true.

    Screenshot 2020-04-08 at 01.39.23.png

    Here, the fact that the password for this room was different to others added credence to the claim. The fact that for a period of two hours, it wasn’t possible to have a conversation with someone in another room without rumours of the hot-tubs existence or contents arising added further vital allure.

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    The hot tub had mixed reality vibes

    I’m not a massive fan of hot tubs in real life, but the feeling of joy when I finally found my way into this one was astounding. And because in order to gain access I had to run a bath, get into it, and arrange my laptop on a chair, the sense of actually being in a hot-tub was real.

    In order to maintain the sanctity of the space, people were only allowed in if they participated properly, and a lovely hot0tub esque atnosphere duly emerged.

    I felt that the hot tub experience was a fucking joy to participate in. Never saw an explicit sign saying it was the zone, so who knows, but a safe, sensual, Intimate place to see and be seen and share the joys of serendipitous loving play was powerful medicine that I am grateful to have been part of.

    “I made it to the hottub! Glorious and delightful”

    Hot Tub. Activated my divine female <3

    Hot tub participants

    e) The Zone itself

    The zone had been advertised as the principal goal of the party, and the quest to discover this realm of deep reality as the organising principle of party-engagement.

    It was, according to the invitation, “the realest place in the lockdown, the place your deepest desires come true”. Naturally, given what was stated on the packet, party-goers sought the Zone right to the end of the party. To ask whether it existed would show a lack of imagination, a certain metaphysical conservatism, that wouldn’t do at all. So everyone embraced a cheerful hope that perhaps the Zone did exist as a room or emotion or possibility.  And, in the way of these things, many were thus able to find it:

    I found a Zone I liked in the Goddess Yurt The Zone is in us all, always! Xx

    My deepest desires did not come true. But some of my desires did come true including having authentic vulnerable connections with people, having fun, dancing, watching a super sexy strip show, hosting something edgy, and going with the flow. And I met a sexy being who we had a nice FaceTime date with the next day so that was an unexpected bonus. 🙂

    Wow, what a party!! Epic!! My favorite was the Zone. I didn’t know if it really existed but once I got there… whoa!!!! 

    I did. It was inside me.

    Party-cipants who experienced the zone

    A few autobiographical notes:

    To get the feel of this last phase of the closing phases of the party, it’s worth mentioning a few anecdotes from my own experience, which capture how well the “virtual” experience gave rise to immersive party-like experiences.

    One thing was that I kept on bumping into the same guy, Max, across multiple rooms. First in the hot-tub, then in the Rumpus Room, then on the Golden Gate dancefloor. We got to know each other, made friends, struck by the coincidence of how we kept on popping up in front of each other. Delightful serendipity!

    Second, I bumped into one of my best friends Dan eight hours after last having seen him at the beginning of the party, snorkelling away (snap filter) in the Rumpus Room in the middle of some mischief or other… “Oh my god, you’re still here! Where’ve you been?” I stuck around for a catch-up.

    Finally, I wound up, as sometimes happened in the parties of my youth, in a charged deep and meaningful with a symmetrical lady in the hot-tub for the last hour of the party. I’d popped in before heading home to bed to see if anything was going on and say my goodbyes, and soon finding myself as one of just he two occupants, felt it would be impolite to leave. Intimate heart-to-heart vibes sprung forth, and we talked till dawn.

    My flat afterwards looked like I’d had actually hosted a party, including the extinguished remnants of an actual fire in the kitchen and bottles of wine sprawled everywhere. It was an interesting physical testimonial to the passion and energy of the party.

    2. Assessment and learnings 

    Our first intention with this party was to achieve a level of “reality” equal to a normal party. In this, we were successful: of 25 responders to our post-party survey, reality was deemed 100% by 16. The person who responded 1/10 was taking their revenge, as they’d been turned away at the door for lacking a decent costume.

    Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 16.04.46.png
    In qualitative feedback, we got a better sense of *why* the party was experienced as so real:
    “How do I know for myself this party was real? Because everyone I met there was real — I could really feel your presence even across our physical distance. I know too because the experience challenged me sometimes to be more real, which only happens when I feel myself being seen. And because the next day I woke up with that precious afterglow that follows all the best parties, remembering snippets of conversation, emotions and ideas and perspectives taking root inside of me.This was not just a virtual ‘internet’ experience any more than a bus ride or a laundromat visit when shared with friends is ever just a ‘train’ or a ‘laundromat’ experience. The backgrounds change, but it’s the people in the foreground that see us through our lives. We are real for each other. And I know that this matters to me, because the whole night/day experience had me captivated for five hours, even after I’d just that day driven 700kms straight before arriving at our new house to discover that our digital key cards did not work (now solved, thankfully). Even though I was tired and wired, and in this state would never have sought out mere entertainment, I simply could not miss this moment of reality, because PARTIES ARE NON-NEGOTIABLE.”

    The experience was real. I was at a party and it was exciting and novel. Listening to poetry in the cabaret was a highlight and meeting people in break out rooms in the grand hall. I would consider going back for more experiences of that nature with more in depth conversations. I naturally got caught up in the dance halls.

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    Here’s what people loved:

    Loved the breakout rooms where you put with strangers for a random amount of time, loved dancing with people around the world, loved the shows/performances. Sounds quality was much better than I was expecting

    I liked that people joined from all over the world!
    The participation of all the beautiful partygoers! The deep thought and intention put into party planning and execution by the hosts <3
    spicy crowd. The themed rooms were soft suggestions so I felt comfortable saying no and yes. I loved the open and spontaneous nature of conversations and activities. I loved being able to cook a pizza and drink truly’s from the comfort of my rolly chair! Thanks ya’ll the event was absolutely magical and so crucial for us social creatures! Thank youuu!!
    Changes from dance to real talk . Non judgment . gender equal.
    Meeting and connecting with other people who are as delightfully weird as I am through the magic of creativity, intention, and a splash of technology.
    The people. The cameraderie. The sense of exploration.
    Of having no free-will in being sent to a room
    The chance to loop into any room and leave, come and go as you please. Going on a hunt for the best thing… see what you find… an exploration. Like jumping from tent to tent at a festival sniffing out the good tunes and the fab people.
    Finding the secret rooms and chasing down your friends around the experience
    everyone’s committment to the party!
    The amount of anticipation
    Meeting people from around the world.
    The sense of humour and the playfulness, and the warmth that every single human there brought to it. So warm. Also people were really good at letting each other speak one person at a time – I was at another party Friday, and everyone was talking over each other, it was impossible to understand anyone. Really good etiquette and chemistry in this one.
    The toilet conversations. Having opportunity to bounce to different spaces. Feeling overwhelmed just as if I was in a party.
    Loved the breakout rooms where you put with strangers for a random amount of time, loved dancing with people around the world, loved the shows/performances. Sounds quality was much better than I was expecting
    Being at the party. the novelty of it, the creativity, the fun, the people. I can’t pick just one!! 😉

    genuine impromptu conversation
    It had a pioneering spirit about it. I loved people’s costumes, there was someone who was a worm floating in a yellow screen. It was silly, and warm and everyone was excited to connect and to explore. It had a feeling of festivity and curiosity.
    The People who participated in it. The sense of connection
    Loved the multi national aspect
    all the things that were out of your control added to the feeling of a social event that you can’t control, like a party. like the queue and then being paired off into break out rooms, that was good at the beginning. If a bit awkward at times. It was easier when you had a question to discuss – helped to break the ice with total strangers. It was free if you wanted it to be. (much easier to register free than to pay – i was going to pay, but then there was a whole signup/ put your card details in thing and I quit and just got the ticket for free). You could go without leaving your own home. Bar was supermarket prices. Met some cool people. could change disguises. Felt there was stuff going on. That familiar FOMO you get at parties when you realise you’ve been chatting in the toilets for 2 hrs and everyone else might be having a better time, or might have just left.
    The hot tub and the dance floor, also the people ! 🙂

    Here’s where things can be improved:

    I joined very late, but wished I could understand the intentions behind each room before entering. Also, I wasn’t sure how to find the other rooms and ended up having to flat-out ask for someone to share links.
    I liked the dancefloor breakout room idea, to connect deeper with someone who’s eye you might catch on the dancefloor.
    Hmmmm… I had a really great time, so I just want to encourage creativity!
    Group games to foster connections. I know there was the Rumpus Room but I didn’t make it there this time around.
    Self-views should be turned off except in the toilet, like a real party — that’s where the mirrors are. Dancefloor time should include breakouts for random, curated, or self-selected small group boogies. People motionless on dancefloor for more than a minute should be transported to the bar to refuel their spirits (at the bar the music from the dancefloor can still be heard, but the quality is poor, much like zoom audio.
    Lesser queuing time
    a live map with links of rooms and experiences opening up
    I wish all the rooms were accessible. Also, I was in the Cabaret room for the ritual at midnight by accident and now a bit worried I could have missed it.
    The idea that the queue would only accept one person at the time was a bad Idea, should have had a waiting room with break out sessions to check if they where ready
    Being able to stay in the rooms without being kicked out then loosing connection (system issue)
    I’d like it not to be so hard to get the codes for new rooms. I understand you want to create an element of play, and make it a little bit like a video game with a bit of a challenging component so there’s a sense of reward when you get to a new room, but it does make it feel a little bit “in crowd out crowd”, “too cool for school”, when you want to get somewhere and you can’t. At 2am in London there was a few places I wanted to visit but couldn’t get the codes from anyone, and couldn’t be arsed to stay up two more hours with no new places to visit.
    No waiting rooms. Also the toilet didn’t open back up after the midnight session.
    The initial queue was long but it bumped up the anticipation and gave time for pre-drinking. Maybe clearer signing of where I could see what art/performances when?
    How can we send everyone a party bag beforehand?
    Improved sound
    Maybe have it be more clear ahead of time what the vibe would be in each room. But overall, it was awesome!!!
    more clarity around timing…?
    List the rooms and zooms. Having to reconnect to each room and copy a url is annoying
    I need to work out how to use Zoom and probably get a new laptop. Although I liked the feeling of confusion. I’d like to encounter more stalwarts like the bouncers, it had a computer gameishness to it about finding the magical digital world where someone’s doing A Thing and you get to be part of it for a while and then flit away.
    I don’t really think improvement’s required. It was a wonderful, organic experience, that’ll be equally so at ZONE2.. Can’t wait until we party again.
    maybe actually insist on the prosecco reception – I had mine ready but didn’t feel like having it on my own – prosecco is such a group experience.. It was interesting to have a quest to find links to rooms via various room, and as a dedicated person I did gather about 8 of those, but after midnight there was no access to the grand reception, the toilet or kitchen disco, those rooms died.. Maybe worth not having a host there or have an auto/robot host that will let everyone in automatically? The body paint wasn’t a body paint, but the normal paint, which was a bit disappointing :))

    A quick note on economics:

    A final note is that we took £700 (c. $1000) of donations for the newly income-stream deprived artists. Which was pretty good!

    5. Plans for future parties

    Conducting this party has shown us that it is perfectly possible to have truly banging parties online, parties of complete reality, parties that are wild, where people connect, flirt, make friends, achieve transient trascendence and so on.

    This should come as no surprise since parties were always forms of multi-player imagination, the invention of new spaces of reality to come together and connect within.

    As ever in life, the quality of the experience comes from the people and their commitment as participants. As engines of consciousness, parties need to be carefully curated to bring marvelous people in a spirit of openness and participation into shared experiential journeys. So the principles are much the same as they would be for any party, as described in a previous post.

    A few notes on how we’ll deploy these learnings next time:

    a) The importance of active design of the time-space of the party

    People loved the journey to the party, the queueing, the hoops to jump through. The hero’s journey of a party is constitutive of the final experience, and has to be carefully preserved.

    The gradual revelation of new spaces, the rhythm of the party, the energy and mystery and FOMO of what might be happening elsewhere were all key. A reminder that parties are made up of time and space and people, and that one needs to combine them carefully into extravagant journeys.

    I loved the que, door person, multiple rooms of empty and full. I loved the maze of getting into different rooms, the cabaret shifting to the hot tub was an unexpected suprise. I enjoyed listening to my internal narrative at the party, apparently I decide whether or not I feel bored within seconds of talking to someone 🤯

    c) Improvements to dance floors

    The dancefloors were some of our highest rated rooms, and undoubtedly the engage sensorimotor activity of dancing brings people closer than mere visual presence.

    A couple of tweaks to the timespace were called for however:

    • Break out rooms on dancefloors- for seductive exchange.
    • No selfie cam- let’s focus on others

    d) Improvements to overall party navigation

    There were some clear things people asked for that can be improved for next time. We made errors in putting waiting rooms on meetings  and we made it unnecessarily difficult to navigate between the rooms. To increase the phenomenological realism of exploration, we want to find a way next time to give a visual “preview” of rooms before entering so someone can get a sense

    All of this goes hand in hand with slightly more rigorous party organisation.

    e) Rocksolid background organization

    We did in fact have a fairly bureaucratic gant chart to help manage the rooms, voila:

    Screenshot 2020-04-11 at 15.58.44.png

    However, it took a lot of proactive improvised behind-the-scenes management from a spontaneously appointed chief operating officer to mange things. And various mistakes were made with Zoom room configuration, leading to, for example, people being stuck in unnecessary waiting rooms.

    Robust rotas are key: the toilets closing prematurely upset someone who was trying to score illegal drugs there, presumably, in the early hours; and our DJ on the Golden Gate Dancefloor had to maintain the space solo for nine hours straight, and was thus not being able to see any of the rest of the party.

    So from an organisational point of view, very clear room management rotas, Zoom settings, and clear operational live management of the party are all important.

    f) Democratisation of the epic

    What is so exciting about the time-space of online parties, is how unlimited they are in possibility and scope. Since a party of a thousand rooms is eminently possible, it’s just a matter of coordinating the time-space effectively, and ensuring that everything plays into a cogent theme, with a cogent narrative.

    Online parties represent, at some level, the possibility of the great democratisation of the ability to make incredible parties. This all, of course, has dystopian possibilities, but in online space we’re unlimited in the magnificence of the buildings and costumes that we can conjure, so  

    g) Taking mixed reality to the next level

    An interesting discovery at this party was the great importance of mixed reality.

    Aligning partygoers with the same theme, alcohol, prepared spaces etc., is a clear area of opportunity. When we were all drinking prosecco together, or all rocking out in our kitchens, or all in our bathtubs in the hot water, the sense of connection and reality only surged.

    Next time, it’ll be tempting to prescribe party packs and more elaborate instructions so people can in their own homes, create shared mixed reality spaces that

    The next party

    At the Co-reality collective, we believe that parties are the ultimate art-form, and the supreme arena for human self-expression, and it is our conviction that online parties can open up new horizons of excellence in party design.

    So we’re excited to be doing another online party on Saturday April 18th, next weekend.

    You can sign up by filling in this survey here.

    We’ll be taking these learnings, and seeing if we can do for a 2500 people what we managed for 250.

  • How to expand subjective time during the lockdown and beyond.
    Reading Time: < 1 minute

    A three-step technique for creating space, slowing down and enhancing creativity.

    One of the challenges of living, working and socializing all from home during this Pandemic-induced lockdown is that the spatial structure of our days has been largely dissolved: where before we’d have a repertoire of different spaces for different activities, now everything’s happening at home.

    “When one has much to put in them, a day has a thousand pockets.”
    – Nieztsche

    If you think about a typical pre-COVID day for someone who works in an office for example, events are naturally distinguished by where they take place. 

    In my case, I’d get up, exercise in the park, cycle to the office, work and have discussions in different meeting rooms, go out for lunch, return to the office, go for a walking meeting, perhaps zip across town for a meeting in a café; and then after work, I’d often meet someone for food and sometimes go a concert or an exhibition: all in different, distinct locations… in short, my day would have as its backbone an elaborate spatial journey.

    But with this lockdown, even though much of the content of my former lifestyle has been recreated digitally (including the parties- the subject of another post), it’s all now happening in my flat on my laptop. So all this experience has lost any meaningful spatial component. 

    The troubling consequence of this is that the day can feel without shape, and time can seem to slip past; it’s relatedly more difficult to remember what happened… and despite in some sense now having more time… it’s easy to feel as though I have less.

    Moreover, without clear demarcation of work and home life, the preoccupations of the day naturally infest my evenings… it becomes more difficult to turn off, and equanimity and mental freshness can suffer. 

    Having struggled with this, I’d like to offer an analysis of why this happens based on how we humans apprehend time and space, followed by a three-step technique for structuring your home-life during the lockdown in which you can conduct a substantially more spacious, creative and calm existence.

    Before we get to that, though, let’s consider how we relate to time and space cognitively, to understand our options.

    How we experience time

    Space and time are deeply interconnected in our way of understanding the world, and indeed time is mostly conceived through spatial metaphors. 

    We compute these metaphors so effortlessly, that we’re rarely aware of their presence in our experience. But whenever we “squeeze in a trip to the gym between meetings” or “look forward to the summer”, or talk of “distant memories” a “crowded schedule” or “way back when” or indeed when we enjoy “bitesize” content or bemoan the boringness of a “long argument”, we’re borrowing our mental mastery of space to imagine and reason about time.  

    Specifically, our spatial metaphors for time carry an underlying mapping: 

    1. time = space or journey through space
    2. moments of time = locations or objects in that space 

    These metaphorical schemas are amazingly flexible and sophisticated. When we say a busy day is “back-to-back” with meetings, we’re imagining the day (time) as a container (space) and our activities (which take time) as objects (smaller space-occupying entities) filling that container. In this example, the objects fill the container so tightly that they press against each other, leaving no space (i.e. time) for that coffee at which you wished to pick my brains, or whatever. Therefore, even if I just respond “sorry I’m back to back” you immediately grok my meaning. 

    This is of course taken to a nefarious extreme by calendars, which reduce time to a grid of boxes in space- with very potent, and many regrettable, consequences for our experience of our lives. That though is a different subject to the one we have on our hands here.

    Now, while the high-level mapping of time to space is almost ubiquitous in cognition, there are interesting cultural and contextual variants. In Chinese culture, time goes up and down, not forward and backward, as it does in western cultures. We’ll avail ourselves of that flexibility later.  Even with the forward/backward time relationship in English, we flexibly use different sub-variants, without necessarily realizing that that’s what we’re doing. 

    “Wednesday’s meeting has been brought forward by two days. What day is it now on?”

    Some will say “Monday”, others “Friday”. Both make perfect sense, but which you choose depends on whether you imagine from an object- or observer-centric framework. In the observer-centric case, the event currently sitting in the space of Wednesday is an object being brought forward towards you, the observer, which will land it on Monday; but if you assume an object-centric perspective, you are Wednesday and move forward two days in time, landing on Friday. Check our Lera Boroditsky’s extraordinary work on the embodied cognition of time, from which these examples are taken. 

    Anyhow, this mapping of time to space is of course a good design principle for the mind, since, in the normal peripatetic run of things, different events happen in different spaces, as we saw earlier with my routine. This natural pattern or constraint cascades down into how memory works: indexing very thoroughly on the spatial. We remember things primarily by where they happen, and only indirectly by when. This is incidentally why “memory palaces” are such a potent device for remembering things in sequence (i.e. time): they leverage our powers of spatial recollection to structure long temporal sequences in our imaginations through imagery.  

    Why living all of life in a confined space can mess with our sense of time, and feel cramped and stressful. 

    We’ve seen how our experience of time is rooted in our apprehension of space, and how this is reflected in memory. So when we stop moving around over the course of the day, we shouldn’t be surprised that it messes with our experience. 

    And this is why a day spent all in one spot will tend to feel like it’s passed quicker: as we experience the sequence of activities in our day, each is a little bit less distinctive and differentiated than it would be under normal conditions because it lacks spatial context, and the different portions of the day then bleed into each other.

    This interfusion of the different parts of the day diminishes them all. Your yoga headspace carries into your work headspace carries into your argument with your flatmate headspace carries into your creative time headspace, and the resources of your mind are never fully focused on any one of these things.

    And this lack of distinctness to individual moments in your day has its flip side in memory, where because there are no spatial hooks for it to gain purchase on, it becomes difficult to remember what we did: there are no differentiated locations to trigger recollection. It’s as if all the photographs have been made on top of each other on a single print. 

    And when we lack spaciousness like this, things quickly begin to feel claustrophobic, monotonous and stressful.

    How we can control our experience of space and time using our imaginations.  

    We’ve seen that time is spatial, and that when we take spatial experience away, it can be stressful and confusing. What to do about this?

    Well, it turns out that our dependence on space is both the disease and the cure to this one: by imagining and relating to our spaces differently, we can regain control of our experience of our time.   

    In order to manipulate back into health our diminished experience of time, that is, we simply have to manipulate our experience of space- with the tools at our disposal. 

    This might seem tricky, given we’re stuck indoors, but in fact our experience of space is much more highly contextual, subjective and full of opportunities for alteration than we normally imagine, or commonly admit.  

    This is because space as it arises in our experience (which we often confuse with the space of physics) is not a feature of the world, but of our relationship to it. By changing how we relate to our home spaces, we can transform them. 

    One way of seeing this is to think of how we tend to be surprised when we revisit places last seen in early childhood: they seem much smaller than we remembered, because when we were small they were relatively bigger in relation to us. 

    This phenomenon goes way beyond the size of our bodies, into their skills, interests and athleticism: people with heavy backs perceive slopes as steeper, for example; we experience the world in terms of how we can act within it.   

    To get a handle on how our experience of space is our experience of our possible movements, ask yourself this: have you ever had the strange experience that an empty room can come to feel larger when it is filled with furniture?

    How can this be? Well, one way of thinking about this is that now the space is structured, there are more opportunities for movements than before: it, therefore, is bigger so far as your body is concerned. 

    On top of this, we don’t experience spaces devoid of their emotional, social and pragmatic contexts. Space isn’t just a container, but a field of action, pregnant with significance: for example, people can tell almost as much about your personality by looking at picture of your office or bedroom than they can from meeting you personally.  

    A carpenter’s studio invites a totally different set of actions than a kitchen and feels correspondingly different- even if laid out much the same. Changing the colour of the walls of a room can make it feel more spacious, warmer, more formal, more calming. 

    So we see from all of these examples that our experience of space is highly embodied, contextual, and subject to all manner of emotional layerings. This gives us a clear set of tools for how to change our experience of time in a restricted space: by manipulating our patterns of behaviour, emotion and perception.  

    With this analysis in our back pocket, let’s look at five strategies that can be deployed against the problem of expanding subjective time in the lockdown, which collectively add up to turning your home into a kind of memory palace.  

    The three-step technique

    1. Divide your home into a set of distinct locations, with activities for each  

    Your home is your new city. Let’s kit it out accordingly.

    Of course, we need to work with the tools at our disposal: which will seem meagre to begin with, but all of which we will see can be applied to an arbitrarily small space.

    First, choose ten activities you want to accommodate in your lockdown

    Ten activities is a good basic repertoire. I do in my life: sleep, yoga, reading, washing, working, writing (managerial), work (creative), exercising, partying, eating/socialising.

    Your repertoire will, of course, be different depending on what you like doing, and need to do. It’s actually quite fun to reflect on your life and make a list of ten best-version-of-you core activities. Not a bad moment to dig out that list of unactioned new year’s resolutions: that habit of a daily workout? Now’s a good time to actually begin doing it.

    Another way of finding your ten activities, is simply to think “what are the activities I’d love to be able to do somewhere else, but I can’t”?

    Whichever way you create your list, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes of honest, joyful self-reflection.

    Next, find ten locations around your home to which to assign these activities

    Reminder: to be calm during the storm, we want to have clear, differentiated spaces in which we can conduct the activities of our new life in a way that we are “insulated” from distraction, and in such a way as to foster calm, creativity and joy.

    So the next step is to select ten distinct locations within the overall space of your home, to which you’ll uniquely assign these actvities.

    For me, I had to choose ten locations across the four available rooms to me: bedroom, bathroom, living room, kitchen. If you have more space than this, be expansive. If you have less, zoom in. 

    You really can do all this in quite small spaces. The only constraint here is to ensure these locations are each at least a metre or so apart from each other. I think it would be just about possible with a bit of creativity to do this in the smallest flat I ever lived in, a 3x3m garret in Paris in my early twenties.

    Not having much space to play with is actually part of the fun. I’m grateful I don’t live ibn a castle: it would remove the opportunity for creativity.

    To illustrate, I have had to set up four different locations in my sitting-room, for example, and three in my bedroom. Neither room is especially large. One important trick when you are creating several locations in a small room, is to ensure that when you’re in those spaces, that you’re pointing in different directions: out of sight is out of mind, and this will help them differentiate the locations later and make them feel “insulated” from each other. In this way, in that old cell-like flat in Paris, I’d have arranged the spaces “looking outwards” roughly in the four corners, and against the four walls, with a space in the middle to get to ten. 

    Assign activities to locations

    After you’ve chosen ten locations, link the activities to them uniquely. I have several types of work requiring a desk, and so I have set up three tables in my living room and I move tables to do different kinds of work. 

    So, zooming in on my livingroom, we have three desks, pointed in different directions, for different kinds of work. The Eastern desk (in front of the window) is for working on managerial tasks at Memrise -a diversity of tasks. The Southern-facing one (less than 2 metres away) is also for working on Memrise, but this is for creative work- which I especially enjoy, but which can be difficult to find intellectual and emotional space for in the course of a busy day. The third desk (facing West) is for writing. This way, I’ve created differentiation between these kinds of work. 

    My full list of locations and activities is then this:

    1. Bedroom: Bed (sleep)
    2. Bedroom: floor by bed (yoga)
    3. Bedroom: Rocking chair by window (reading)
    4. Bathroom (washing)
    5. Sitting room: East wall (working)
    6. Sitting room North wall (working)
    7. Sitting room West wall (writing) 
    8. Sitting room: space in middle (exercising)
    9. Kitchen (eating) 
    10.  Bar counter between kitchen and living room (partying)

    Now’s the moment then to get

    2. Imaginatively amplify the distinctiveness of these spaces

    We now have different locations for different activities. The next step is to amplify. their felt differentiation using our imaginations, and a few props.

    Remember, space is a space by dint of the full gamut of the perceptual and emotional experience that is taking place within it. So we can change space by manipulating the experiences

    Our key levers here are:

    • The activity itself
    • Props (photos, hats, lamps)
    • Lighting
    • Music
    • Aromas (candles, food)
    • Simple imagination.

    To see how we can leverage these easily controlled inputs to create differentiation, let’s look at some examples. 


    I’ve kitted out my bathroom as a Hammam (by adding a chair, a kettle, and some imagination). Where before, I’d be in and out in five minutes, I now hang out there for 30 minutes with my (imaginary) friends, the room steamed up by running a lidless kettle into the corner and letting it boil. 

    Sitting room (4 locations)

    In my sitting room,  I’ve set up, as we saw, four locations: three separate desks and exercise space. 

    To stop them interfering with each other (i.e. feeling like the same space), I ensure with music, props and lighting that each has an entirely different feel and vibe to the others: to go along with the different patterns of activity and so on.

    So when I’m at the East Desk (reserved for Memrise managerial work) I have a fully differentiated multi-sensory set-up that changes the character of the whole room, and effectively makes the location I’m at feel like a totally different space.

    Specifically, when sat this desk, I keep all the curtains drawn, play Balkan music whenever I’m say there and imagine I’m in Croatia. On my desk, I keep a photo of Novak Djokovic and hanging on the nearby cupboard is a traditional Croatian dress. All of these things in combination give the location the feel of a totally different room. 

    If I then move to the North desk (which takes me ten minutes, as we’ll see later) I open the curtains, change the music to jaunty Italian Tarantella, and enjoy a spacious paper-only desk environment. On the wall in front of me is a view of the Italian town of Cividale that I once ineptly painted. No matter, I imagine it as a window and I’m in Italy, doing wonderful free creative tasks. Again, it feels like I’m not only in a different room but in a totally different country. 

    The West desk is for writing: things like this blogpost, love letters to my girlfriend (currently quarantined in Burgundy, France), and other purely verbal activities. The wall in front of me is covered in bookshelves. Since this is a space of pure ideas, and we’ve already established it’s in effect possible with these techniques to change country, I take it a bit further here and imagine I’m entering into a beyond-worldly magic space of pure imnagination. The music genre here is jazz, and since I tend to sit here at night, the lighting’s also naturally different. My props here include my computer, but I keep the internet off to aid the sense of isolation.  


    I visit the kitchen three times in the day, but I make sure that each feels like a different experience. 

    My kitchen in the morning is a French Café. I drink coffee while listening to French radio. I eat a croissant. I talk to myself in French. I complain about the government. No mobile phones are allowed. 

    It’s all very different in Berlin (lunchtime). Here I’m in Kreuzberg, surrounded by hipsters. I’m listening to Wagner. I’m talking to myself in German. I’m actually not listening to Wagner, I’m playing café sounds to give me a sense of being in an energetic social spot. 

    In the evening, there isn’t a specific nationality to the kitchen: it’s more of a guest spot for different cultures depending on what I’m cooking. Devices are actually allowed in the kitchen in the evening (as I like to dine over Zoom with a friend and a bottle of wine).

    But all in all, the kitchen manages to be three spaces only through changing up the food, the attitude, the music, the props.  


    My favourite location is the rocking-chair by the bedroom window. I’d picked this up off the street years ago and it had sat there broken and never-sat-upon as a vague never-quite-prioritized to-do item.

    Self-isolation and duct tape dealt with that, and now I can read before bed while calming myself down after the energetic day by rocking myself back and forth. An aromatic candle further changes the mood, and my bedroom is now a no-device zone so if there’s a disaster I won’t get to know about it till tomorrow morning.

    In sum

    You won’t land on a set-up this elaborate overnight. You can gradually experiment and find what feels right in terms of props, music, rules, lighting, and activities in each location around your home.

    But the basic principle is very simple: by behaving in thought, imagination and action as if each location is an entirely different space/room/country, you make it feel so.

    And this does a massive amount to free us from the sense of claustrophobia and time-disappearance that living all day in one place can occasion.

    3) Design your preferred daily adventure, then perform it. 

    Our next step is to build a schedule for our days that travels through our newly invented repertoire of spaces: which may now exist in many different countries, yay!

    Designing your daily journey

    But schedules suck. They constrain and control, and we don’t want too much of that. So the way we’re going to organise our day’s activities is to transform our schedule into more of an adventurous travel-journey. Doing so is pretty simple: we just need to decide on our itinerary.

    To do this, simply pick a path through your new city-home that fits with what you need to do across the day. Writing it down helps. This is your daily journey in the new imagination-built city in your home. Hopefully, we manage through this tool to construct a daily routine as exciting as any that ordinary life could offer.

    Performing your daily journey

    We have all the pieces in place, now we just need to begin performing them. 

    A few tips follow as to how to do that in the most effective way possible. 

    Stick to your itinerary

    Itineraries work best when you stick to them, so keep a softly sounded alarm of some kind to let you know when it’s time to move on. Pomodoro is a good tool for this.

    Consider changes in costume between activities

    Often in normal life, we habitually change clothing for the different activities in our day: with different outfits for work, gym, socialising etc.

    It’s good to reproduce these habits in our new city-home. Even small changes do good work to make different moments feel different: the addition of a hat, putting on a jumper, changing our shoes. And they take hardly any time to implement.

    Use physical activity to amplify transitions between spaces

    A dominant feature of our experience of spaces, and of times, is landmarks and moments of significant transition. This is why rituals are so important to creating experiential space: they act as tools to amplify transitions in our moods. 

    To boost differentiation between moments in our day, getting moving acts a ‘reset’: there’s nothing like it to freshen yourself physically and emotionally. My current favourite mode of doing this is dancing socially for five minutes: by powering up Zoom and getting on a virtual dance party. But press-ups stretches or even jumping jacks equally get the job done. 

    My advice is to aim for one of these approximately hourly and to deploy them even if you’re not changing location.  

    Consider adding a “travel-time” layer

    This one is for the advanced practitioner.

    Let’s return to our core inspiration: the city. The nature of a city is that it takes time to get between places, which enriches the overall experience and introduces breaks and stimulation between activities. To solve the problem of an absence of the experience of travel-time and the consequent reduction in felt spaciousness, we have to add these back in with a bit of embodied, performative imagination.

    The baller options here is to magnify the scale of your flat by simply forbidding yourself from moving at a normal speed between rooms. After extensive experimentation, I’ve found that an allowed pace of 1-2cm/second works well for moving between spaces (this only applies to changing locations, by the way, you’re going to need to move around at your desk at normal speed). But I wouldn’t recommend this on day one, you won’t have the discipline yet. 

    Whether you choose a physical activity or slowed movements, in time these embodied practices begin to make the whole flat seem much larger. Space is, after all, relational. And there are in fact numerous additional benefits to this approach. You realize, for example, that there’s a ten-minute walk or ten press-ups between you and the fridge (even though  it’s just 6m away), and so you begin to find it much less tempting to grab a snack mid-task.

    An  example schedule

    Here’s an example of what a schedule can look like, once you’ve divided your home into ten locations for unique activities, and ‘gamified’ the transitions between the spaces.

    • 6-6.15 a.m. Wake up, travel to Hammam
    • 6.15 -7 a.m. Wash, hang out in the Hammam, dress
    • 7-7.30 a.m Commute to Paris (kitchen), while listening to a podcast
    • 7.30- 8 a.m Enjoy Parisian breakfast, coffee, French radio.
    • 8-8.15 a.m. Commute to Croatia (East desk) 
    • 8.15-12.30 a.m: Croatia. Management work / meetings on Memrise. Occasional breaks to dance between tasks. 
    • 12.30-1 p.m. Freshen mind with 30 min stroll through the Park (central living room) on way to Berlin. 
    • 1 p.m- 1.45 Lunch: Berlin lunch. 
    • 1.45- 2 p.m. Commute to Italy while calling family members.
    • 2-4 p.m. North desk: creative Memrise work in Italy listening to Tarantella
    • 4-4.15p.m Jog to Croatia (through park)
    • 4.15-6.45 p.m More Memrise management work in Croatia (East desk) 
    • Travel to Ukraine (kitchen, last night)
    • 7 p.m. Cooking and dinner with friend over Zoom
    • 8- 8.15 p.m Travel by bicycle to the West desk (realm of pure ideas)
    • 8.15p.m- 10.15 p.m.  West Desk writing in pure realm of ideas. 
    • 10.15p.m.10.30 p.m. Walk home to bedroom.
    • 10.30-midnight: Rocking chair reading until sleep.

    If suitably enacted, each of the events in this schedule will be insulated emotionally and mentally from the others and will lead to gloriously pure and focused consciousness, as well as a very clear recollection of the events once they’re completed.  

    To sum it all up

    Time in the lockdown can slip away from us, and disturb our mental tranquility. Being locked up inside our homes can be claustrophobic, stressful, boring and uncreative. This simple methodology will allow you to free yourself from these issues. 

    By combining perceptual, bodily and imaginative techniques, the featureless open scape of a day at home can assume all the spatial trappings of an adventure out around a city, with all the benefits of fun, memorability and distinctiveness, but none of the incidental opportunities for contracting COVID-19. 

    When you get this method spinning, you’ll feel calmer. You’ll feel like you have more time in the day. You’ll be able to concentrate with a greater purity of focus. You’ll be able to do more different things throughout the day. And you’ll have a tonne of fun while you’re doing them, which is something we all need a bit of in our lives right now.

    Finally, with luck, you may find that the core principles underlying this technique will serve you well even when you’re back to living out in the world again. I’m certainly intending on keeping the bedroom as a no-device zone, and on keeping the Hammam too: if nothing else, this lockdown has taught me that I have been under-using my bathroom like a muppet.