- We’re just in the very beginning of what interaction online could be, with video
- Let’s rebel against the rigidness of technology
During the COVID-19 lockdown, exhibitions, cultural events, chats with colleagues, and even romantic dates moved to the internet. There were live concerts on Twitch, Zoom parties, and guided exhibition tours via YouTube. Now that existing platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube are not only used to announce events – they also serve as the platform where the event takes place, and their shortcomings come to light. Meeting with friends in Microsoft Teams is like inviting your friends to hang out in your office space. But at least in a physical office you can have a lot of plants or hang posters on the wall to give the space a personal touch. If you want to personalise your environment online, you most likely need to know how to code. And on many of the Big Tech platforms you can not really change things—all interactions are pre-determined for us.
There was one platform that gave users the power to change their space in their own creative way: ohyay1. You could choose your background image. You could decide how many people are visible in the space you create. You could add a chat window, emoji reactions, or play some background music to let your visitors feel at ease. Best of all, you didn’t need any knowledge about coding to do all of this. One of the first ohyay experiences we had with The Hmm was a meeting in the virtual Chinese restaurant of IDFA DocLab. Since then, we started building our own bar environments where we come together after our events and hold our team meetings. We’ve experienced that, with ohyay, it’s easier to get together in a fun and informal way.
Ohyay was developed in the summer of 2020, and Lilian Stolk of The Hmm spoke with one of its founders, Andrew Lin, when the platform was still in a beta stage. To what extent did the pandemic influence the development of ohyay? Why is it important to give users so much freedom? And what are the most creative rooms that the ohyay community has built so far? Lilian visited him in his virtual office, where he gave her a tour through his favourite ohyay rooms.
1. ohyay was officially taken down in November 2023