PLATFORMS AND OPTIONS
I set up the virtual cafes via Zoom (my institution is fortunate to have a pro license) and I use the following options with some added rationale:
FORMAT AND STRUCTURE
As people join the "virtual cafe" they introduce themselves via the group chat function (e.g. Hi, I’m Katherine; I’m a doc student living in Los Angeles. Overall goal is finishing the diss) We do a check-in every 50 minutes (after two 25-minute chunks, as an adjusted pomodoro strategy; read more about that here).
I’ll interrupt at the 50 minute-mark (10:50AM, 11:50AM, 12:50PM, 1:50PM, etc.) for a 10-minute break. During that time, people verbally (and briefly) introduce themselves, what they are working on, and share a phrase about their progress (esp. for the latter breaks). I'll also encourage folx to move/stretch if they can, since sitting is also draining, and also remind ourselves that it's okay to not be "productive" and do something else to take care of yourself. Also, if folx want to keep their video off, I encourage them to "appear" during the 10-minute break of introductions (to see the faces behind the voices). But again, not necessary~
When people jump on Zoom for the first time, I'll privately chat with them using the following message:
Hi ______! Thanks for coming to the virtual café! Please feel free to introduce yourself through the chat to everyone – this message is just between you and me (mine was something like: Hi, I’m Katherine; I’m a doc student living in Los Angeles; working on my dissertation). The general idea of this cafe is for us to do work and I’ll interrupt at the 50 minute-mark (10:50AM, 11:50AM, 12:50PM, 1:50PM, etc.) which is two 25-minute pomodoros. That's when we’ll take a break and we will verbally & briefly introduce ourselves, share about progress, etc. Since you just joined, you aren’t able to see the current people's introductions but I’m excited for you to meet everyone~
FINAL THOUGHTS: DIFFERENCE SPACES
As a note, I distinguish between virtual cafes and virtual writing sessions. The latter is where I meet with a more intimate group (e.g. my writing buddies, research team meetings) and have more in-depth discussions. I also distinguish both of these spaces with hangouts/happy hours (which amongst my friends, I aptly name "KATch-up Sessions." I know, it's genius). These are the times where I decompress, talk about what's been going on, mourn together, celebrate together, etc.
I've appreciate each space for the different needs I have and have been so thankful for the communities we can still maintain while physically distant from one another. Community requires connection so let's keep building, taking care of ourselves, and making sure to also rest and give ourselves grace in this time~
... and, if you do use this format, please let me know (via email, comment). I'd love to see how other folx use/expand on this.
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