I have been thinking about this a lot over the past few weeks, as I made my poster for the CBRC summit, and then as I went to the in person summit and have had more time to ponder about what hosting & attending events is about for me.
As someone who continues to keep very close contact, home space and love and attention for immuno compromised beloveds, keeping the bulk of my organizing and educational work online is a matter of safety, access and justice. I can see that the pandemic is not over for those most vulnerable to it, while much of the rest of the world has decided to cut losses (sacrifice the vulnerable) and return to “normal”.
As much as Zoom has become the near-ubiquitous way that we come together through our screens in groups- there are some pieces missing that really stand out to me.
- The Space Outside the Space: I have over the course of my life come to know that often the most rewarding connections I have socially are with a smaller group of folks, outside of an event I am attending. When I am in a big room, especially if there is loud music or many conversations happening at once, or a central entertainment feature, like a lecture or movie- I will not be connecting as well as I would in a chill room, on the curb outside the venue or passing toilet paper under the stall in the bathroom. I have come to know that as an educator or facilitator, I can help hold and direct the flow of a group program; as a learner/participant I can follow a program, but am not likely to connect with others unless varied types of engagement are built in. One of the reasons that I try to bring folks together goes beyond the exchange of knowledge or exploration that we have set out to do within the container- but is an extended relationship building practice that weaves a workshop into a movement. Part of the design of my Topia Yard and the monthly events, is to create a liminal space, where the venue continues to exist for potential connection, self paced exploration of the resources, and the play that builds the foundation of sustaining relationships. Participants can come back over the weeks following the event they had a ticket for.
- Self-Regulated Autonomy: The way the yard is set up allows for Show & Tell participants to come in and out of discussion, break off into side conversations, or go play with the topic from a different angle. Coming and going isn’t reliant on a moderator or assigned breakout rooms.
- Play & Bodies: Many years ago I picked up a teaching that I believe was attributed to Tada Hazumi, about how in western ‘business’ we sit at tables, literally hiding our gut-brains and our sex. The webcam life, where we are reduced to disembodied heads and shoulders, leaves huge parts of us out. The topia yard is built to incorporate movement, music, divination and deep conversations in hopes that we can bring our whole bodies, even if through a digital means, to connect and play with the things we are gathering to explore.
- Freedom from Algorithmic Censorship: I have been extracting myself further and further from the Metaverse(TM) as I have watched (and experienced) the puritanical values of our current techno-oligarchs shadow ban creators and educators, deletion of accounts of sustaining followers, and an increasing push to speak in codes like SeggsEd and ‘spicy pans’. I want to host spaces for sex-positive knowledge and idea exchange that aren’t nested within the precarity of the prude-bots. In my Topia yard the content we get into isn’t subject to the same scrutiny.
- Sustaining: I do this work cause I love it, and it feels important to me. It doesn’t at this point pay me anything. It barely pays for itself if all of my time is personal volunteer investment. I want to connect with the people who are looking for this sort of digital connection space, build a movement of folks who are seeking pleasure, connection, play, learning, and justice. I am still holding onto the belief that when things get going and find their stride, they will sustain themselves and me in my involvement. If you are with me on this, joining my Patreon starts with a very low $ buy in- (you can do it today and get a discount on your ticket for this friday. )