Can we create digital intimacy in times of physical distancing?

With the Co-Reality Collective I developed a virtual party to find out if we can create deep and meaningful connections.

Party map made by Jana Kreisl

I went to a digital party.

We played many wonderful games.

I must say the fun was intense.

I couldn’t have liked it more.

We found out there are key ingredients needed in the mix for digital intimacy

1. Narrative matters

We invited our friends to a party inside the human body (via Zoom). Our guests could click on a body part of their choice to have a different adventure in each room. It all began in the shrinking station, the only way to get into the party. Afterall we had to make sure we all could fit! We meet performers who are dressed up like white blood cells security squad. They explain us the safety and social rules before the party begins.

From the shrinking station all of our guests slid down the tongue to a reception in the mouth. First they mingled a bit between the teeth with all the other strangers at the party, later they navigated the bloodstream to different spaces of gatherings inside the host body. Each party space had a different state and objective : heartily the heart, brainy in the brain, mingle while you snack something in-digestion, listen to concert in the ear, be spiritual in the third eye, dance funk in the trunk, or get silly in the bladder.

This was Co-reality collective’s third virtual party, a party in places unimaginable for real life gatherings. The previous parties were at “The Zone” and on the “light side of the Moon” .

Co-reality party invite, made by Shelby McAuliffe
Co-reality party invite, made by Shelby McAuliffe

Boddesy — a Journey inside, 2nd May 2020, 10pm Berlin/9pm SF

2. A Hero’s Journey

I was responsible for facilitating experiences inside of the womb, the most nurturing part of the body, and the most nurturing part of the party.

“Welcome to the safest place in the human body” we whispered to anyone who entered our space. “You are now given the chance to re-enter the womb and be reborn. We invite you to take this time to reflect back on the person you were so you can leave messages to your new self to remember the life you had before we are all reborn together.” Two other magical beings facilitated the room with me. One was a wonderful graphic artist, who would create a live time storyboard of our participants stories in animated form. The other facilitated a variety of games to keep our guests intrigued. That ranged from silly and playful to deep and meaningful, depending on the number of participants in the space and the overall ambience.

Those were the game we offered :

3. The Arc embedded in Pivotal moments

„Reflective — serious / <10 ppl / conversation / 7min per person

Pivotal Moment: One person in this room, who ever feels comfortable will walk us through a pivotal moment in their life that changed the course of their entire existence in the 3rd person. Describe to us what your life would have been like if you had chosen the opposite decision….where do you think you would be today?

Reflective — serious / <10 ppl / conversation / 15min

My life in 3 scenes: We need you to pass on your story to your future self after you are reborn. If you were to have your life painted as hieroglyphics in a cave on the inside of the womb, to pass to the new born consciousness . what 3 moments in your life would you have painted that define who you have become today? Tell us about these three scenes…

<10 ppl / Reflective — serious/ conversation/ 15min

Reborn world

While someone describes a wishful thinking for life after rebirth painter draws their scenarios in their new life . We are going to play a game called my reborn world. Please describe to us what you think your life will look like after you are reborn into the new world…what life will you have ? what do you desire? How will being reborn change your future? Describe 3 Codack Minute

4. Take on various states

one on one/ Emotional / conversational role play / 15min

Mother : We are going to play becoming our heritage….We will send you to a breakout room with 1–2 other people from this space….in that room one of you will act as if you are your mother. The other person in the space will ask you questions about your birth/life/etc etc and you will answer as your mother and then you will switch partners…feel free to change your voice, use your body in a different way, and get into the mind of your mother.

one on one / Emotional / conversational role play / 15min

Relationship mapping We are going to play a game one on one, were we visualize our social network with a stranger. The idea is to send this relationship to your new self. You will be ask to share a canvas and annotate each one for 10 minutes .

<5 ppl/ Personal/ physical & conversational / 15min

My Special Space — Physical gesture/private space in your home : Everyone in the womb find the room in your house where you feel the most (safe, sexual, energized, sad, happy, etc. etc.) Take us to that room…dress the set for us…bring any food or drink…now walk us through your room and why it makes you feel that emotion

5. Rituals, coming together and Humanity

Rebirth ritual in the womb

I would like you, the reader, to now take a moment to meditate on what it would be like to re-enter the womb. What would it mean for you, to start over ? To be reborn with a fresh slate. To be in a safe space with a group of strangers and dance like there was no one was watching and also talking about deep vulnerable moments in your life that brought you to where you are today.

Now, fast forward 6 hours in our journey, Imagine a virtual rebirthing ceremony. What image comes to mind? A bunch of — people in their own bathtubs at home splashing around to a peaceful guided meditation? If so, you are spot on.

It’s 4am in Berlin. I am in a bathtub. I am in the Womb for the rebirthing ritual, an audio-only meditative experience, where 32 people around the world, floated together in our bathtubs, audio-only experience, imagining ourselves as a reborn baby just before leaving the womb.

Kyle Kaminsky, the Womb fairy, helping lead this experience with me says:

“Just float or lay, listening to the sound beat of your mother’s heart, embracing you in the womb, preparing you to reborn.

A spotify track of a mother’s heartbeat plays on the shared sound in the zoom womb room for all to hear.

“Now I want you to envision what your life will look like once you are reborn. Who will be the first smiling face you will see? The first warm hug? The first kiss? Who will be there to greet you on the other side and support you through your new adventure into the reborn”

The meditation continues as I sink deeper into my warm water tub with all the other strangers in the womb, being lulled into a state of complete relaxation and love…

Screenshot from co-reality website, Announcement for the party guests

6am Berlin /9pm SF, 10hrs into the party

6. Living with multi-perspectives

Most other body parts are sleeping now. The bladder is still active, a place frequently visited late at night, as a visitor who decide to voluntarily host prepares to play games with his new friends.

Back into the womb, the rebirthing ritual has ended. I’m exhausted and ready to go to sleep. I wanted to close the channel but suddenly I see the view from the “DancingBurningman ‘’ bicycle. He drives around an empty road in the backdrop of Swiss mountains over the lake. In another zoom box, a shaman in Ecuador is playing a sound bath. We are in the “Third eye” of the body.

Sunrise in Zurich after a rebirth ceremony

Oscar was lying on the sofa like a baby rolled with a towel. “Who would imagine, this is a time we are discovering how we have this shared artform ready to experienced. Before we used Video-Chat to talk with our grandmother, to do office work or sometimes sexchat. And now we find out we can have communal rebirth ceremonies.” I understood what he meant, strangers who have never met in real life, gone through a transformative shared experience through a video conference tool and it all seemed so natural. Why don’t we do it all the time?

Conclusively, Social-media gave birth to social-distancing

In the last 10 years we entered the Self-Worship era with our Digital Profile pilgrimage. We locked ourselves in prisons of self branding, golden cages. Can we break out of these habits?

#DollyParson Meme Photo credit :: Canva / Beat Hürlimann

Some thoughts on the intersection between our physical and digital worlds

1. Social media should come with a human centric user manual.

When we installed FB we never got the game instructions, the ethics, the manifesto. As a result we used social media for “Social distancing”. In a dystopian sci-fi film “The Conference” by Ari Folman, people identify and dress up as their idols. A future where a pill make us hallucinate a fantasy world where we look like a film star. Follow to the end, here is an example of the world where superficiality covers up real life misery. Not far away from how we’ve been using Social media. Recently this reality had been fractured.

According to director Ari Folman, “the Conference” is inspire by science fiction novel The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem.

2. Change the way we use technology, starting with our minds.

Remember being once in an outdoor festival, where everyone is loving and modest, no judgment, a common ground where love transcended from music to conversations into the night. And you ask yourself: Why is it not always like this?

How to democratize the access to the spirit of the burn by utilizing technology to bring people together?

3. An experiment in reframing technology as a bridge to bring us closer together.

How can a video conference tool be used for ritual?

Let’s consider next time we gather in zoom that we are avatars in a simulation of an ancient ritual.

In this simulation we should aspire to experience a state of multi-perceptiveness, shared-narratives.

A feeling outside of time, a feeling that home is where love is.

An Online-Common-Ground based on co-operation instead of exploitation.

A digital-playground of Co-Realities, built in collaboration instead of domination .

Reframe Zoom as a place holding, an adventure in a video quest game using techniques from Immersive Theatre and Role Play with the guided purpose from rituals and ancient wisdoms.

Collective make believe

In our party world everyone took on themselves to contribute to the collective make belief — through costumes, snap filters and backgrounds, voices and so on. The objective of this collective make believe was to reach a state of collective consciences, and inspire transformative experiences in each personal journey.

What is digital intimacy

In its core it’s the feeling of looking into someone’s soul even if they are in a different continent .

To be real, revealing and authentic about your weakness and private memories in front of strangers and feel protected.

In the womb we played games in groups of 5–20 people, we asked visitors to share pivotal experiences we had in our life, bringing up the groups we identified ourselves with.

Once in a while the calligraphics of the people’s memories appeared full screen, as on the walls of the womb. Your new self will remember your previous life with the help of those calligraphics.

Painting by Jana Kreisl, the womb hidden artists. More about this story in the post of Maz Cohen

Then we became our mothers. We were paired with strangers and had them ask us questions which we had answered as our mothers. I asked participants to do a repetitive “psychological gesture”, a movement that expresses the psychology of the Mother (See Michael Chekov). That helped the people to slowly immerse themselves in the mother’s point of views while answering the question and embody her perspective fully.

Shifting between polar experiences: Dance 15min — Intimate conversation — 15min — be silly 15min-intellectual stimulation 15min

The party context helps to shake visitor abruptly from the left to right brain, this confusion of senses and mental, feels in zoom as a collective of bodies that has its conscience.

The Bizarro Jerry Episode aired 6 September 2000

Find out that “There are more of YOU”

In this Seinfeld episode, we learn that it might be that what you thought is your unique combination of friends, actually co-exists just down the block. How do you give people in a the feeling they connected to a far away part of themselves ?

Order “ZOOM table for six, please”

When there are six visitors in a zoom room the experience felt the most intimate. Maybe six degrees of separation means every group of friends of six is similar all around the world. The jumps between very intimate rooms of six to a dance floor of sixty or a midnight ritual of hundred people can elevate us to the state of Murmuration .

Can Humans achieve Murmuration state?

4. How do we achieve Unity Immersion

  • Sharing the same physical state (lie down during meditation, dance to same beat )
  • Sharing a psychological gesture covered get under the blanket, in water.
  • Sharing a same sized space — sitting next to a window, in the toilet, head in the refrigerator.
  • Smelling & tasting the same drink, cake, plants and flowers
  • Play the same „make believe”, act on the same prompts, rules of conduct.
  • Be part of the same graphical enhancement (give filters and backdrop), DIY masks, makeup & home appliances as theatre set.
  • Create similar context to everyone reframe the party as a journey to the moon and back.
  • Reframe tech features to world of story, realm of imagination: i.e use google earth as the Moon’s Observatory.
  • Facilitate group games provoking shared point of views on similar human experiences. Borrow games from feedback theatre and Augsto Boal.
  • Involve soft Role-Play : Make bursts of role-play games in break-out rooms, to shift conscience, remind guests they can be someone else.
  • Facilitate and surprise building small groups of like-minded strangers (6 people per room).
  • Control the mixer of combination FOMO vs. Being in the moment .
  • Find a story world that connects to the mediums we are using (starship and video screens made sense for ZOOM.)
  • Control the combination of child-being and adult REALNESS, truthfulness-authenticity, encouraging caring .
  • Create sharp transitions from different areas in visitors brain (I.e dancing techno, talk to a group about childhood trauma).

These are my notes on an ongoing experience. I will keep on updating with more insights…

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Performers, DJs and experience designers who want to join the Co-Reality next experiment? Write me, Check-out

If you want to “Unfuck the world” together write me an email, Linkedin or to Wonderland Immersive Design Facebook.

Special Thank you Kyle Kaminksi and Maz Cohen

Strategist, Futurist, Creative Director. Interested in design of transformative, immersive experiences