Last year, exhibitions and cultural events, as well as chit chats with colleagues, and even romantic dates, had to be 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, but also serve as the platform where the event takes place, 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.
But have no fear, there’s at least one platform that’s giving users the power to change their space in their own creative way: ohyay. You can choose your own background image. You can decide how many people can be visible in the space you created. You can add a chat window, emoji reactions, or play some background music to let your visitors feel at ease. Best of all, you don’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 Ball room and Pixel bar 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 is currently 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? To find out all this, and more, Lilian Stolk spoke to Andrew Lin, one of the founders of ohyay. She went to visit him in his virtual office, from where he gave her a tour through his favourite ohyay rooms.