Beyond F2F: Keeping Faith with Serendipity
Beyond Face-to-Face: Keeping Faith with Serendipity
(Conferences, Randomness and Small World Connections)
You’ve heard the face-to-face argument for attending conferences before; it is so common, people simply write F2F and everyone knows what it means. F2F facilitates more effective human communications, through the building of trust, interpretation of body language (which is up to 93% of all human communication) and even simple eye contact. All of this is true, and there is a lot of research to back it up.
But here’s another reason conferences/meetings are important. They reduce the degree of separation between people, facilitating the mobility of ideas globally. This idea based on Small World Theory; even if you don’t know it by this name, chances are you’ve heard of or played Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. This game ties people to actor Kevin Bacon in 6 people or less; Small World Theory holds that most people are connected to other people by about 6 connections.
If you were connected closely to 50 people but no others, the degree of separation between you and others you don’t know is about 60 million (Buchanan, Nexus: Small Worlds and the Groundbreaking Science of Networks). If, however, you insert very few random links, the degree of separation can be reduced dramatically to around 5 (Urry, Mobilities).
So here’s my take on the research: conferences/meetings can act to clump possible random connections together, increasing individuals’ personal connectivity and reducing the degree of separation between them and others. Social media tools serve to increase the power of these random connections, but chances are, you will connect to someone using social media only after meeting them in person first.
By increasing connectivity, you increase the chances that you will be successful in things like business or finding a job.
Conferences help people “keep faith with serendipity” (I wish I’d made this up, but it was a guy called Roger Collis) by increasing randomness and making our worlds smaller.