Monday, February 22, 2010

Attention Seekers, Value Seekers

I’d like to round out my reactions to the New Age/Paganist convention we attended this past weekend, ConVocation. Convocation is sponsored by The Magical Education Council in Michigan; the 2010 event was the organization’s sixteenth. According to the MEC’s mission statement, “This organization is established for the following purpose: to create community by promoting the sharing of knowledge, experience, and fellowship among people who follow mystical and esoteric traditions.”

As I’ve noted in earlier posts, we’ve recently also attended a science fiction convention called ConFusion just a couple of miles from ConVocation in Detroit’s convention alley, you might say, along I-75 in the metro’s northern suburbs. Structurally the two conventions were very similar, but the interesting contrast for me was a seemingly different internal structure. While attending the last three sci-fi conventions over a period of about six years, it became ever more clear to me that the audiences were shrinking and that at least half of those attending were present (as we were present at the last ConFusion) with the agenda of self-promotion. We were there to sell my novels. This became very obvious in those sessions where I was a panelist and could therefore, from the front table, see the nametags of the audience. Many—and in some panels most—of those attending had panelist ribbons under their nametags. We were addressing insiders who would later address us… Among these some of those simply attending (no ribbon visible) revealed themselves in commentary and questions posed to be would-be artists, writers, or musicians. We were among Attention Seekers. The audience—those seeking values, had greatly diminished.

I must not generalize, of course, but experience is experience. Working our booth in the Vendor room, the same pattern emerged even more sharply. ConFusion is an entertainment venue, but far too few of those who stopped to chat were present for entertainment. They were all selling or promoting something.

Now for the contrast. I mentioned in the last post that ConVocation had a much larger audience; insiders in that audience, however, were the exception. Most of those attending—and eyeballing them they matched ConFusion’s audience in demographic and income characteristics—were present because they sought something of value. A snapshot. I arrived quite early on Friday morning not wishing to miss the single session on publishing. As I entered the lobby and went down the halls to find registration, I saw six different women each sitting on a chair, alone. Each was absorbed in the reading of a book.

This got me thinking in the days that followed. Attention seeking, value seeking. Lots of food for thought there as we look out into the world—especially the cybernetic world of information overload. But the sorting of these thoughts is still in progress.

1 comment:

  1. I like the way you are developing this thought.