We’ve been getting a lot of questions about the weird thing we’re doing on our home page. Most of them are some version of WTF? So I thought I’d share a little about what it is, why we’re doing it, and where it’s going.
I believe strongly in the potential of digital spaces to foster amazing communities. So many of the people I care deeply about, I never would have met if it hadn’t been for Twitter and blogging and various pockets on the Internet. But 2016 feels like the year when so many of the places I’ve hung out have devolved drastically. Instead of feeling like a safe, exciting place full of amazing people, it’s started to feel like a company of strangers talking (often yelling) at the same time.
It’s gotten me thinking about how to be more intentional about the way we connect with people online. Is it possible to do it better than we’re doing it now? How can we reject the defaults and assumptions of social media and invent our own way of being with others on the Internet?
When I think about the times in my life when I’ve felt a deep sense of belonging, they are extremely rare. One of those times was last year’s &yetConf. I wasn’t employed by &yet at the time and I didn’t help out with the conference in any way. I was just a guest. But the event was so much more than an event for me…it was an experience that changed the way I thought about people, and about the things we can do together to create the future we want to live in.
But mostly, it changed the way I thought about community. I remember standing in the lobby of Richland’s historic Uptown Theatre, looking around me at this eclectic mix of people interested in the same things I was, and thinking that I could stay in that moment for the rest of my life and be happy. We were all so different, and yet I belonged with every single one of those people.
We didn’t have an &yetConf this year (though I’m really pulling for us to do another one soon!). But I think that’s a good thing. My intense desire for that kind of community is challenging me to think about how we can do that on the Internet. We have so much technology and creativity at our disposal; surely we can create an experience that brings us together in a deeper way than we’ve previously been able to do online.
So we wrote a story/play/RPG adventure, and then imagined how we could use it to introduce an experiment in community…something that brings us together to continue exploring the themes we started talking about at &yetConf: the intersections between technology, humanity, meaning, and ethics. And we put it on our home page so no one could miss it.
As far as for what’s happening next, most of that is a surprise. But I guarantee that if you are interested in the people part of technology (or if you like fun at all), you’re going to want to participate. And you know what? You should. Because it won’t be the same without you.