Good news: Kindness has gone viral. OK, things are definitely weird now that we’re inside for the foreseeable. But on the plus side, the coronavirus outbreak’s crowning glory is a digital tidal wave of sharing, collaboration, mutual support and entertainment. 

Volunteering sites like Invisible hands are quickly mobilising communities to pull together to deliver supplies and joy. Meanwhile, the oh-so-clean hands of creatives are tapping away on ‘isolation inspiration stations’ everywhere, to help design entertaining ways to help stave off pandemic panic. 

We’ve scoured the overwhelming amount of new open source and online resources out there to curate a list of 33 wonderful ways to spend your time online – for free. Thanks to the Internet, you can expand your world virtually from your couch, in your pants, and come out of this sabbatical wiser, friendlier and maybe even multilingual.

Use your screen time well and have fun while you’re at it. There’s a ‘special’ meditation for you at the end of this. 

Lisa Goldapple, Your Editor

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► Culture, virtually 

Explore Indigenous cinema

Can creativity save us? OK, so you can’t go mooching around art galleries, museums and parks right now, but you can visit virtually. And the world needs this digital experimentation.

1. Listen to distant cultures: These live local radio aggregators are seriously cool. Click on an interactive globe to turn up everything from Turkish psychedelia to Colombian tropipop on Radio Garden – and stream broadcasts from wherever the sun is rising on Global Breakfast Radio.

2. Face to face with Frida: Zoom in on Frida Khalo’s tiny monobrow brushstrokes in Faces of Frida. 33 art galleries are sharing 800 works by the Mexican artist. (Great for if you also went to her Blue House in Mexico City, but couldn’t face the queues.)

3. Nights at the museum: Google Arts & Culture has teamed up with over 2,500 museums and galleries to bring you virtual tours of some of the world’s most famous museums – from London’s Natural History Museum to Warhol’s exhibit in Seoul. 

4. Design distractions: Dezeen have put together an excellent list of documentaries on architecture and design. Explore everything from drones and overconsumption to interviews with Norman Foster, Yves Saint Laurent and ‘urban hermit’’ Yasuo Moriyama. (Know how he feels.)

5. Your home film festival: Discover the National Film Board of Canada’s rich online collection of Indigenous-made films – and over 300 films from the world’s largest documentary film gathering, IDFA. Quarantine or no quarantine, we think they should be seen.

6. Requests songs from a legend: Artists like John Legend, Chris Martin, Jennifer Hudson, Common and First Aid Kit have teamed up with the WHO (World Health Organization, not band) to serenade you on Instagram Live – using the hashtag #togetherathome. You get to perv their homes too. Sorry John, but you’re really not ‘ordinary people’.

7. Enter dystopia: Every week, Talking Shorts presents My Darling Quarantine short film festival programme on ‘dystopia’ – to support Medecins Sans Frontiers and cultural institutions. Enter if you dare. They’re short.

8. Become an opera buff: Do you think you can get into opera if you could understand what they’re on about? Now The Met Opera is hosting free nightly streams of timeless classics – with subtitles. You can Wikipedia the plot after.

9. Fall down an arty rabbit hole: Noel Fielding, he of The Mighty Boosh and Great British Bake Off, has started a surreal #ArtClub. Appreciate the joy of bird weddings, a puppet made from cat hair, dinosaurs eating spaghetti and imaginative travels, like, erm, this…

Word has it that Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry is creating a TV show to teach viewers how to produce visual representations of their time in isolation.

10. Stream animals and turn to jelly: Your world might have shrunk, but you can still meet manatees and bears thanks to these livestreams. This aquarium’s jellyfish cam is ridiculously relaxing. Plus, you’ll laugh that you’re even watching it.

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► Learn something new

Hello future

We’re in the middle of a revolutionary online learning boom, which means you can pretty much learn anything from anywhere for free – from Javascript to Java bean barista training.

MOOC (noun)

A massive open online course is an online course aimed at unlimited participation and open access via the web.

11. The king of online lessons: Khan Academy is revolutionising how we teach and learn. Known as “The world’s largest interactive classroom”, it has a mind-blowing 10,000 lessons in 42 languages. You can even do ‘The Future’.

12. Wise up: MIT, Stanford and Harvard are hard to get into. But not any more, thanks to this list of the world’s top 500+ free online courses. We’re up for Spanish, ’Our Earth’s Future’ and ‘Literati China: Neo-Confucianism’?! (Great for dinner party chat.)

13. Get creative: Taught by the best design professionals, Domestika are offering a selection of creative courses for free: from learning to configure an online store to creating cartoon characters, to training in creativity itself.

14. The science podcast: To help with COVID-19 information overload, Science Friday offers clarity on the news headlines. As fans of ‘speaking human’, we love their ‘Science Diction’ podcast, which breaks down the origins of words like ‘vaccine’. Plus, this week features Jane Goodall on 60 years of conservation.

15. World’s most popular video game: Think adults don’t play Minecraft? Think again. It’s the perfect tool to educate about empathy and help you ‘get outside’. Meet The wonderful Wizard of Minecraft to experience art, culture and politics.  You don’t even need the Internet.

16. Television from the future: Every day, DiEM25TV transmits a live series of discussions to give us tools to understand the current crisis – with special guests Gael Garcia Bernal (he can do no wrong), Yanis Varoufakis, Saskia Sassen and Noam Chomsky.

17. Follow your FutureHeroes: Keep an eye out for special talks on your heroes’ social media. We’re signing up to this online teach-in with Naomi Klein, food webinar with Carolyn Steel and Tony’s Chocolonely’s talks on the virtues of social enterprise.

18. Hands-on carnival fun: Two Bit Circus are livestreaming STEAM maker activities on their new Twitch channel: from fashioning a cardboard arcade from delivery boxes to making an Escape Room.

19. For the kids: If you’re home schooling (good luck), there are lots of free online resources for education and wellbeing: BBC Bitesize brings you daily content, National Geographic explains what kids need to know and Busuu has live language lessons.

20. Not for the kids: Newspeak House has created the crowdsourced Coronavirus Tech Handbook as the ultimate collection of tools, websites and data relating to the outbreak. Probably the best real collective intelligence project we’ve spotted so far. 

21. Open up: openDemocracy are offering their usual mix of thoughtful analysis and groundbreaking investigations from around the world, while also working hard to expose misinformation. This quiz helps sort facts from rumour. 

“Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” ― Mason Cooley.

22. Listen up: Audible just made hundreds of audiobooks completely free and they’re narrated by actors like Westworld’s Thandie Newton. Plus, there are kids’ books in six languages. Go behind the scenes here.

23. More celebs read books: Amy Adams has joined Instagram to voice #SavewithStories with Jennifer Garner – helping vulnerable children suffering from their classes being suspended. 

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► FutureFun 

The Tiger King is a one-man party

Enjoy these pandemic pastimes that deserve to go viral – in the best possible way. Because we all need to be silly too.

24. Viewing parties: Netflix Party allows users to chat while watching the same film. Prepare to multitask as you type away to ‘Tiger King’. Yep, it is as ridiculous as you’ve heard.

25. Host a happy hour: Warning, if you’re a party animal, the Houseparty social network can get addictive. It creates ‘socially-responsible’ face to face shared experiences and allows you to party-hop. Keep Zoom for worktimes and this for funtimes.

“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” – Bertrand Russell

26. Stressed or Blessed? On first glance, Excellent Quarantine Ideas looks like it’s silly, but it’s full of useful advice.

27. Party like it’s 1999: We spotted this mega-list of fun-tivities by Atlas follower Scott Drummond, for when you’ve run out of imagination. Stop motion Lego animation? Into it.

28. Face it: Here’s a pastime that is really useful. If you can sew and have a machine, use this pattern to make bespoke face masks from scratch.

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► And breathe…

I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly

Feeling overwhelmed? Here are some sites to support your mental and emotional wellness.

29. Groundhog poetry: A Listening Care Package for Uncertain Times is a collection of podcasts and poetry for however you’re processing the pandemic. Enjoy Ross Gay on joy and Naomi Alderman on our Groundhog Days.

30. Shut up and play the classics: Here’s a calendar of live streaming concerts to relax you right out, including Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall. Classical music is a great soundtrack for the home office – and we defy you not to cry to this.  

31. Text in the time of crisis: Feeling anxious about coronavirus? There’s an app for that. Vox has put together this list of online support systems

32. Keep calm and app: Calm, the number one app for sleep, relaxation and meditation, is live-streaming its ‘signature’ ten-minute meditation and has created this free resource page. (Just don’t accidentally sign up for the paid subscription. It’s super-stressful trying to unsubscribe!) 

If you like your guided meditation with more expletives, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Leon Black (J.B. Smoove) will help you cope with temporary planetary lockdown: “Breathe in through your nose and out through your ass.”


► Special mention goes to…

33. The Internet: Right now it’s full of so much hope. Remember: we’re here for you. There are over 1,000 positive projects to cheer you up on Atlas of the Future – in English, Spanish and Catalan.


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Share the love: Tell us about the weird and wonderful resources you have found online, and the people creating a better tomorrow, by commenting below. You even get an Atlas avatar.

Are you in Barcelona? Join the CO-VIDA Facebook group (set up by friends of the Atlas who volunteered on Fixing the future 2019) to learn about wonderful citizen-led initiatives – and how to participate.

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