Virtual Convention

As some of you know, I attended my first really big science fiction convention this summer, the 2008 Worldcon, as part of a get-together with friends. It was a great deal of fun, but admission and travel can be expensive.

For Worldcons, it’s possible to purchase a supporting membership for half the full membership price; this doesn’t include attendance, only Hugo voting rights and a packet of information at the end of it all. Cheryl Morgan’s excellent after-analysis got me thinking – what if there were more?

On the other side of the world, Conflux Australia again held a virtual SF mini-con in parallel with the real life convention last month. The virtual mini-con is essentially a fully Internet-based online convention, a gathering of friends and fans that follow a program to chat with a special guests or panels. Conflux’s virtual con was bulletin-board-based.

With all the powers of interactive media available today, what if organizers pulled many multimedia channels together to host a virtual con? For example:

  • I host project meetings using webcast, web chat and audio conference to keep participants engaged. For large groups, we have lecture or Q&A modes to keep the audio channel usable.

  • I just participated in Linux Journal’s inaugural live event – a combination of streaming video and web chat.
  • I have participated in distance learning events, a combination of streamed video/audio presentations, chat room real-time discussion, stored sessions for playback and follow-up forum-based follow-up discussion. This format, in particular, might lend itself well to virtual convention attendance.

If convention organizers would consider investing in setting up this type of technology, webcasting a key set of sessions and providing moderated chat and discussion forums, they could extend the privilege of attending and truly participating to a much broader audience. By carefully calculating the price point and successfully marketing this membership category, the virtual convention could pay for the required technology set-up.

I believe this approach would help grow the Worldcon’s media coverage and attendance base. Plus, I believe the interactive technology aspects would appeal to a younger fan base – it’d be awesome.

2 Responses to “Virtual Convention”

  1. Shawn Powers Says:

    Agreed. I’d be able to “go” to more stuff if we could do it virtually. As bandwidth increases, mobility increases, and computers continue to decrease in size — I think live multimedia will grow and grow.

    And with recording, it’s like Tivo for real life. :)

  2. mattw Says:

    They’ve been toying with the idea of doing a virtual trade show at work. So far it’s just talk, but with an increased push for online revenue it seems like just a matter of time before it would become a reality.

    I like your idea about the online con, you’d just miss out on getting signitures.