Image by Edward Cisneros via Unsplash.

Have you ever gone to a concert for one of your favourite bands or musicians? What about a science fiction convention? A team meeting with all of your coworkers? Most of us have experienced large crowds during live events, festivals, or even business conferences at some point in our lives.

COVID-19 changed everything by illustrating gaps in our culture, workplaces, and skills that we weren’t quite ready to accept. The digital divide, for instance, became more serious once services started to move online. How can we expect someone without an internet connection to be able to work from home or access their local library?

We also have to think about traditional large venues and the danger involved with large crowds. How many people can safely attend your child’s wedding ceremony? Is it possible to have a concert with fans socially distanced from one another?

While live events aren’t going anywhere in the near future, event coordinators have been forced to find ways to adapt to the growing concerns of social distancing during massive live conventions. Without adaptation, live gatherings and functions are being postponed or outright cancelled.

To avoid that, we’re starting to see virtual changes to live venues, changes that will likely wind up being a lot more permanent than most of us are expecting.

Virtual Entertainment

On the first night of CES 2021 – an annual technology trade show – Billie Eilish performed virtually on a computer-generated stage. While virtual concerts aren’t exactly a novel concept, the fact that this one utilized CGI marks a departure for what was traditionally a physical performance.

Image by iHeartMedia via CNET.

VIP audience members were represented by the little white dots on either side of the stage, while the main audience could be found in the swarm of dots below. To speak with one another, users had to drag a dot across the screen to a chat box.

In an increasingly digital world becoming entirely reliant on technology, it’s great news for people that would otherwise be unable to access a venue like this in person. Concerts and lengthy festivals will soon be accessible by people worldwide… as long as they have a modern device and reliable internet connection.

That said, the physical nature of concerts isn’t disappearing entirely. The goal is to return to offering limited seating once it’s safe enough to do so. Until the end of 2021, however, virtual venues seem to be the future we’re heading towards. Even after these venues become open to the public again, it’s likely that virtual tickets will still be encouraged, meaning most events, festivals, and conferences will likely take a hybrid approach to consuming entertainment.

Of course, this certainly raises a lot of questions. Will virtual tickets to these events be more affordable than physical ones? How different will the experience be? How will troublemakers be moderated? Can virtual audience members chat with physical ones?

With the future hinting at an even larger digital focus, there are a couple of potential issues we should consider…

Issues with Virtual Events

Image by Chris Montgomery via Unsplash.

One of the main concerns with virtual events is “screen fatigue”. All of us have already spent so much time online since the outbreak of COVID-19, and more online activities just doesn’t sound that appealing. On top of this, much of the energy and excitement involved with these live activities will be lost in the transition to a virtual environment.

Another major concern is connected with the overemphasis on digital communication. With texting, instant messaging services, and direct messages replacing in-person conversations, we’re placing even more barriers in front of human connection. Some conversation through text is fantastic, allowing us to build bridges with friends and loved ones who are otherwise too far away physically. But an overreliance on digital communication could be damaging to our society as a whole.

Finally, there’s the issue of the existing digital divide. Despite excellent efforts made by the government and numerous community organizations, an overabundance of people are being threatened with being left behind as we progress into a purely virtual arena. It’s imperative that more non-profit organizations like the Community Sector Council teach digital literacy skills to marginalized populations, but it’s equally important that rural locations be given proper, affordable access to the internet in the near future.

. . .

At techKNOWtutors, we realize that adapting to technology isn’t easy. Although most services have closed, we remain open – digitally – to answer your internet-related questions. If you need help with improving your digital literacy, send us an email at techknowtutors@cscnl.ca or join our Facebook group and send us a message.

Better yet, sign up for one of our online classes that we offer for FREE every week! Until then, stay in the techKNOW.

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