Zooming Beyond Zoom

Contributor: Alonso Hernández

Despite high hopes that we would be out of the woods vis-à-vis COVID by this time, the Omicron variant had other plans. It looks like we are yet again going to have to cancel or postpone many of the in-person plans we were looking forward to in the new year, leading us back to the Zoom rooms where we’ve spent so much of our time since the spring of 2020.  Though these kinds of tools are allowing us to go on as best we can, we feel their limitations and problems like video call fatigue.

The good news is that both for remote work and online events (key today to keep campaigns energised), technology is advancing rapidly, and we are finding options that are opening up new and interesting methods of video connection.

Wonder.me is one of the options that we like the most. The novelty it offers is that we do not need to open rooms for calls as with Zoom, but we can create connection spaces in which each participant can hang out and talk to anybody just moving their avatar next to the person with whom they want to speak. With video calls starting automatically and providing a very casual feeling, Wonder.me tries to replicate what can happen in a physical space.

In a Wonder.me space, it is also possible to:

  • Create private circles (videoconferences), for which you have to be invited,
  • Create topic areas in the space for people to discuss,
  • Set Icebreakers to facilitate interaction, and
  • Use a streamer mode for announcements to all attendees, which, when activated, will stop all conversations so everyone can listen to the streamer.

Wonder.me presents a unique approach with a lot of potential, for example, facilitating new types of campaign events, and implementing powerful digital organising techniques. These could include drop-ins, or digital trainings within the Open Space Technology methodology, in order to maximize the participation, distribution and inclusiveness of the campaign.

Wonder.me is the perfect tool for these kinds of events to happen online. Perfect to experiment, to be creative, to facilitate more valuable encounters, to encourage decentralisation and participation, and to foster the cohesion of our teams within the movement.

Gather.town is another video software with a similar approach that is worth highlighting. They create a digital space where we can see more than just squares with people’s faces. Gather.town goes a little further, as it creates an arcade video game environment to lift the available space. It offers, thus, many more options, like the possibility of creating your custom space using elements like floors, walls, furniture, etc. in the style of Super Mario Bros.

Additionally, you can plant objects to interact with, create spaces for different types of meeting, private work areas, and so on. It takes time to do setup work, but it can also be a lot of fun. If what we want is to have our online campaign office to be more fun and playful while at the same time a place where you can join the movement, learn, be oriented, meet other supporters, etc., this could be a very interesting option.

We have found many more tools in the race to improve the conditions of daily remote work. One, still in its initial stages of development, is Tandem, which we might call Slack for video conferencing - it  facilitates calls for teams that need to speak several times a day in different meeting formats. Another is Remotion, which directly places your coworkers on your desktop so that calls are even more accessible - this can serve to enhance the feeling of team belonging and soften isolation. 

In conclusion, there is a world beyond Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Although the need for this digital connection may be imposed by circumstances, we are lucky that there are so many tools that help us connect.