Monday, December 6, 2010

Connecting through Events

One of the reasons we decided to stage a major event to conclude our Digital Civilization course this semester is to give our students practice in connecting. Connecting is one of the three pillars of digital literacy (along with "consume" and "create"), and can be done in many ways. An event, however, is a very powerful way of connecting

From Electronic to In-Person Connecting
An event bridges the critical gap between electronic and in-person sorts of connecting. Someone I've invited to the event, Scott Cowley (a former student's husband whom I've followed on Twitter) once told me that his most meaningful digital connections were those that led to in-person encounters. I think that's true. There is nothing like face-to-face, in-person meetings with fellow human beings. We can do so much through electronic communications, but nothing beats flesh-and-bone people.

Connecting at the Live Event
During the event itself, of course, opportunities arise for introducing people to other people and projects. I look forward to getting people that I know but who do not know each other in the same room, since I know they share common interests. The event gives us all something to talk about, to respond to -- in person.

Connecting before the Live Event
As I have been extending invitations to various people to attend our "Digital Revolution" showcase, this has helped me to review my various personal contacts. I'm not sending out many group invitations (I'm not sending the invitation to our event via Facebook to all my Facebook friends, for example). But I am sending out a lot of individual invitations, or to very focused groups of people in my network (such as former students who've shown interest in digital things). 

The good that comes of sending out personal invitations is not simply getting people to show up to our event. No, what this does is that it (hopefully) strengthens ties with those people. It shows them that I'm thinking about them and about what might genuinely interest them. So, even if they don't come, we are more likely to stay in touch generally, especially about the topics the event is about. That's why I'm happily extending invitations to many who I know cannot come. I want them to know what we are doing because at some point they might want to know more about these things.

Connecting after the Live Event
Events give people reasons to stay connected, not just to be connected in the same physical space for a short period. For example, following a missionary fireside that I participated in a few weeks ago, a couple of students approached me -- one was interested by the presentation format I had used (Prezi). Another turned out to share interests with me outside of the topic of the missionary fireside. We exchanged email addresses and have corresponded -- and now I feel comfortable inviting them to this event. I'm hoping that people will not see our final event as the end of things; events can be starting points for ongoing connections to be established -- so easily sustained online nowadays. 

I think networking still mostly carries connotations of job hunting, but we've learned that the new knowledge economy relies upon creating and sustaining various social connections as much as career-oriented networking does. Knowledge is social, and that means reaching out to people, offering to them resources that matter in their own world, showing interest and trying to make what you know about valuable to what they are doing.

What are some of the invitations you've made to our Digital Revolution event? In each case, are you trying to connect with what really is valuable to invitees in their own worlds?

Photo: flickr - Jayz Internet Solutions