The Digi-Cult

A New Religion for a Digital Age

The Convention: Why do we gather in a digital age?

Posted by Shannon O'Grady on September 18, 2008

As the traditional Convention season comes to close and the forums fill with reviews of previews and pictures of amazing displays of fandom, I pause to reflect on the phenomenon of the convention of itself.

Why is it, that in our digital age where a series of keystrokes can link people across great distances, we still choose to gather face to face to share our common interests?  Why when we can purchase exclusives merchandise online, we still choose to browse merchant-stalls with hundreds of other people?  What is it about this physical gathering that still draws us together, despite high ticket prices, transportation issues and the poor personal hygiene of fellow con-goers?

I came to two conclusions after much pondering, though these may not be the only ones and I hope to see the comments brimming with conclusions provided by our readers.

My first conclusion is simple and superficial: Bragging Rights.  Conventions provide a place to earn and display medals of fandom, whatever that fandom may be.  Being there when exclusive announcements are made, meeting the most influential people in the industry face to face, and being the first to own the newest merchandise are all outward signs of a persons prowess among the fan community.  The physical act of migrating to the convention location and financially investing in attending is a substantial notch in a fans belt, one that is envied by other fans.  These acts provides prowess among the fan community and are one reason many people go to conventions.

The other conclusion I came to is far more philosophical.  The convention allows people to prove that they exist.  In a digital world where many fans interact through screen-names and must take with a grain of salt all they see and hear, the concrete world of the convention provides a much need dose of reality.  It is at the conventions that they can PROVE their fandom through their bragging rights and by doing so, prove they are who and what they say they are.

Conventions provide more than a place to socialize with other like minded individuals, they provide a proving ground for fans.  A place to assert their identity, as well as expend and develop it in a place of social safety.  This is the true allure of the convention.

Tomorrow: Wintereenmas and Gaming as a Social Religion.

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