ITP blog · thesis-production

Week 10 - Pivot

5 April 2020

After a mostly unproductive spring break reeling in the initial consequences of the coronavirus situation in NYC, I came back to my thesis project with renewed interest in making the best of the situation by using it as an opportuntity to create work which addresses the constraints of social distancing. Present and timely action, if you will.

Virtual club culture

As we retreat into our homes and the prospect of a months-long lockdown in some form or another sets in, the importance of a socially networked virtual club culture is becoming apparent. In the first few days after clubs & bars were closed down in the city, DJs and music fans had already started launching livestreams and dance parties on the internet. I participated in a few of these virtual parties and decided that the rest of my thesis project should be focused on producing my own version of a virtual club using whatever design principles I have learned thus far in doing in-person parties.

The first step was research into existing technology and social patterns. I collected some of the relevant live streams and research in this are.na channel.

Livestreams and virtual parties in March 2020

Clubs and music institutions (in no particular order):

Smaller, more grassroots & DIY virtual events in NYC:

Web services for virtual events

This is obviously an incomprehensive list, and it ignores bespoke platforms (like the ones created for Club Quarantäne and Corona D'Amore)... but these are the most popular things I'm seeing right now:

  • Zoom

    • The most popular, it allows you to see people in the party and has an integrated chat feature
  • Youtube Live

    • Doesn't allow copyrighted content, i.e. prerecorded music performed in a DJ set
  • Instagram Live

    • Also prohibits copyrighted content, but appears to be more lax
  • Twitch

    • Robust free streaming service which is easy to set up, has integrated chat
  • Livestream

    • Used by The Lot Radio and Virtually Nowadays, but costs money

Some of these are sourced from collective knowledge gathering in these google docs:

My kind of virtual party

It's been nice to see people come together virtually, celebrating music and dancing in their homes during this time of social isolation. Ultimately, I think it's the people who attend which makes a party succesful or fun, regardless of what tools or technologies are used. With that in mind, after surveying the landscape of virtual parties, I saw a clear opportunity for a new web service which promotes the principles and social dynamics which are important to me in nightlife... and doesn't require promoters, dancers, and artists to shoehorn the experience into one of the existing platforms. I'll write more about the design decisions I'm thinking about in my next blog post... but for now I've got to get busy prototyping!