The Covid-19 pandemic is a tragedy that demands urgent and humane response. It’s also pushing us toward new ways of gathering and sharing information — and that may be a faint silver lining that might grow brighter over time.
Many important conferences are being canceled. Just as the rise of online video brought a new generation of online education, I believe the rise of livestreaming and videoconferencing will bring a new generation of online conferences.
For many years, attendees at top conferences have asked themselves: Why do we travel to one location, when it means:
- significant cost
- increased carbon emissions
- limitations on attendance due to venue size
- limitations imposed by the host country’s visa policies
Just as MOOCs today are a lot more than video, online conferences will be much richer than livestreamed video. Perhaps we’ll have regional chat rooms where attendees in the same country can share local resources even while they listen to a keynote. Or we will generate live transcripts through automatic speech recognition that attendees can tag with live commentary. Up- and downvoting one another’s questions will be routine, and some answers will be crowdsourced.
I don’t expect online conferences to replace in-person events, which still have an important role. Rather, they’ll complement them. With more team members (including many in my organizations) working from home, the time is ripe to experiment with these ideas and move toward lower costs, smaller carbon footprints, democratized access, and stronger communities. If you have thoughts, let us know at email@example.com.
Wash your hands, stay safe, and keep learning!