All posts by teddiecooke

21 things we learned from hosting our first online party

Parties are at the heart of most of what is good in human life: love, friendship, fun, escape, spiritual exploration etc. It’s obviously therefore of great importance that we continue partying despite 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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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 ❤

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

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.

PartyMap.jpeg

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.

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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.

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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. 

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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

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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

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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 ❤

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.

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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 ❤
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:

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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.

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

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

– Nieztsche

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.

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. 

Bathroom

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.  

Kitchen 

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.  

Bedroom

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.

Towards a General Theory of Parties

Parties are the highest form of human art and the purest arena for self-expression.

For millennia, festivals, booze-ups, house parties, birthdays, feasts, lock-ins, weddings, wakes, raves, dances, and religious rituals of all different shapes and sizes have been the pre-eminent conduits in people’s lives for love, transcendence, friendship, intellectual progress, and spiritual celebration.

Parties structure our sense of autobiographical time, define our kinships, and create the opportunity for us to expand our consciousness beyond the banal strictures of the everyday.  They can, as a consequence, claim credit for a startling percentage of the total meaning and joy ever experienced by human beings.

But what is it that makes the party such a potent tool for meaning, joy and human connection? 

Embarrassingly for our civilization, parties have hitherto gone almost entirely unstudied- if research budgets are any indication, we value the understanding of sub-atomic particles millions of times more than of our own consciousnesses. But this epic cultural fail should not tempt us to underestimate how well we can understand parties, nor indeed their importance. 

In my posthumous work, a General Theory of Parties, I’ll go into all of this in much more detail, but I thought it might be worth sharing an overview of how parties function now, and a sketch of an analysis

What makes a good party?

One simple way to approach the question of what makes a great party is to make a list of the greatest party moments of one’s life, and then to inspect each for what took place in the surrounding party-context to set up that sublime party-moment.

I actually recommend you do this before reading further. List three truly great parties and try to work out what it was that made them so damn good. It’s not difficult to come up this way with a list of universal party ingredients.

When I conduct this reflection on the greatest party experiences I’ve enjoyed, which of course dominate the list of the happiest and most profound moments of my life, what’s so striking is that the same ingredients co-occur even across wildly different parties.

Parties with very different scales, different purposes, different kinds of people, music, patterns of mind-alteration have similar categorical ingredients.

Specifically, the four best parties I have ever experienced (outside of Burning man, a category of its own) were:

  • A spontaneous house party for ten in Paris in 2005 (10-ish people)
  • My parents 40th wedding anniversary (120-ish people)
  • My best mate Al’s stagnight (2016, 20 people)
  • The Oregon Eclipse (5000 people)

The ten universal ingredients of great parties

 1. A theme or focus

Every great party has a theme of some kind, an organising goal or principle that acts as the source of emotional harmony and energetic co-participation. There are times, admittedly, when a theme can be implicit, or can spontaneously arise during a party, or can derive from the history of the community who make the party (as at Burning Man) but great parties are always, at some deep level, about something. (As an interesting aside, this mirrors the intentionality of consciousness).

At the Oregon Elipse, the theme was essentially cosmic. It was about the eclipse, but more generally it was about how we fragile humans are

The drugs were psychedelic; the scale demanded a seven-day party; the eclipse itself a moment of the profoundest meditative reflection.

At my parents’ 40th, the theme was family values, the love of a couple; at the Oregon eclipse, the

2. Great People

Like a murmuration of starlings, parties exist as an emergent property of all their participants’ behaviour. This is a miraculous phenomenon, and entirely beyond the scope of any kind of contemporary scientific discourse to model.

Murmuration.gif

It follows that people and their behaviour are the essence of the party. One can observe that all other elements in our list of ingredients are simply ways of mediating the interactions of people withing the time-space of the party.

This has numerous and profound implications for party design; most obviously, getting great people to come is key. But equally, ensuring that those who come are committed to the party, motivated to co-create and participate. This is one of the reasons Burning Man is the greatest party in the world: the incredible levels of creative devotion of the community who reinvents it every year.

This point deserves elaborate treatment but I’ll make note here of a few of the basic laws of people-related party-organisation

Diversity is key

Whenever there are more than three people together, a virtual party begins to simmer in the space of the possible: add some beers and music, and this could very quickly become a happening.

Good parties, like Rugby teams, have people of all shapes and sizes: sexy people, rowdy people, dancers, intellectuals, drunkards, cynics,

Every attendee is a micro-host

Of course individuals may play many roles. In particular, there is a continuum between host and participant, so that hosts are also participants, and good participants will be constantly seeing opportunities for micro-hosting (whether initiating a singsong, rescuing a lonely participant, welcoming a new arrival, fixing an issue with the alcohol supply-chain or what have you).

Prioritise the fun people

Fun people are especially important guests at parties: their intuitive gift for perceiving the dynamics of the experience and acting on it have super-linear effects on the happening of a party. Fun people should always begin your act of invitation, for these superadditive reasons:

  1. They are more likely to be up for attending or co-hosting a party
  2. They are more likely to be naturally good and actually practised at holding space for fun, and seeing opportunities for fun.
  3. They are more likely to be broadly recognised as such, and so be able to attract further great guests.

So in other words, if you’re hosting a party, a great rule of thumb is to invite the most fun people you know. And if you’re attending a party, never forget that your participation is constitutive of the party that emerges.

3. A narrative through time

Perhaps the greatest error people make with parties is failing to recognise the importance of sustained engagement over time. Experience is deeply temporally contextual, and to completely refresh that mental context, to flush out all of the deeper accumulated boringness and narrow preoccupations of the mind, can take two-four weeks: hence the typical length of a summer vacation, or the fact that hardcore burning man participants always go to “pre-burn” to help set the thing, and themselves, up.

This is where narratives come in. They accelerate and bring structure to the principle of refreshing experiential space. This requires time. In the context of parties, eight hours seems to be the minimum amount of time for the generation of valuable experience. But we also need to remember that the broader context of the party, including the invitation, the period of anticipation and the process of preparation are equally part of the critical context for the experiential dynamics of the party itself.

An interesting conceptual entrée into this is to meditate on why the amount of fun had at parties correlates so consistently with the difficulty of getting to them. When I first observed this, I assumed it was a coincidence. It seemed so counter-intuitive that my favorite parties were the ones where the car had broken down on the way; where I’d had to walk four miles over a snowy field; when I’d had to get a dangerous boat ride.

These moments when the journey provides unnecessary friction… at the time you feel furious, you regret the decision to attend the party. But such parties turn out again and again to be the best.

Why is this? Well, such adventures create new emotional space in our minds for experience, they generate distinctiveness from normal life and above all they encourage commitment.

4. Many different spaces

The spaces of a party are the containers that determine the tenor and dynamics of the interactions of the participants at each moment in time. We need lots of different spaces for all the moods people need to borrow from in the course of the party, and great parties always involve a multitude of spaces. 

We can begin here by listing a small subset of the large variety of conversations a party needs to create space for:

  • Playful chitchat
  • Catching up
  • Discussing deep new ideas
  • Seduction and flirtation
  • Deep-and-meaningfuls
  • Vulnerable sharing

Each of these varieties of conversation demands a micro-world to house it: some combination of mood, context, decoration, degree of background noise, chance of interruption,  etc. You don’t want to be engaged in a deep-and-meaningful in a crowd listening to jazz: that works better in a yurt at 3 a.m.

Hence for conversation alone, a diversity of spaces is foundational. But of course, great parties are much more than conversation. Participants have to be able to find spacetime for dance, for love-making, for sleep, for gossip, for shelter, for mischief in all its many varities.  That’s why great parties always have a multitude of spaces.

In this context, the agency of party-cipants is key. The joy of parties is to have a degree of autonomy in navigating the pleasure-domes. A basic repertoire of spaces at a good bash will include neutral areas like toilets, chill out zones, raving zones, light dance zones, kitchen chitchat zones, spacious gardens.

5. Multisensory delights

Great parties almost always take pleasures to delight the senses. Delighting the senory organs has an interesting and potent incremental low-level effect on our consciousness: they stimulate, and they are pleasurable in themselves, and because of this they prime and attune our delight and pleasure, bring us back to the body: thus providing a natural precursor to debauchery, falling in love, having fun.

Sounds

Smells

Lights

Lights . this interacts with principles of

Tastes

Touches

Furs, silks, feathers,

Because of the principle of participation, when created and shared, treats like these give rise to extra sinews of emotional and intellectual connection at the party.

6. Great music

The liquid architecture of music is of course fundamental to parties, and barely requires explanation here. It plays two fundamental roles:

a) It makes people feel different

And if we double-click on what happens when it makes everyone feel different, it does so in a comprehensive fashion: music alters perception of time and space, emotion, mood. In one memorable study, people listening to German techno underestimated the speed of the cars they were driving by up to 50%.

b) It makes different people feel different in a similar way.

Thus, music is a vector of commonality: it brings people together into the same experiential spaces, and so connects them directly.

With its inevitable copartner dance, music provides an under-appreciated vector of virtual reality. The whole space of a room feels differently if you change the music.

7. Dancing

Dancing is of course key. At every good party I’ve ever been to. Why is dancing so important?

8. Costume:

It is, let’s face it, very boring being ourselves. The golden shimmering force of universal infinite consciousness pulses through us all, yet most of the time the lenses of our minds refract it down onto our council-tax bills, job frustrations, disappointments in ourselves, and counterfactual fantasies about, for example, how we might be more beautiful, or more effective.

Parties generally, and costumes specifically, are an extraordinary tool for freeing ourselves from the banality of ourselves, and expanding the scope and possibility of our imaginations.

Great costumes connect us with other narratives that bring joy and fun, they create distinctness from everyday experience, and their feedback-effects encourage us to be more interesting and daring.

They also help others at parties: they entertain others, providing sensory decoration and phenomenological arousal.

Of course, costume (combined with lighting) can elevate and make accessible people’s attractiveness, and this creates new opportunities for pleasure, naturally enough.

9. Mind-altering substances

Now I don’t wish to endorse the use of mind-altering substances. In my view, a ten-year apprenticeship in the art of classical memory techniques is the only legitimate form of psychoactive substance, and I worry a lot about the appalling cognitive effects of, for example, alcohol on people’s perceptual and intellectual capabilities.

That said, it cannot be denied that mind-altering substances are a universal feature of human happenings through the millennia. And that different substances have different qualities roles to play.

All psychoactive substances are, by definition, tools of consciousness, which interact of course with the broader experience of the spacetime of the party. Empirical data indicates that people will often take a number of different substances depending on where they are in the party, and that these substances are often constitutive of costume, music, etc. Alcohol is of course the most common substance across so many cultures.

Among the psychoactive effects of drugs is that they change visual and sensory acuity, affecting for example the vibrancy of colours and tastes; they alter mood, and interpersonal attitudes (love, openness etc), inflecting for example generosity; they affect the basic structure of experiential spacetime.

If we take the example of alcohol, it lowers people’s inhibition and critical intelligence making everyone more interesting and the expression of deeper desires come closer to the surface. This tends to enable more fun. In the case of psychedelics such as mushrooms, they seem from the written accounts I’ve been able to assess, to alter the quality and resolution of spacetime, and bring less distinctive cognitive discrimination between, as well as enhanced relationship to music.

10. Performances / entertainment

Performances create mnemonic foci or landmarks in the timespace of the party, and can in a way be viewed as worlds within worlds. Parties can hold on their shelves many different performances, but these of course work best when they are consistent with the theme of the party.

  • These can often be the most important, the most memorable things at parties
  • A poem can contain a universe
  • Performances create intense focal-points of experience
  • They are at their most powerful when they flow from the participants, and there is a witnessing and connection with the very people with whom you’re partying

How these ten ingredients come together in the invention of party/consciousness time-space

What unifies the ten ingredients of incredible parties is that each is a distinctive tool for acting on the shape of consciousness. Together, they offer a toolkit for the architecture of time-spaces of human consciousness.

Party-composers thus deploy costume, spaces, music, mind-altering potions, sensory delight, narrative and so on to create journies that bring the consciousnesses of their participants into new vistas.

When these tools are marshalled with intent towards a particular purpose (celebrating the arrival of Spring, someone’s marriage, the end of a war, global community) they enable party-goers to enjoy spectacular communal transformations of consciousness, attaining feelings and perceptions of the world, themselves, and their relation to each other that simply aren’t possible in other art forms like conversation, film, literature, or even the philosophical study of fundamental ontology.

Thus parties help people escape the strictures of their normal selves and voyage wild and deep into the frontiers of consciousness, which is to say of their own existence. And this is the thing about parties, they’re not a form of thinking about living, they *are* living. The changes they bring to consciousness are not a means to an end, they are the end. This is what is so spectacular and mind-blowing about the medium of parties, and helps account for their universal role across history at the heart of all that is good in human life.

On top of this, let’s not forget that these aren’t linear journeys like books and films; they’re not separable from the minds of their consumers. For party-goers have agency, they’re all on different journeys, and these spaces and experiences are co-created. The partygoers make the party, it is all inherently improvised and co-created.

Seen in this way, parties can be seen as co-created time-space journeys to lastingly new perception of how the world works, changing people for the better and creating meaning in their lives.

The process of enacting a party looks like collective invention, participative theatre, a massively multiplayer game, the original form of virtual reality.

A note on mind-world relativity

This theory of parties leans on the concept of mind-world relativity. 

In follow up posts, I’ll address what extensions will be required to Relativistic Mathematics to capture the way that the timespace of parties relates to the timespace of the participants consciousnesses in law-like fashion.

Zooming into Flowers

If you get up very close to some flowers such as these and carefully elongate all other aspects of reality from the centre of your mind by staring adroitly at said flowers and doing things like breathing very particularly it’s possible to taste – distantly, a mere flicker of flavour- what it’s like to exist in a universe where flowers are all that exist, and, if that is to your taste, it can seem transiently heavenly.

Laughter Meditation with Larraji

I had the pleasure of going to a brief but masterfully delivered laughter meditation class at the Serpentine Gallery this last weekend by “musician, mystic and laughter meditation practitioner, Laraajiwho lead a series of workshops during the opening days of the Grace Wales Bonner exhibition that has since become a lasting shrine of sound.

Here is a pic from the beginning of the workshop. I really dug his orange blanket full of treasures pregnant with spiritual meaning; combined with a tremendously trustworthy and calming American voice.

It was a cracking workshop, just 45 minutes long but during that brief time he effortless vehicled fifty members of the public into contagious laughter all the way from  interactive song and contagious group laughter through to a delightful, “healing”, meditative space.

I wanted to make a note of what I felt were the masterful features of how he did it before I forget:

  • He’d begun already as we filed into the room with pretty music of the om-ic sort
  • He then led straight in without introduction to call and response, beginning with amusingly simple and enjoyable-to-copy sounds
  • These sounds were just at the limit of working memory, but satisfyingly effortless to recall like a six digit number spoken verbally (try having someone repeat “297692” vs 203618647″: the 8th number is the straw that breaks the phonological loop‘s back).
  • After having us sing back to him musically sounds along the lines of “tumtumtumtum”<>”tumtumtumtum” // lumlumtumtum<>lumlumtumtum, “tumbumbumtum”<>tumbumbumtum”, he gradually evolved the call and response into laughter-esque sounds along the lines of “hahatatahatahata”
  • Then he made quite a good joke about a landlord (somehow the worldly reference from such a guru made it unexpectedly funny, though I forget the joke).
  • Then he has us smile with our mouths and with our mouths and our eyes, and explore the difference in the latter and  the feeling it occasions inside: actually feeling happier due to the feedback.
  • Then he has us all stand up and assume a liquid body (flopping around most liquidly, which allowed I guess any narky tension to flow away)
  • Then he had us hold our hands, consecutively, on our heads, throats, hearts, chest-bone, and belly and direct laughter to them and and explore the different qualities of laughter that brings resonance to these places.
  • By this stage we’re all feeling pretty doused in merriment
  • All the while playing pretty music
  • Then he had us bring our arms right up into the air, fill our lungs to the brim, and deflate in laughter: a neat way of making sure the internal force is there to power and laugh that begins, which proved very powerful and effective.
  • Going through this many times consecutively had us all overflowing with spontaneous laughter, which quickly became contagious in a way that itself is rather fascinating, and served to re-project one into hilarity every time one came off the ridge down into a trough of mere giggling.
  • Then he had us lie on our backs and listen to polyphonic gong and other nice instrument music as we basked in the afterglow of delighted sparkling emotion that follows deep laughter.

Here he is explaining it himself, meanwhile, to someone called Daniel Blumberg “from Hebronix”.

On the connection between imagination and memory

Here’s a sweet little link between the nature of imagination and memory as evidenced in the brain of a rat considering which way to go next in a maze, the activity of whose cortex is being measured live by in-vivo recordings. It’s from some seminal work done by Adam Johnson and A David Redish more than a decade ago.

The gif here shows the position of the rat in a maze that is described by the ‘place cells’ in its own cortex, which were themselves previously mapped as it had made its way through the space. Place cells light up when you’re at a particular point in space, firing independently of anything you’re looking at. The map, in somewhat meta fashion, is derived from measuring directly from the rat’s brain: its memory for the space has come to map the space.

The gif illustrates the moment the creature reaches a T-junction and considers what to do next. The shite circle marks the actual position of the rat. You can see its ‘memory’ for places to right and left lighting up as it considers which path to go down. It’s actively exploring its memory, in an imaginative fashion. It’s a very relatable graphic, extremely thought provoking to consider.

It reminds me of a quote from an engaging article about the recent Carlsen / Caruana world championship Chess bout in which it was said that “Caruana’s brain scurried back and forth through innumerable tunnels of calculation looking for ways to fight back”. This is intuitively phenomenologically what we do when we consider different possibilities, and it’s (as ever) nice to have that conviction that the fresh boots of a easily referenced information gives one.

Some interesting things to wonder about, that I haven’t quite grokked:

  • What happens the first time the creature is in a space and is wondering which way to go next? The memory’s not quite there yet, so how would the explorations work? (perhaps, because experience runs deep into perception, there isn’t a case that isn’t undergirded by some degree of memory, however novel).
  • What is the purpose of the exploration of memory/imagination? Presumably, to fish out some extra information (presumably connected to or part of the memory) to marry with current goals. Cf the Caruana quote. This would make this somehow similar to attention.
  • But if we don’t allow ourselves to talk about “fishing out” (which is lazy and dualistic) then what causal effect on the system as a whole is the
  • And of course, are there a hundred analogues of this in other forms of decision making, in other areas of the brain, with related dynamics and logic?

The research, btw, to derive this result was quite remarkable: requiring disambiguating where the rat was looking from what it was thinking. The places it is exploring in its imagination/memory are distinct from the places it is looking. This is a live read from its memory/imagination as it explores what should happen next.

Adam Johnson, the driving force behind the research sadly died shortly afterwards and much too young of cancer. This is a moving document put together by his colleagues in his lifetime that captures something of his intellect and character and the high regard in which he was held by his colleagues.