Did you know that the rate of CO2 emissions for average PC use is equal to the CO2 exhaled by 1.5 humans? If not, you probably missed the Virtual Energy Forum 10-11 June 2008. But all is not lost. The presentations are available to registered users at the Virtual Energy Forum website. The live conference took place in a virtual conference environment, saving over 12 million pounds of CO2 emissions, which would have been incurred by air travel, hotel stays and commuting to/from airports to attend a real conference.
We have been watching the movement towards virtual conferences since we reported on Trend Day in Second Life. Virtual conferences offer advantages and benefits which live attendance cannot equal. And the breadth and impact of the speakers and topics at the Virtual Energy Forum leave no doubt: this is a serious medium for sharing and learning.The VEF archives now harbor the presentations from the conference, which includes highlights such as:
- Senator Obama's Energy Agenda and Vision, presented by Senior Energy and Environment Advisor Howard Learner
- Energy, Security, and the Long War of the 21st Century by James Woolsey, Advisor to Senator McCain
- Reshaping US Energy Policy to Combat Global Climate Change, featuring Senator John Kerry
- Energy Strategy for the Road Ahead, with Walt Tunnessen, US EPA's Climate Protection Partnership leader
Like all conferences, at virtual events the sponsors are visible to attendees, and sponsor booths allow interested parties deeper inquiry. Streaming video of the speakers accompanied by views of the presentation slides can only be rated as superior to reality, which usually involves too small a screen which is partially blocked by the column in a room which doubles as a ballroom when not filled with conference-goers. Q&A; is enabled just as in real conferences.
The big downside of virtual events is clearly the face time. Instant Chat, contact information collection tools, and other functionalities add networking advantages. But the use of avatars remains a mixed blessing. They are awkward for the pre-gaming generation and fail to transmit a real sense of inter-personal exchange. But be honest: people at conferences generally hide their true selves behind the "corporate mask". The avatar as a true representation of what a person wishes to project will eventually be accepted as equivalent to real social interaction.
Thus it comes down to the tie-breaker: the virtual conference wins because you can attend in your pajamas. Enjoy the forums with your cat in your lap and a cup of your favorite tea brewed fresh.