Hi,This is a a very valid concern considering the current situation and no matter how much we like being Physically present in events and being able interact and socialize with other individuals, it seems we will have to wait a little more for things to relax. Considering the fact that this kind of situation can come again through some new strain in future i think companies will think hard of ways to make virtual events the new norm and The number of physical events will come down even after COVID ends.And it's obvious that new innovations will come up to make the virtual events more like actual gatherings by use of New technology. Technologies like Augmented reality and 3D glasses can very easily bridge the gap. Even now we do have Microsoft Halo Lens which can do the trick but it's very costly now. Facebook, Apple and google all seem to be working on a similar technologies but under a 400$ ballpark.
As a former undergraduate and graduate student, then faculty professor in the US and other countries and finally ocasional speaker in engineering conferences, I don´t believe that virtual events can replace the effect of face-to-face interactions and community sharing during actual conferences.
My opinion is not just related to the obvious convenience of technical and political networking during real events, but also to the importance of spontaneity in interacting with the speaker or presenter, and exchanging thoughts and opinions with colleges sharing the event, even during the presentations.
Also when I attend a conference, my mind is set in a way that allows me to concentrate in the event and all that comes with it, during the days it lasts. Instead, the attention to virtual events on the part of the attendee, is frequently shared with other issues that are normally going on at the remote location (home, office, special facility, etc.) from where the attendee is connected.
I acknowledge that virtual events can be accommodated to a more convenient time during the day, and that the costs of transportation, room and board are avoided, but we engineers are often deprived from expressing opinions at home, so taking a trip to attend a conference is something we normally look forward to, just for the joy of having an opportunity to talk, discuss and being listened to by our peers.
Hi Bill. I appreciate your interest in my comments.
I took advantage of the "Engineers Stereotype" – of us living in our own world that the rest of lay people do not understand – to close the comment with a jovial statement, which I consider relevant nonetheless. During lockdown we regularly have web meetings among family members living in different parts of the world, and we have a couple of engineers in the group. Every time the conversation shifts towards an exchange between us about certain technical topic, the rest of the participants start making fun of us, claiming that the meeting got hijacked, so we have to stop. Of course we are all joking, us engineers doing it on purpose and the rest of the family reacting on purpose too. The same happens in other chat groups with friends. Perhaps I am too passionate at what I do and it often shows.
But for me the ASCE seminar is a very special event that would not be as enjoyable if it was held in a virtual format. And here is why.
In 2014, while I was assigned to Panama as a regional manager for Latin America, I contributed to bringing the 2014 ASCE Conference to Panama. It was a very rare occasion of the conference being held outside the US and it was a sound success. Back then I was the president of the ASCE Panama Section, and we coordinated efforts with my friend Guna Kancheepuram, who acted as Chairman of the conference, with then president Andy Herrmann and with Pat Natale. The motivation was that the Panama Canal, designed and built by american engineers, was celebrating its 100 year anniversary.
So many colleagues from Region 10 (the rest of the world), that could never get a US visa to attend a conference in the US, flocked in from all over the world. I had the chance to give a couple of speeches and made tons of friends and contacts.
Perhaps someone could argue that the pure technical stuff could be well broadcasted and shared with even more people over the internet. But so could a simple technical paper in a journal.
We are field people and being out in the field brings out the best of us. I would like it to continue being that way.
Horacio V. Ibarra, PE. Engineering Consultant
Geotechnical/Tranportation/Waste Management Off: (507) 397-5126
Cell: (507) 6400 3887
Thanks for the candid sharing of behaviors you have experienced during virtual communication with different types of participants during this CV period.
The participant groups you noted are:
The downsides you note for #1 above are becoming common, suggesting the establishment of a "Virtual Conference Opportunities For Improvement Task Force." Perhaps you might encourage those who share the same downsides to initiate such a "VCOI Task Force" with ASCE as well as NSPE, ACEC, etc.
The issue with #2. above is that it is organized, run and utilized by family and friends.Supported by the wisdom "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread," unless you have an extremely high tolerance for 'pain:'