After I ended my last video call yesterday, I was reminded of a sci-fi story about people who never leave home. In The Naked Sun, Isaac Asimov describes how a detective from Earth is sent to the planet Solaria to investigate a murder. He experiences culture-shock when he discovers that people there have become so reliant on technology for all their daily needs that they avoid face-to-face contact and human touch at all cost, preferring instead to communicate virtually for work and play.
In the past few months, Earth feels a little like Solaria. I’m still getting used to the culture-shock of limiting my contact with people, teleconferencing for work, and confining myself at home. Without being surrounded by a team of people bouncing ideas off each other, I’m probably taking twice as long to create content. Frustrated with myself, I huff and I puff and I potter around the house, which in turn distracts my wife teleconferencing in the next room. Ready or not, Covid-19 is disrupting the way we live, work, play, rest, and communicate. Family members working and studying from home are discovering the very real effects of cabin fever. And with video calls and instant messages replacing the bulk of face-to-face interactions at the office, organisations are struggling to manage their teams and workflows. Although we’re nowhere near Solarian society today, who can predict what our way of life will look like in a year or two? The work of Smol Tok - of forming, building, and maintaining relationships through meaningful conversations - has also been affected by Covid-19. The challenge we’re grappling with now is how to facilitate meaningful conversations online whilst preserving the human ‘touch’ of connection. For example, with Secret Supper put on hold indefinitely, would players who don't know each other still be keen to meet online? And how would trust be cultivated in a virtual space? The world hasn’t found a silver bullet to cure Covid-19 or its complications. But that shouldn’t stop us from experimenting with new ways of being and doing. For our part, we’ll be taking Smol Tok in several new directions in the coming weeks:
We’ve begun hosting playtests for a new Smol Tok expansion pack in a private Facebook group called Smol Tok Playtests. Test questions will be posted, one a day, and playtesters can choose when and how to respond.
We’ll be uploading a free-to-download Percolate series of Covid-19 related questions next week for you to take stock and reflect on how you’re mentally, psychologically, and spiritually adjusting to self-imposed limbo.
By the end of April, we’ll be digitising our five existing decks for people who want to use Smol Tok for ice-breaking, meeting, and team-building online. The questions work regardless of whether you’re sitting across the table or a webcam from each other.
Finally, for organisations under siege, we’ll be releasing a digital emergency kit for these unprecedented times. It’ll contain questions for teams working from home to address salient concerns like business continuity, personal productivity, team dynamics, teleconferencing customs and conventions, etc. We’re planning to launch this on 1 May, Labour Day.
This is how I’m trying to make the most of the time that’s become available to me - throwing myself into creative endeavours that are meaningful. I’m also appreciating having more contact time with my wife who’s also working from home. Meal times are the best because that's when we prep together, and I get to savour her tasty home-cooked meals. What about you? I’m keen to hear about how you’re coping. What keeps you grounded and inspired? What new habits have you formed, or opportunities that you see? Or try imagining a post-Covid world, what would that look like?