Updated: Dec 31, 2022
This post originally appeared on Haphazard.Business blog on 13 November 2022.
The first real-world hybrid live event using the developing Lucia House online platform took place at the Fourth Portal. Four years in development, the event highlighted the challenges of merging virtual and physical spaces.
Fourth Portal's first hybrid poetry night test. Virtual screen and theatre and poet Clare Currie on real-world stage.
The Fourth Portal was, from the beginning, envisaged as a hybrid working and social space. A place where a person can sit at a table and meet others in the virtual and the real world. Hybrid meetings in public settings will become normalised and the experience seamless. Fourth Portal is at the cutting edge of developing such spaces. On 4th November 2022, we curated our first live test event.
Lucia House is a four-floor virtual home developed by the Lucia Collective in response to the first pandemic lockdown. The Lucia Collective is a loose gathering of programmers, engineers, mathematicians, philosophers and visual artists.
The Lucia Collective came together with Fourth Portal through Platform-7 Discussion Festival events. The Discussion Festival was a weekly open-house occasion. Visitors moved about, without hindrance, between virtual tables hosted by experts on various topics. Engagement in a virtual environment is different to being in a real-world occasion. These evenings sought to observe how people interacted, moved about and communicated in virtual space when undirected. The learning feeds into the design parameters of the Fourth Portal and the online equivalent.
L to R: Poet Jason Parr, the Lucia House virtual theatre and poetry evening host, poet Isabel White.
Open-mic poetry evening
The open-mic poetry event was on a Friday evening, hosted by Bristol-based poet Isabel White. A mixture of local poets and non-poets came along. Online were members of the Lucia Collective and other guests, including poet Andrew Duncan with his Ai nomenclature, R Andru Dunkn (a homage to Asimov robot stories).
The virtual theatre beamed from Lucia House into the Fourth Portal via WiFi. Surround sound provided an immersive feeling inside the space. Guests in the room found the event a new kind of experience. Although most people were familiar with Zoom, the eclectic virtual furnishing and moving face tiles inside the virtual theatre were unexpected.
There was no wide-angle projection of the Lucia House floorplan in the venue. Without a floor plan, the virtual layout was unclear for those in attendance to understand how the theatre was part of a much larger online environment. The Fourth Portal is awaiting the installation of a dedicated 1Gb fibre cable, leaving the event operating on a slightly erratic internet connection. Occasional weak signals caused breakdowns in the audio, leading to some chatter from the online guests while the real-world poets performed. The venue arrangement meant the performer could not see the online guests. In response, poets would move out of the camera shot to view the online audience, who then could not see the poet. These are all relatively simple issues to fix and good to know for future events.
A simple Lucia House website front page asked for a name and email address to gain free online entry to the event. A link was posted on Facebook and Instagram. As the event was due to go live, it became apparent that the Facebook link would not work. Post-event investigation discovered the issue; Facebook attribution parameters to stop logged-in users from reaching the webpage.
A solution, found via Seb’s IT blog, will be implemented for the next event.
The affected application would return a 404 The requested URL was not found on this server message when accessed from logged in facebook users. That is because the link facebook presents to its users contains their fbclid URL parameter:
Internet connection issues aside, the online visitors who did find their way had a reasonably smooth experience. With no cameras facing the real-world audience, online guests felt denied the opportunity to feel fully involved in the real-world venue.
During a break from the human poetry performances, the audience heard some poetry from an AI. Built by John Kozak of the Lucia Collective, the AI constructed its poetry by scanning the works of poet Alan Duncan. It was a somewhat odd experience to listen to, and the poem did cause unintended amusement in places. The audience was reasonably impressed by the recital. (Can an AI recite? One of the many debates yet to be had!).
Short extract of AI R Andru Dunkn (a homage to Asimov robot stories) creating new poetry from the complete work of poet Andrew Duncan.
The hybrid open-mic poetry night was a culmination of many years of work. The evening felt momentous for us involved in developing the Fourth Portal and Lucia House. Combining a real-world and virtual audience was a milestone, and all done in proper DIY style. It was fun cobbling together the virtual and physical spaces using hanging cables, available kits and, of course, the ubiquitous old ladder.
During the first half, the poets were a little disorientated by the experience, as were some real-world audience members. The second half was more relaxed. All involved became accustomed to the concept.
For the team, plenty of learning was gleaned, which will feed into the next event on 2nd December 2022.
Was the hybrid open-mic night a World first - probably not! However, not many hybrid open-mic poetry nights can claim poems performed by an artificial intelligence performer.
Fourth Portal Hybrid Open-Mic Night
Friday, 2nd December 2022, 7pm – 9pm, UK time (19:00-21:00 BST)
To attend the real world event: Fourth Portal, 2 Stonecutters Way, Great Yarmouth, England, NR30 1HF
To attend virtually: https://lucia.network
ALL WELCOME | FREE ENTRY