Van Dusseldorp's Future of Events (9)
Non-events - Pogchamps, ChilledCow, Study with me & Dare mighty things.
This is issue 9 of Van Dusseldorp's Future of Events - An exploration of online & hybrid events - what they are and what they will be. You can find all previous issues here.
Dear 863 sweethearts,
I have been thinking of you. Last week the Amsterdam canals were frozen over, today the city is filled with carpets of flowering crocuses. Croci? I can confirm on behalf of the nation: the weather was the event we were all pining for, the spectacular change of seasons makes us feel alive.
In this newsletter a short observation on… non-events. Plus of course the event of the week! And some follow-up news. All in all, a bit of everything.
I will do better next time. And as always: I love hearing from you.
What is an event? It was pretty clear when we all got together in one location. You know: put everybody in a room where something happens. Joy.
Once you take elements of the event experience online, an event can become a totally different thing. For instance: does everyone have to be present at the same time? No. Does a lot need to happen? Not always. Are online events always video-based? Nah.
The three examples below do not seem particularly relevant for the future of events, but I am convinced they are.
They are more about creating digital spaces than about creating something at a specific time slot. They show how an ‘‘online happening’’ becomes a social object. And they highlight the power of commentary.
Examples 1, 2, 3!
Lofi Hiphop Radio
When I work, I regularly put on the Youtube channel Lofi hip Hop radio, to drone out other sounds. The music plays non-stop and comes with an animated video - an anime girl doing her homework, a cat on the windowsill, different times of the day, kinds of weather, in a loop. That’s all.
Or is it? The channel has 7,75 million subscribers, and as I write this, 46,880 are listening on Youtube. There is a non-stop chat running next to our homework-making girl. There is also a link to a Discord server, with 437.780 members - of which 73.796 people are present when I write this.
What can you find there? All kinds of channels where people chat, share pictures, play games, ask for homework advice, share lo-fi girl fan art, and ‘‘cosplay’’ - upload pictures of themselves reenacting the homework scene.
What I want to point out is: people are hanging out here for hours while doing their homework - it’s a non-stop happening. When ChilledCow’s channel briefly went down recently, people on Twitter bemoaned the loss of their favorite “study group.” (Source: The Verge).
Sometimes a digital offer is not so much ‘‘an event’’ as well as a social object, something around which connections are made. (The term ‘‘social object’’ was coined in 2005 by entrepreneur Jyri Engeström, who wrote The case for object-centered sociality)
And these online digital ‘‘happenings’’ can take very different forms. In this case: music in combination with a specific animation.
They do offer a shared presence, and it is this quality that I think matters for online events. ‘‘Event’’ may not even be the right word - it is more about a space you can dip in and out of, to be in the company of strangers.
Study with me
More or less along the same lines, but more visual: just go to Youtube and search ‘‘Study with me live’’. You will find people live-streaming their study sessions, and they get a lot of views! (See also Vice: The Wholesome Appeal of Watching People Study on YouTube)
Examples: James Scholz from Utah has been studying for 12 hours at this moment, and has 1.100 live viewers for his session. He also has a stream schedule. Or check this one-hour study session by Merve from Glasgow, which has 409,464 views so far. One of the comments: ‘‘The incredible thing is I started to study every day, and it's happening thanks to your videos. Thank you 😊’’.
As an aside: in April 2020, Argodesign actually proposed a screen set up that would work wonderfully well for this kind of ‘‘presence’’ sharing. We just miss the cats on the window sill.
Chess as a spectator sport
Do you know one thing my two teenagers are reveling in these days? Playing chess. All the time. And they are not the only ones. ''For a brief period last week, chess surpassed League of Legends, Fortnite, and Valorant to become the top gaming category on Twitch by viewers.'' What’s going on???
PogChamps is a series of online amateur chess tournaments and the third iteration took place this weekend. Players in the tournament are internet personalities, mostly Twitch streamers. You can follow the matches live on Twitch, but to access the recorded videos you need to subscribe at 4,99$/month. You get a good idea here of what a game looks like here.
Who would have thought that amateur chess could be a spectator sport? The stream reached a peak viewership of over 100K and during the game I watched, the chat channels were filled with messages as well.
The social object is the game, but - as with most Twitch channels - what it really is about is the live commentary about the game. Is this something we need at more online events?
Dare mighty things
What was THE online event of the week? Flawless execution, superior storytelling, suspense, and everything? Even a secret message? Oh, come on!
I joined 1.457.455 other people on Youtube for the live coverage of NASA’s Perseverance Rover landing on Mars. Somehow, this was not even front-page news here. I mean, seriously, we had live footage from another planet.
And from an event point of view: they included a secret message. Just in case you missed it, see below.
For the virtual audience files!
In the previous edition, I wrote about various ways to make the audience visible on the screen. In the UK, audience interaction specialists Hypothesis Media used the ‘‘virtual seat’’ tech from The Famous Group for the popular TV show Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway. The short video below is a great look behind the scenes, as presented by the show hosts. One of the biggest screens so far!
See how they also use those screens for theatrical effect - in this video, fighter Rand Yorton is being mocked by the face of a certain Alexa Bliss, on ALL screens. (I spent too many minutes of my short life trying to figure out the storyline behind this piece of pop culture… you get the idea). Look at those screens though!
Ambient share of the day
In search of background noise? The Coffee House newsletter sends out a daily link to coffee houses around the world.
Van Dusseldorp’s Future of Events is a newsletter by me, Monique van Dusseldorp. I am a freelance curator and moderator of tech and media conferences (more here). I love to hear from you! Mail me or connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter. And do tell everyone to sign up for my newsletter! :-)