At other times I wonder if I am like an ostrich hiding my head in the sand and I should just do something more active in Real Life instead. My years of discipline and graduate academic rigor however have led to a significant deficit in creative outlet and expression and I continue to find myself transfixed with the opportunity of Virtual Reality to network and build relationship with people all over the world while simultaneously creating immersive journey experiences. It's like going to one of those community painting and wine classes but growing entire universes while you are there! After building over 35 worlds over the last 7 months that have been enjoyed and proved powerful for many, my own evolution as a creative person has gradually transformed into world building initiatives that bring people together to collectively storm and create something that transcends each of us individually. This has manifested in my leading several world building community projects, with the most recent initiative starting yesterday and leaving me with a lot of mixed feelings of chaos and creative messiness already.
Yesterday around a dozen frequent users came together in celebrating the closing of a flashjam #beediversity building initiative. In the conversation on what brought us all there to build a bee and celebrate diversity, we also discussed the important work of continuing to expose ourselves to the uncomfortable and different identities we might not normally encounter in our isolated worlds and social groups during this pandemic. After a buzzing circle of sharing on what we've learned in previous jams while working together, we decided to start a new jam and collectively build worlds centering diversity and marginalized people. For those of you like me who aren’t familiar with gamer lingo, Jam is a word by tech circles to describe a time-based intensive collaboration to accomplish a goal. Usually jams last for a few days at most, but this time we decided to extend our process #diversityjam2021 for a month after the group interested in participating requested more time to explore and build.
I find myself plunged into the gut wrenching work of focusing on such a non-specific topic "diversity" and feeling myself at a loss on how to grow through and hold space for so many potential directions. A part of me felt increasingly vague guilt and worry as I was falling asleep last night wondering if I have stepped into the error of diluting the important work of more specific diversity centering initiatives (e.g., BLM, Women’s history) by keeping the topic so broad. Another part of me remains grounded in the idea that there is a group of people who will not engage in or be reached by movements that focus on only one marginalized group. I believe this is because some of us have too much lack of identity around our own roots and diversity and therefore have low tolerance for celebrating anyone else’s worthiness that seems too different from average.
Although I remain in an unsettled state of concern that I may regret something about this initiative later on, I chose to make this an iterative learning experience like any other and take feedback from all directions as it comes. Like all of my world building and community initiatives, #diversityjam2021 is an experiment to see what happens when the openness of the message combined with a consistency of community support ( we will be meeting regularly to connect and problem solve around how the world building is progressing) will provide important information on if a “we all belong” narrative can transfer into specific, profoundly creative, and diversity-inclusive worlds and spaces.
World ideas have already been proposed that range from centering differently-abled people to uplifting BIPOC heroes. The other difference in this jam versus previous ones is that we have no number of worlds we are trying to get built over the next month. It might end with one world or it might be 10. It will be at least one since we already started the world to host the weekly groups we will be having to center diversity. I hope that whatever comes of this world building project, all involved will find themselves deepened, oriented, and transformed by the experience.
Below is an interesting article on creating inclusive experiences to understand discrimination and atrocities around race in Virtual Reality.
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These are reflections on VR community design experiments, collaborations, and my individual user experience. How do we connect through the virtual reality medium in a way that enhances our connection with self and our real life relationships?