A Global Conference in Istanbul


Alan Grabinsky is a little bit of everything including a literary buff and obsessive reader. He is currently engaged in the Cosmopolis project, a storytelling journey across different global cities.

Thanks to a Go Speak! Micro Grant from ROI, I was able to present a paper on the effects of communication networks on global cities, like Mexico City, at the International Conference on Media, Communications, Technology and Design.

I have been to these types of conferences before and have heard of the impact of social media on the Arab Spring, the Syrian Revolution, business environments, organizational infrastructure, news layouts, and anything else you can think of, a million times.

More interesting, at least for me, was how the mixture of people reflected the geography of the encounter. Researchers from key players in the Middle East, like Saudi Arabia and Libya; enclaves of Europe like northern Finland and central Switzerland; digitally connected countries of Africa, like Nigeria and South Africa; and small towns in Indonesia and even China all talked with each other in the hotel’s lobby and restaurant, making the actual conference rooms irrelevant, and turning the place into a platform to connect beyond the initial topics.

All this, in the end, reveals the centrality of Istanbul in the region. You wouldn’t have this type of mixture in New York, Mexico City, or London, no matter how global these places are - so, even when I had heard about social media in all contexts, a million times before, the actual topics of the conference were not as important as the mixture of people.