No immediacy, no intimacy, no humanity
One of the benefits of online conferences is that they cost corporations much, much less to mount. Instead of one annual physical conference that deals with everything companies want to cover, they now mount frequent mini-conferences. This is gone to the extreme with phone vendors, who now have a separate launch event online for each new model as each chrysalis emerges from its factory throughout the year. Some CAD vendors engage in this multi-event approach, too.
The result is event fatigue, in which the intended audience, after a while, says, "I really don't care."
Online events are like local events. On the day of a local event, say a ten-minute drive away, I'd have to push myself to get in the car and go there. Online events are the same. When they are a ten-second GoToMeeting download away, they can prove to be a irritant, an interruption to the daily schedule. The difference is that most online events are archived, so we could view them later at our leisure -- kind of like we'd record programs on our VCRs and then never watch them later.
It's the immediacy that matters.
Also, it's intimacy that matters. Being physically with other people at a conference site, making happenstance get-togethers, socializing over quiet dinners and too-loud parties, bumping into vaguely-remembered faces ("Hey, how are you!"), catching the eye of a would-be contact, exploring the exotic locale in which the conference is located (Las Vegas, of course, excepted).
I've probably been using GoToMeeting and Skype for business meetings for a decade now. I like their efficiency. After a half-year of multi-person Zoom meetings, I now despise them. And I think that the keyword is "multi." For it is the indiscriminate equality of the 33 people -- no, not people, faces -- that makes multi-face online meetings disorientating.
It takes just one cough for a minor participant to become the star of the event, albeit for seconds, as Zoom zooms the face full-size and highlights it with that bright yellow border. I've seen a participant folding her laundry, and so we know what colors of panty she prefers. Another wandered to the side to get a snack and then returned to the Webcam to thoughtfully pick his teeth clean. It's disconcerting.
The thing about annual in-person events is that they feet important. It's the one time this is happening, for an entire year. And so they made us feel important just by attending, along with all that the complex pre-trip planning heightening the anticipation -- best airfares! hotel locations! cheapest ground transportation! foreign currency! local SIM cards! how big a backpack will I sneak aboard the airplane!
Then there is the discontinuity of the live versus canned online conference. I am in front of the computer screen live, but the presentation was filmed days before, and edited to perfection. I feel cheated. At least live online conferences exude some feeling of humanity .
That's the key, and the evil inherent in the coronavius and resultant disruptions. By disconnecting ourselves as humans, by masking our smiles and grimaces, by avoiding each other on the sidewalk, we become automatons -- full autonomous, fully anti-human. When we fight against the virus, even those who do not believe in evil are nevertheless fighting against evil intent on destroying our interconnectedness. It is only something humans experience when two arms brush accidentally against each other on that shared aircraft arm rest.
Quite frankly, I enjoyed the year-long break from overseas travel, but now I am ready to return. The first in-person CAD conference for 2021 is Hexagon's (in Las Vegas, yuck!). The CTO of another CAD vendor told me he would wait another six months before committed funds to his otherwise-annual in-person conference. Open Design Alliance said it will hold its annual conference next year in-person in Munich (hurrah!). So, there still is hope for humanity to re-emerge from the lock-downs mandated by politicians-cum-scientists.
All these conferences planned for 2021 could, of course, be cancelled.