Webinar or the web-based conference, and discussions in cyberspace is the future.
The webopedia defines a Webinar as "Short for Web-based seminar, it is a presentation, lecture, workshop or seminar that is transmitted over the Web using video conferencing software. A key feature of a Webinar is its interactive elements -- the ability to give, receive and discuss information. Contrast with Webcast, in which the data transmission is one way and does not allow interaction between the presenter and the audience."
However, just as people still claim they like to feel and smell the paper and print when they read a newspaper or a book, that they prefer to write a letter on paper and send it by snail mail, they still like to travel around the world, to attend seminars and conferences. They even leave a huge Carbon footprint to attend conferences on reducing the carbon footprint and global warming.
We could say they suffer from Webinar phobia, yet it may not be a phobia but a reluctance to accept webinars, for various reasons.
People suffer from so many phobias. New terms are added every day to the list. Internet Phobia was coined long years ago, around 1997. Now we also have Cyberphobia, which is listed as the fear of computers, internet and cyberspace.
Even if they are not phobias, there are still many people who do not like to use electronic mail, social media, or read e-books. Some people even take pride in it. Such topics are discussed almost daily in cyberspace and print media. It is argued that a webcast or webinar is a one-way process. Even at most conferences and seminars it is usually one way, because due to time overruns, there is no opportunity for interaction, to question the presenter or discuss what he presented. Then even a webcast could achieve the same outcome.
Attending a conference or seminar somewhere in the world could mean many things to many of us. Since most such conferences are sponsored by the organizers themselves or other public or private organizations, they would be at no cost to the participants. They get free air tickets, free hotel accommodation and other perks. They get to travel to a new country, or a country they already have fallen in love with. They get to visit interesting places, do shopping for exotic items or items not freely available in their own country. They also get an opportunity to meet their colleagues from around the world and interact with them and learn from them.
For some of us attending a conference is also a means to feed our ego to some extent with the recognition of our skills and knowledge, and the honours bestowed upon us. For academics, sometimes attending such seminars, presenting papers and having them published, could help them score more points when their positions and promotions are considered.
It is not easy to find any other reason for us to reject webinars and insist on attending these events in person, however much it would cost us. We do not mind enduring long waits at airports, undergoing all the security checks, sit cramped for long hours, eating the tasteless airline food or drinking as much liquor as they offer. We do not mind listening to dull and uninformative presentations, trying not to fall asleep. We do not mind if no one listens to our own presentations. When the organizers have to resort to have parallel sessions, even if we are physically at the conference, we could only attend one session at a time. As far as the other sessions are concerned, it would be as if we had never attended the conference.
The advantages we have with a webinar are so many. As a lover of Mother Earth and promoting a greener world, to me the most important reason is the reduction of the Carbon footprint, by going online. Our contribution to global warming would be only the energy consumed by the digital equipment used to broadcast and receive the conference proceedings and power used for lighting and air-conditioning in the place we are seated.
We do not have to spend our own money, or money from some organization who sponsors our air ticket and hotel expenses. We do not have to be away from office and home. We do not have to put off all our work in the office, and we do not have to leave our family behind, even for a few days. We do not have to kill hours at airports in transit. We do not have to worry about terrorist attacks, highjacking or infections which erupt from time to time. From our own egoistic viewpoint, we get a much wider audience, worldwide, and responses. We also get so much more recognition.
The conference organizers do not have to find sponsors to host the event, for hosting the delegates, for all other expenses required to hold an international conference.
The benefits for the majority is that a webinar would include all of us, from anywhere, to attend the conference, to listen and participate in the discussions. We do not have to worry about obtaining visa approvals, or be disappointed when a visa is denied or the venue is in a country not deemed safe.
Since these conference could be recorded, we could attend them at our leisure, without disturbing our regular schedules. We can join in the discussions and ask our own questions and seek clarifications, even after the conference. Another great benefit is that the conference does not end at the second or third day, but would continue in cyberspace, as long as there is interest and the momentum could be maintained.
Let us grab the opportunities available in cyberspace now, get the maximum benefits to enhance and share our knowledge and experience, while making our contribution towards a greener Mother Earth.