What happens when our way of meeting people changes?
Some phenomena are so common that we don’t even notice them. We take them for granted – until they change. A meeting is one such phenomenon. Currently, researchers at Mälardalen University are investigating through a new project how meetings are changing, in a world increasingly influenced by digital technology.
“Changed meeting practices have consequences, both for the workplace and for society, as meetings are essential for the exercise of democracy. During meetings, people from different backgrounds come together to have a discussion, negotiate, agree and set courses of action. Therefore, meetings are a fundamental element of organisation,” says Lucia Crevani, Professor of Business Administration at Mälardalen University.
Investigating how our meetings are changing
In the project “Meetings and a feeling of community in the post-digital age” Lucia Crevani together with her research colleagues are taking a closer look at how our meetings are changing, from physical to digital and hybrid, to see what the consequences will be in the long term.
“So far, we have transformed our meetings into digital or hybrid versions without really knowing what we are doing. We are given technology and use it without reflecting so much about it. Technology has advanced and we now have better image and sound quality and other great features, but we still don't know what changes in the actual meeting between people when we're not in the same room. We also don't know what we need from technology in order to support successful meetings,” says Lucia Crevani.
Meetings are important for a sense of community and a democratic society
Lucia Crevani believes that meetings are a way of maintaining a community spirit and, ultimately a democratic society (where the alternative is conflict, violence and distrust). If democracy is the dream, meetings are the "tools" to attain this dream. As we are currently in a transition to having increasingly digital and hybrid types of meetings, it is therefore important to bear this in mind.
“Otherwise, there is a risk that development will be driven by technical optimism and that important dimensions of established meeting routines will be lost. Something which in the long run can pose a threat to how we jointly solve issues,” says Lucia Crevani.
How will the research be conducted?
“We will follow a few people who attend different kinds of meetings over a number of days in order to document and discuss with them how they participate in meetings, what they do and how these meetings affect the sense of community,” says Lucia Crevani.
“This is a way for us to get close to the phenomenon that we want to create knowledge about and to "get" the phenomenon in the same way that those who participate in it do, to understand it based on their experiences and comprehension,” Lucia continues.
Why is it important to conduct research on changes in meeting practices?
“If our way of having meetings changes, it can in turn change the way we create a feeling of community and ultimately also affect how democracy in society can be preserved. Our research is therefore about an issue that is larger than an individual organisation, but it is of interest to the whole of society.”
The research project “Meetings and community in the post-digital age" is being financed through funds of SEK 4.5 million from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond – an independent foundation from the Swedish Central Bank for promoting and supporting academic research.
UN:s Sustainable Development Goals
The research within the project ties in with Goal number 16, Peace, Justice and strong Institutions and goal number 17, Partnership.