The format of the Monday Night Seminar series at the Toronto Reference Library, moderated by Jesse Hirsh, has demanded nothing more of all attendees than to sit on chairs arranged in a large circle.
Nonetheless, the set-up is different from the conferences in which issues related to media and technology are typically mediated these days, with putative experts lined up at a table. The audiences are beholden to the ego aggregation in front of the room — whether or not they have anything to say.
By contrast, the second of three installments inspired by Marshall McLuhan's 100th birthday, "Our City as Classroom," was almost entirely steered by those with a viewpoint they wanted to express.
And the urge was often motivated by a paradoxical principle: the more time that we spend with our devices, the more we want to talk about their effects — and, ultimately, the degree to which we need to scale back, or tune out.
For many adults, being online lots of the time is still generally seen as the stuff of sloth — even more so by those who feel guilty for forsaking offline interaction. Meanwhile, when it comes to the younger digital natives, educators wonder if there will be any point in trying to pierce through distracted conditioning.
When it comes to finding a community of others suffering from a certain ailment or passionate about a particular topic, though, it's not like any better channels were ever built to bring people together. Going outside for fresh air doesn't satisfy that craving for information and understanding.
So, maybe it's just human nature to take tools that seemed like a miracle 20 years ago for granted.