Founder, ther Dunrovin Benefit Corporation from Lolo, Montana
I talk about: Bridging Divides, Community Building, Disability, Elderly, Environment
SuzAnne Miller runs a Montana guest ranch that has become “home” for hundreds of people around the world. Most have never visited in person, but they live there thanks to multiple webcams, live chats, and community sharing. SuzAnne uses technology not to create a virtual place, but to let people share a real place and connect deeply through it.
Her work started simply enough. Cornell University live-streamed the view from a web camera focused on an osprey’s nest on the ranch. When SuzAnne went to turn it off after the birds flew south, online viewers begged her not to. Then SuzAnne became bedridden with an illness and she learned why. People who were home-bound or lonely were visiting the ranch daily and talking with each other on social media.
She was astounded at how they saw the ranch as a shared home. A retired researcher, she experimented together with her online community by adding cameras and giving viewers control over them, creating onsite/online programming, and building community tools that offered emotional and mental health benefits comparable to those of a close physical community. A Montana PBS video shows the results.
SuzAnne was a biometrician for over twenty years working with natural resource agencies in Alaska before returning to Montana. She now speaks about how technology paired with a place can build trust and community for those unable to take part in communities where they live.