Creating new moments of togetherness on November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays.

For over a decade, I hosted an annual “Twisted Thanksgiving” for my Thanksgiving orphan friends in San Francisco who didn’t have other plans for their Thursday dinner. I’d take traditional Thanksgiving ingredients and twist them up differently each year. I’d never make the same thing twice.

There were many hits over the years: turkey sisig (yum!), grilled carrot puree with saffron and maple syrup pumpkin ravioli, spicy cranberry cornbread, homemade sweet potato donuts… And there were the occasional misses. Beer can turkey with jerk seasoning sounded like a good idea —…

So I was talking to a friend of mine a while back, and the conversation went something like this:

Friend: “Ugh, after Zoom meetings all day, I’m really feeling the screen fatigue!”

Me: “Yikes! What are you going to do to relax tonight?”

Friend: “Chill and binge-watch Netflix.”


Did you ever wonder why some screens fatigue while other screens intrigue?

I think there’s a lot that distributed/virtual learning can learn from movies, and I shared some of my evolving thoughts in a session at MURAL Imagine.

I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on this too!

Una colaboración virtual reflexiva puede ayudarnos a sentirnos más cerca a través de las distancias. ¿Qué pasaría si pudiéramos conectarnos juntos online de una manera que se sienta más humana?

[I found out that people have been asking for my piece on Making virtual more human in Spanish. Many thanks to Majo Greloni for bringing this to my attention, and to Guadalupe Verona for volunteering to translate. ¡Estoy agradecido por tu ayuda! After all, not everyone thinks in English :) ]

“Imaginen si mañana — como si fuera realmente mañana, el día siguiente a hoy — hubiera algún tipo de desastre y de repente los humanos solo pudieran interactuar a través de computadoras. Y que no sea claro — o sí — cuándo volverá a ser posible el contacto cara…

Thoughtful virtual collaboration can help us feel closer across distances. What if we could connect together online in ways that feel more human?

“Imagine if tomorrow — like literally tomorrow, the day after today — there was some kind of global disaster, and suddenly humans could interact only through computers. It’s unclear when — or if — face-to-face contact will be possible again. It might be a while. Maybe that disaster is a zombie apocalypse, or a sudden change in the atmosphere, or something else.”

Something. Else. This was just supposed to be an exercise called “Virtual Humanity,” which I use in my classes.

I never thought about what might be the most likely scenario — a global pandemic. As I write this…

Walk through of an example class flow for educators teaching students virtually

This is a companion piece to Making Virtual Feel More Human, published on the Stanford’s Medium, and if you haven’t read that yet, it might make sense to start there first. We discovered that there’s to a lot that we can learn from the context of in-person that we can apply to virtual. But it requires deconstructing and remixing… and getting curious about the context of virtual.

Here are the Cliff notes of the main piece:

  • By understanding why virtual work can feel awkward, we avoid feeling trapped and monotonous, and we can begin designing the structure of our…

Video calls are funny.

On one hand, video calls are remarkably accessible.

If you have an Internet connection, you can talk face-to-face with someone on the other side of the globe… for free! You have Skype, Google Hangouts, Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp, and many other options... mostly free!

While there’s certainly room for improvement in the user interfaces, video calls are relatively easy to use. Even my parents, who don’t know how to send a text message, have no problems making video calls.

On the other hand, video calls can still be kind of… awkward.

They are not quite as intuitive…

“Importantly, the current findings suggest that people cannot simply collect intercultural relationships at a superficial level, but instead must engage in cultural learning at a deep level. When in an intercultural relationship, an individual should not as eschew cultural differences but rather embrace them, because such differences enable one to discern and learn the underlying assumptions and values of both the foreign culture and the home culture. Without close social interactions, it can be difficult for individuals to juxtapose and synthesize different cultural perspectives to achieve cultural learning and produce creative insights.”

— Jackson Lu et al, “Going Out” of…

In international collaborations, English is often the lingua franca — the common language that is used to communicate.

The reality is that this is easier for people for whom English is their first language, harder for people who are less comfortable with English.

It can not only be more difficult to communicate. It can also be mentally exhausting when you are thinking in one language and communicating in another.

That’s right, se necesita más energía mental!

I had a colleague who was a native Portuguese speaker, and his English was great. But he would tell me during long meetings, “Glenn, I am tired. English is very tiring…

“How might we be creative together when we are far apart and in different cultural contexts?”

I’m trying to figure out how I can focus my day-to-day life on: 1) exploring this question, and 2) creating practical stuff people can use to vastly improve the quality and depth of their international collaborations.

I need to get going and get ideas out of my head.

Carissa Carter challenged me to create seven posts in seven days. To up the ante, Carissa also told me to go multi-modal. Some posts are written blog posts, some are podcast-like audio, and some are video.


  1. The diverse arguments for diversity
  2. The stereotypes we inherit as barriers to working together
  3. Connecting to create vs. creating to connect
  4. Stereotypes of middle-aged White men and young Thai women
  5. When you want to ask about someone’s ethnicity and it’s hella awkward
  6. Would you prefer a world with more knowledge or curiosity?

GF: David, you mentioned that you were interested in getting a a designer’s perspective on diversity, equity and inclusion. I know it’s a topic that a lot of designers are deeply interested in, from the teaching community at the Stanford to Kat Holmes and her groundbreaking work…

Glenn Fajardo

Glenn helps people to be creative together when they are far apart. He teaches at the Stanford and is the co-author of Rituals for Virtual Meetings.

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