CEU Virtual Ecovillage - Olea Morris

At present, the CEU community is highly distributed- in addition to operating from two campuses, many students and faculty are unable to share common spaces, or are working from their home countries. This initiative is an experimental venture to explore avenues for community-building around sustainability initiatives, and draws on a diverse toolkit adapted from the environmental humanities for this purpose.

The “virtual ecovillage” is a hybrid (synchronous/asynchronous) event model that kicks off with aseries of two participatory mapping workshops to orient students to the project and to elicitconnections between participants. The results of this workshop will be recorded and compiled ina digital art project that will be presented at the RECOMS-ITN Spaces of Possibility Conferencein early June in (virtual) Brussels, exploring the possibilities of “virtual sustainable communities” in university settings. This will be followed up with the creation and publication of a digital resource library (hosted on Discord), providing space for students to share and learn sustainability skills - including zero-waste cooking, composting, saving seeds and growing food, and more. Students will additionally be introduced to digital tools that they can use to explore further skills in their home cities (for example, for aging and wildlife identification through the National Geographic “SEEK” app. Finally, a seriesof “virtual visits” to integrated farms and intentional communities (one in the UK, the otherin Mexico) will introduce students to playersin the sustainability community, and potentially build connections for future research.The goals of this iniative are two-fold. First, to create a virtual gathering space for students, irrespective of location, that are curious about building a “virtual” sustainable community. Second, the aim is to introduce participants from different disciplinary backgrounds to methods germane to the environmental humanities. Through guided engagement with these tools, students will not only contribute towards the stated aims of the workshop, but also be introduced to new virtual tools for conducting qualitative research and personal artistic expression on their own and together. The goals of this initiative are to put in place building blocks for an initiative that can develop into a multi-modal project, ideally continuing inthe 2021-2022 academic year. This could includeusing workshop recordings and follow up interviews in the creation of a podcast, organizing a monthly meetup group, virtual skill sharing events, and more, depending on needs identified bythe community.

The project was presented at the RECOMS conference.