Doctoral Students’ E-zine Shows Creativity of COVID Solitude

Weican Zuo, Thea Thorrell, and Michael Borsellino — graduate students at Taubman College — received awards for their submissions to this spring’s e-zine, Viral Solitude, published by the Planning and Architecture Research Group (P+ARG).

P+ARG, an organization created by and for the doctoral students at Taubman College, launched Viral Solitude as a way for students to share their “thoughts on couch potatoing in the age of COVID.” Students could submit poetry, renderings, drawings, video, essays, short stories, creative nonfiction, or other digital mediums. “Update us on your relationship to your couch as it now stands (sits?),” P+ARG leaders encouraged. “Couches are red, sofas are blue, witty or sweet, it’s up to you.”

Viral Solitude sought to be a lighthearted respite from the pandemic, not by inviting escapism, but by trusting in the creative generosity of a couch-ridden community,” said co-editor Bader AlBader, a Ph.D. candidate in architecture. “The contributions didn’t disappoint. At points I smiled; at others I was moved. Together, they‘re a glimpse of the college’s artistry and thoughtfulness beyond the bounds of studio and seminar.”

Christine Hwang, a Ph.D. candidate in urban and regional planning, co-edited the e-zine. She said the publication did a good job of capturing the spirit of Taubman College despite students not being physically together at the end of last semester: “Much like the work you see [in the studios] on the second and third floors of our building, Viral Solitude displays a wide array of qualities: funny, thoughtful, quirky, diagrammatic, illustrative, and poignant. The e-zine was a way to display those creative facets even when our community was in many different places.”

P+ARG enhances the academic and social experiences of research students in the college by fostering a sense of community and sustaining an exchange of ideas among planning and architecture students, as well as others interested in issues of the built environment. The group organizes casual social events, conversation forums, and workshops for sharing research across disciplines through which students get a chance to improve their own scholarship and receive constructive feedback from their peers. In addition, they host the Emerging Voices series, which has brought many outstanding scholars to campus since its inception in 2009.

View Viral Solitude here.