Small, Clumsy, and Intimate Devices for Awkward Hybrid Settings

by Senka Milutinović

Wait. questionHow are hybrid settings actually affecting the way we sense others’ presence in public events? questionHow can we bring intimacy when hybrid media interrupt instead of facilitating modes of togetherness? In this three-hour workshop, participants built their own small, clumsy, and intimate devices to hijack the idea of hybridity.

Small Clumsy Intimate Devices for Awkward Hybrid Setting was lead by Chae and Erica, two Exerimental Publishing Masters (XPUB) students from the Piet Zwart Institute. This workshop asked how we can bring back intimacy and modes of togetherness when hybrid media interputs. We started off by dividing roles to read the script of the workshop. Clumsily, we were reading as narrators, announcers, quotes, and facilitators while canonic elevator music was playing in the background. From the quotes we heard about how the awkwardness of a hybrid setting reveals humanness. Talking all at once due to latency, speaking while muted, or unmuting in a loud environment without being unaware of it—all of this bring the actual person behind the screen, instead of all the buttons and interfaces, into the limelight. mood

Together, in the etherpad, we wrote down our own anecdotes of awkwardness in online hybrid settings and took turns in reading aloud about:

After sharing our uncomfortable online experiences, we dived into the tactical part of the workshop — making intimate devices for a hybrid setting. With March snow steadily falling, we switched from the semi-distracting elevator music to a recommendation from the etherpad chat: the very best of Klaus Wunderlich. Chae demonstrated a prototype of glasses she made with window blinds attached to the frame. While wearing them, you can decide to open or close your blinds to light up a conversation. More kindred devices were laid out for us as inspiration, from curtains for your laptop camera, to analogue loading contraptions which you power yourself. Next to them, a wide array of gadgets and materials for building our own intimate devices. With zigzag scissors, decorative flower stickers and a little whimsy, we crafted filters and devices to test and share in a zoom call. As one could expect of a setting that embraces technological awkwardness, someone forgot to mute, and a dizzying cacophony of voices echoed throughout. mood

During the reflection of the workshop participants, shared everything from DIY amplifying microphones and catapults directed at your screen, to wiggly character filters dancing around your camera and masks which partially cover your screen. With a small intervention, a clumsy device, and embracing awkwardness, we were imagining alternative modes of togetherness online. This did not translate into the plenary talk of EXPUB, presumably because of the change of venue and seating arrangements. Nevertheless, we’ve come closer to understand what space, albeit temporary, intimacy can hold in hybrid settings. reflection

**Red Thread **

The workshop offered insight into potential ways of utilizing awkwardness to offer alternative ways of being together online. It opened up a space of sharing uncomfortable moments of a time we were all forced to have a solely online interaction with the world. Sharing awkward online anecdotes spoke to a facet of hybrid existence that is only ever spoken of informally, and never addressed practically. Yet the making of small clumsy intimate devices addressed this topics with a tactical approach. It encouraged participants to challenge the formality of online meetings, and interact with the screen and people behind it, in a more imaginative way. red thread reflection

**Repository **

Script and chat:

References from the workshop document: