A clear trend in the past decade has been the success and proliferation of organized and less organized events1. For the former, I am thinking of the success of TED and TEDx2, which began in the second half of the 2000s. For the latter, I am thinking in particular of the flash rallies. In both cases, this trend seems to be linked to the digital transformation, which allows TED to put its videos online, and the crowds to meet via Facebook. But this explanation seems a bit short. Isn’t digital primarily a means of freeing human interaction from the constraints of physical space? To be able to act without having to gather together physically? If this were the case, why don’t we rather observe a drop in the activity of the event industry?
This article proposes a general explanation of the link between the growth of the event industry and the digital transformation. It then applies this element to the experience of the scientific and technological consulting platform Presans. Because the adventure of Presans over the last ten years also includes several forays into the world of events. But the existence of such incursions is not, a priori, self-evident. We suggest that the high local concentration of cognitive chipmunks3 is a causal factor in the trajectory leading from Presans Raouts to the outbreak of DYSTOPIA in 2019.
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Why don’t we just watch the game on TV?
Advances in telecommunications make it possible to interact remotely, including in new virtual spaces. The case of online games is a good illustration of this. And yet these same online games are the source of tournaments that bring large crowds together in the same physical space. This may seem surprising. But there is no need for digital transformation to ask this kind of question: why, for example, go to a concert when you can listen to the same music in better technical conditions at home? Similarly, why go to a stadium to watch a sports match, rather than follow it on television? The answers to these questions all relate to the same factor, which is none other than the attraction of physical gathering in itself, under certain conditions studied by sociologists. Let us cavalierly posit that this attraction ultimately lies in the probability of collective effervescence. For the purposes of this paper4, we will simply hypothesize (H) that such a preference exists and manifests itself both in the cases we have just mentioned, as well as in all events, and all the more so when the event is successful.
Within the framework of this hypothesis (H), the digital transformation provides the event industry with more fluid and efficient tools to identify and bring together groups based on ever more varied themes and social dynamics. The desire for events does not diminish in any way, but it becomes easier to create events to satisfy this desire.
Why not gather cognitive chipmunks that have been through the industry?
Let’s test hypothesis (H) by examining the origins of Raout Presans. These are situated in the quasi-mythical period of the creation of the network of Presans Fellows. Recall that a Fellow Presans is a scientific and technological expert of the cognitive chipmunk type. At the beginning, the Raout Presans gather in a rather informal way the Fellows and the rest of the Presans team. Interactions are naturally structured by give and take rituals. It is these rituals that give positive energy to the participants of the event. It is also from this perspective that scholars are invited. They provide insights into scientific issues at the frontier of knowledge. But the Fellows’ tendency towards polymathy also manifests itself in a very significant practical interest in the arts, especially theatre. This trait combines with Presans founder Albert Meige’s gift for magic to give a spectacular and immersive orientation to later versions of the event.
Why not also bring together decision-makers in industrial innovation?
Towards the middle of the last decade, Presans took up the challenge of bringing together the industrial innovation community around new questions, linked in particular to the interactions between digital transformation and society, understood in all its facets: economic, artistic, political… The Raout ceases to be a retreat in a bucolic setting and even ends up in a cinema at the Centre Pompidou in Paris. The horizon of the participants widens and includes: many industrialists, a mentalist, a financier, a director of a prestigious school, a writer… New partners join the vision of an event that goes beyond the usual frameworks, agendas and goals. The Raout gains in stature and audacity.
It does indeed take a good dose of audacity to launch something new in such a competitive field. All the more so as it is not enough to stop there. A committee is being set up to discuss the next step. The cognitive chipmunks around Presans are now looking for a good angle to tackle the question of the impact of new technologies on society…
Why not bring together those who are passionate about the possible futures of the industrial world?
So cognitive chipmunks are looking for an angle. It’s gonna be dystopia. It promotes distance, freedom, unpredictability. Too often, indeed, reflections on our technological future are limited to an exercise in promoting solutions within the framework of agreed industrial agendas.
“DYSTOPIA, wants to be the alternative tech event of reference to break in beauty with the false charms of utopia and to get rid of a naive relationship with new technologies, by bringing together views from the industrial, academic, artistic and intellectual worlds.”
“What will we do with the new technologies… what will they do with us? DYSTOPIA 2019 has succeeded in harnessing the collective energy to ask this question in a spectacular, speculative, empirical, personal, theatrical, and musical way – making it an act of freedom.”
DYSTOPIA represents, in sum, a significant territory expansion for cognitive chipmunks and chipmunk mindset.
The trajectory that leads to DYSTOPIA confirms our hypothesis (H): the digital transformation, far from leading to a reduction in the importance of events, facilitates on the contrary the realization of the primordial human need that they represent. Our examination of the origins of DYSTOPIA also suggests that the Fellows’ own mindset played a role both in the fact that Presans organizes events, and in the evolution of these events. The concentration of cognitive chipmunks around Presans seems to be one of the factors that contributed to the emergence of DYSTOPIA.
However, it is not in this post that we will give the recipe for the effervescence of DYSTOPIA. For that, we will have to turn to our next white paper.
- Whose essential character lies in the fact of physically gathering a group in the same place and at the same time. This blog does not deal at all with events in the general sense, but rather with events that bring human groups together, as well as the economic sector involved in their realization.
- Here is an example of a TEDx conference: 2033… Work will be replaced by transferring.
- See the next whitepaper of Presans: Experts create problems. Chipmunk experts are great connectors of domains and tend to be polymathic. NB: the hedgehog illustrating the article is spiritually a chipmunk.
- Randall Collins is the leading sociologist on the subject. He speculates that technological advances will not eventually eliminate the need to come together.