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:
- A theme or focus
- Great people
- A narrative through time
- Many different spaces
- Multisensory delights
- Great Music
- Mind-altering potions
- 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.
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.
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:
- That this party was real
- That this party was a magical connection of multiple spaces together
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 hot tub esque atmosphere 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 ❤
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.
“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.
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 expectingI 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 ❤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 roomThe 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 experienceeveryone’s committment to the party!The amount of anticipationMeeting 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 expectingBeing at the party. the novelty of it, the creativity, the fun, the people. I can’t pick just one!! ?genuine impromptu conversationIt 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 connectionLoved the multi national aspectall 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 timea live map with links of rooms and experiences opening upI 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 readyBeing 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 soundMaybe 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 annoyingI 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:
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.