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Like being at the real thing… but with less mud: Glastonbury Festival

The Glastonbury Festival has become an iconic event in the UK with crowds gathering to enjoy music and atmosphere. Image credit: Glastonbury Festival

There are some events you just want to say: I was there.

I remember, long time ago the music event at the Isle of Wight, back in 1970. I was there, and from time to time I recall the experience and people tell me: You really were there! Wow. After all this time, all it matters is to have been there, not the music, not the weather (rainy) not the many people I met. It was the overall experience (biking from London… not sleeping, the noise -difficult to call it music-, the sense of being part of something unique).

How can this experience translate to the cyberspace? This is the time to find out.

We have been forced by the pandemic to stay home, and even now that the lock down is over (at least in Italy) crowded events are a no-no. At IEEE we have been forced to cancel face to face meetings and we moved most of our conferences on-line (the others were cancelled). On the one hand I attended more conferences in these last two months than what I would usually attend in a year. No more travel burden, no expenses and on top most events offered free registration (not a good way to generate revenues, by the way).

I also experimented with some degree of virtual reality at AWE 2020, but overall the experience has been too much focussed on the content presented and basically nothing on the context. Yet, at least for me, the context is what makes it worth to be at a conference. So, being frank, I have not been overjoyed by the remote participation experience. In a few weeks I will attend a virtual session at COMPSAC 2020 with an engaging topic:   “Predicting Future Tech Trends for an Immersive Intelligent Digital World” .

So I was intrigued by how the organisers of the Glastonbury Festival have moved their 50th edition, that was of course expected to be a splash, to the cyberspace. They have enriched the music program with a variety of other events to create a completely new envelope where of course the virus became part of the attraction (watch the clip).

I watched a few of the events, very different from one another, and although I have never participated in a Glastonbury event I am pretty convinced that my experience was totally different. Yet, it also works the other way around. Immersing in the cyberspace provided me with an experience that could not have been delivered “on-site”. In the end the point is to decide what is more satisfying, the real one or the virtual one, not to gauge the virtual one on how close it was to the real one. It is not!

I guess this is important. Attempting to recreate in the cyberspace the experience of the physical space may be a lost battle, at least with the current level of technologies. Much better, I would say, to leverage on the virtual space to create a different sort of experience that may be as rewarding as the real one.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and then was head of the Industrial Doctoral School of EIT Digital up to September 2018. Previously, up to December 2011 he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee and co-chairs the Digital Reality Initiative. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books.