Public Space in Covid-19
By: Emma Williamson & Matthew Harrington
This screen capture of CAAVCon.com shows all of the meeting rooms and technical showcases created for the conference.
Throughout the year 2020, the Clemson community experienced a new and unique way of life. From having groceries delivered to front porch steps to attending college classes from bedrooms, the COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed a different way of interacting with each other and with spaces. The Public Space in the Age of COVID-19: CAAV5 Conference Creative Inquiry project, led by Dr. Winifred ‘Elysse’ Newman in the School of Architecture and Nathan Newsome, VR Research Associate with the Watt Center, arose from these recent changes in social interaction.
An important aspect of education for college students is the experience they gain from being in a collaborative space where they can ask questions and get information from those that are around them. This experience is exactly what the Creative Inquiry project recreated while they developed an online platform for a professional conference. Through the use of Mozilla Hubs, the team designed and implemented a virtual space to host the 2020 CAAV5 Conference. The Campus Alliance for Advanced Visualization (CAAV) is an annual conference and a perfect conference to host virtually.
The team used Mozilla Hubs to design unique display rooms for each project presented at the conference. They enhanced the space by incorporating engaging activities such as photo walls and lounges for participants to discuss their work with other attendees. Post conference, the Creative Inquiry team assessed the attendees’ experience at the conference compared to an in-person event.
In order to effectively translate a physical space into a virtual one, the students needed versed in the virtual world before they could approach their design. With the ability to engage in a virtual space in ways that one normally cannot in reality, the team quickly realized that their conference space did not have to strictly adhere to the physical limitations of reality to be efficient and user-friendly. For instance, the team experimented with different ways that attendees could navigate between rooms in the virtual conference—something not normally considered in the design of a physical space where a door will suffice. However, bending too many of these rules could spell trouble, as well. “Our question was how many of those [rules of reality] need to track… so that the user still projects themselves into the space as though they’re in their body,” Newman said.
The Public Space in the Age of COVID-19: CAAV5 Conference Creative Inquiry project successfully made the conference a positive, engaging experience. The team hopes their design inspires others to create similar experiences and spaces in future virtual, online and in-person settings.
The functional diagram of the main hall shows the meeting spaces as ‘portals’ the attendees access by moving up the ramp.
Barbara J. Speziale