My wife is taking some classes at Beadfest, an annual gathering of people interested in making beaded jewelry. And it made me think of the Origami convention that a friend of mine goes to every year. (I’ve remarked on this convention before because of that event’s use of labels that attendees can wear, indicating either “I’ll teach you…” or “Please teach me…”)
In both cases, I remarked to my wife, you have a bunch of skill-based enthusiasts who come together to share their skills. But she pointed out a key difference. Beadfest is produced by the trade publisher Interweave Press, and is not particularly interested in facilitating sharing of expertise among participants. It’s really designed primarily for one-way flow of expertise – from Interweave’s sanctioned “experts” to the paying attendees. I don’t know if it just doesn’t occur to the event organizers to facilitate expertise sharing among attendees, or if they deliberately avoid doing so, perhaps for fear of diluting their underlying marketing message. Regardless, though, they do not have the types of explicit networking labels used by the origamists at their convention.
HOWEVER, my wife noted, most of the women (and most of the attendees are women) tend to wear some of their own creations. And “How did you do that?” questions inevitably ensue. I take this as an indication that people’s innate desire to share what they know with others will find a way to express itself. Though they’re not wearing explicit, written labels, the jewelry itself nevertheless serves as a “networking hook” to invite connection and sharing among attendees. People want to share with their peers – even when their environment doesn’t necessarily encourage it. Beadfest might want to look at this as an opportunity, rather than a threat.