Location: In Recovery, Louisville CCCC
image "borrowed" from multiple sites
Another reason to prefer virtual conferences in place of actual ones: for too many conferees, big events like CCCC and the dreaded MLA meat-market have become places to pal around with the bright lights and impress just the right person.
At a prior CCCC, I spotted a well known scholar of computers and writing pinned in a corner by what I'd describe as a rabid "fan." The scholar is an old friend, so I walked by, inconspicuous nutjob that I am, and made a funny, but pained, face. He nearly cracked up, since he knew exactly what I meant...it's painful to have to play this particular game as an academic. Yet he is accessible to all comers, as are many pioneers I've met in the field of computers and composition. Not so long ago, it was once a tiny field.
I suppose avatars get mobbed at events, too, but there is always the faux system-crash as a way to escape that. More seriously, however, SL luminaries are available because they are connecting from home or office. The sessions end, folks walk around, and odds are you can ask a follow-up Q in person or at least get permission to ask it later, via notecard. Given academics' crowded professional lives, that's a lot less likely after a traditional meeting.
Perhaps is SL truly becomes huge, with millions of users, this familiarity with its "names" will end.
So will I continue to go to big national conferences? At times, yes, but increasingly I plan to attend smaller meetings and, when I can, avoid traditional conferences of any size. In the case of CCCC, which did not fall during a break, I have a few days work piled up before me. A virtual meeting could be visited, as I did for VWBPE, between classes or after lunch.
Obligatory drinking reference (again): We cannot go out for drinks with colleagues at a virtual event (in any way that matters to me). Thanks for that note, Dan. At the same time, I can get to know colleagues well enough in advance to be sure that I would want to have a drink with them, when we meet in the flesh.