Conference 2.0?

Just as the virtual library is an enhancement and not a replacement of the physical library, so too the in-person conference is supplemented and not replaced by technology. This is the first ALA Annual Conference I won’t be attending in a while. I’m glad I’ll be able to keep up through blogs and wikis, but I’ll miss the face-to-face interaction with colleagues from all over the country.

How is social software changing conferences? Is social software making it easier for people to make in-person connections? Are audience members participating more in presentations by having access to chat or Google? Or, are conference-goers isolating themselves in their own technological bubbles? If you are at the conference, why are you reading this blog instead of talking to someone face-to-face? Isn’t that why you are at the conference and not at home in front of your computer?

I always found conferences to be the easiest places to walk up and talk to people. You’ve been pulled away from your to-do list and spend a lot of time in limbo, waiting for things, standing in line. And so has everyone else. Instead of pulling out your BlackBerry or cell phone, try these essential 21st century skills: Eye contact. Smile. Hi, what library are you from?

3 thoughts on “Conference 2.0?”

  1. Mark, good points here. I appreciate (when I’m not at an event) getting a blogger’s report. But I hope everyone who goes with a computer to share their impressions still has time to enjoy the event as a chance to engage with ideas in a different format and meet each other unimpeded by gadgets.

    There’s a telling section of the book The Myth of the Paperless Office in which the researchers examined computers and police work. One police organization decided to make life easier for cops by giving them laptops so they could fill out incident reports at the scene. But it so got in the way of their talking to crime victims (“okay, hold onto that thought, I’m trying to find the field where enter the description of the guy who attacked you…”) that they went back to taking notes on paper. They were losing eye contact when it was important. The screen and the way the information had to be taken down in the order of the forms rather than by the victim’s experience made the work impossible.

  2. Mark,
    I think the prevalence of social software at conferences is wonderful. As a relative newby, I’m totally overwhelmed by my options at ALA. With what seems like about a hundred or so programs happening simultaneously, bloggers let us check in on what we missed. Some, like the LITA Blog provide wonderfully detailed descriptions of the programs — outlines, summaries, relevant links, etc. It also provides a neat way to continue the conversation after the presentation is over. Already comments are popping up (the Top Tech Trends always seems to generate quite the conversation). In fact, I pretty much rely on these bloggers to fill me in on events I wasn’t able to attend. They’re doing all of us a great service!

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