Video conference vs. real meeting?

Should all meetings be held via video conference in the future? Are meetings with real people still necessary? Especially since they incur travel time, travel costs and carbon dioxide?

Real gatherings of people create a socio-spatial situation. Accompanied by agenda items, objective-rational information and knowledge content are first exchanged and processed cognitively. However, physical-sensual moments, emotions and subjective experiences are also present with humans. Perceptual processes find many points of reference. Bodies, things, distance and vicinity also choreograph an aesthetic event in time, with a course that is open. All of this has an effect on decision-making or idea generating processes, creating action and their consequences.

Anyone who thinks this is irrelevant should be reminded of Stanislaw Petrov. We owe him that we are all still alive. As a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Army, he prevented a nuclear war on September 26, 1983 by trusting a feeling and his subjective experience after the arrival of supposedly objective information by computer (America sends nuclear missiles). Within minutes he decided not to push the “red button”. This example demonstrates that the important ability to judge in situations encompasses the entire human.

The screen is a practical device. It cuts out body language (and thus gestures, “subliminal aspects” etc.), and focuses on goals and purposes, tightens schedules and saves resources. With experienced, well-rehearsed teams, virtual meetings can be an important part of the work routine. Nor does experience suddenly pause just because a computer delivers the information, as Petrov has shown.

But already the development of successful “change processes” – adjustments to changing framework conditions in companies – shows the effect of real spaces. They provide an orientation because each individual put herself/himself into a position to “something”. Constellations and hierarchies among the employees, but also unconscious aspects are localized, and can be experienced and perceived.

A video meeting can therefore be identified as a provisional solution. These exist in many forms and in almost all contexts. They are designed to bridge a condition and maintain a function when the actual or intended solution is currently not available. The meaning of the word “pro vision” reveals an additional quality. From Latin, “Pro videre” means “predict” and “to see, perceive, recognize”. In German, there is also the meaning “fürsehen” (an old word for “take care”).

Applied to current situations in the Corona crisis, digital gatherings keep work going and people connected; therefore, they are useful emergency remedies. It is quite conceivable that video meetings will become less important once the viruses disappear …… or they will stay forever. There are also many “provisional examples” for this.