Our world, our life, and our everyday life are permeated by the Internet. Global networking has progressed far, but is far from over. The resulting changes have not only changed our world, but also our view of the world.
We are no longer just readers, listeners or viewers of a medium, but are becoming producers ourselves with the participatory possibilities of the net. In this way, the Internet contributes to the self-empowerment of the individual. The individual possibilities for interaction and participation have become increasingly more accessible.
This is accompanied by a change in expectations for many other aspects of life. Citizens want to be asked and heard in political decisions. Communities are forming around completely new interests, questions and projects.
In the same way, the event industry is facing this change of expectations. The interaction between organizers, partners, speakers and visitors is much more in focus today. The participants want to have a say on the topics discussed, engage in direct exchange and contribute to the success of the event themselves. They want to become a part of the event.
This makes it all the more important for organizers to address these expectations, and to enter into dialogue with partners and interested parties, making their own events more interactive and eventful.
re:publica has been responding to this call for more participation for 13 years. re:publica is one of the best-known conferences on the Internet and digital society in Europe. Since its first event in 2007, partners and participants have been an integral part of the conference.
The central goal of re:publica is not only to make the conference as good as possible for the participants, but also to give everyone the chance to participate in shaping it. One measure for this is the ‘Call for Participation’. Here all interested parties are invited to submit their own contributions – lectures, workshops or discussions. Approximately 50 % of the main program will be filled by the Call for Participation.
In addition to this, cooperating partners are integrated into the event design. The content and practical contributions for each cooperation are developed in close coordination. Since the conference is not a ‘marketing event with the usual amount of product presentations and sales talks’, there are no classic stands on the event site.
Through the design and use of the event site the community is served in a special way. Networking and Meetup Spaces, as well as a Community Stage, offer spaces for lightning talks and the exchange of ideas on the conference topics. In addition, depending on the annual theme, the implementation of further participatory elements bring additional benefits to the event structure on site.
Not to be forgotten is the annual support by our ‘Helping Hands’. Helping Hands are volunteers who support the team realizing the event. For free admission to the conference, they take on tasks for one day, for example setting up, accreditation or support for the stages. Helping Hands often include participants from previous years who want to contribute to the success of the event.
The Helping Hands are recognized and appreciated by all partners and participants as an important part of re:publica. Therefore, the many Helping Hands are clearly visible at the conference and are part of celebration on the last day of the conference.
For years re:publica has valued its community and has shown its appreciation by giving it space within the conference every year. Such a high level of community participation can only be achieved through a holistic concept. At the same time the community is anything but homogeneous. It is as diverse as our society, which makes the re:publica a conference representing society.
Just as current developments in politics, culture and society are incorporated into the design and program of re:publica every year, the organizers of the conference are faced with new challenges this year. While climate change and its urgency were chosen as the main topic and motto of re:publica 2020, a completely different urgent challenge is now being added: the pandemic of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
It is forcing not only the organizers of re:publica to postpone the planned events, but an entire industry to rethink: How can events, festivals and conferences be digitally presented and implemented? In order to find out, re:publica is entering into dialogue with its community to jointly search for innovative ideas and solutions in digital exile.
The question remains open as to how this exceptional situation will affect the coming years and future editions of re:publica. How will re:publica change in 2022 compared to 2019? How will it take place, how will it feel?
Future editions of re:publica will continue to develop and expand their target groups, thematic focuses and scope for design in order to meet the needs of the participants as well those of the founders and the team. The updated version of the article ‘New conference formats in the digital age using the example of re:publica’ from 2007 to 2019 documents in detail how they have achieved this in recent years.