As we look forward to another conference “season,” I contemplate anew the long-term viability of in-person information industry conferences. The traditional conference is going away, because it is no longer serving its purpose. We are no longer willing to shuffle zombie-like from one conference session to the next, passively listening to speakers talk about what they know.
I am reminded of the iconic Apple Macintosh “1984” ad, in which a Big Brother-like figure is speaking on a large screen in a darkened auditorium. As he drones on, a runner emerges, throwing a hammer through the screen, shocking the spellbound audience and introducing them to the new age of liberated information technology. Fast-forward 33 years, replace Big Brother with any boring conference speaker, and you get the same desire for liberation of learning.