What are the existing forces challenging physical meetings in city centers?

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A. Business meetings

- Globalization
Business expansion from local trade to international transactions has been exponentially accelerated by technological achievements. There is no more one defined local hub to gather human activities but many. Decentralization and network redefine areas of interactions: activities outside the city center boomed (ex: emergence of business district centers, poles of competencies in the suburban areas).

- ICT and mobility infrastructures
Information and communication technologies (ICT) and development of transportation infrastructures facilitates this decentralized setting of doing business: phone, email, video conferences do reduce the amount of physical meetings; road and suburban transportation infrastructures enable people to travel to remote places. Professor Richard D. Arvey reported a study’s results indicating “that, not surprisingly, emails and office meetings are the most prevalent forms of communications, with 84% (out of 233 business people) of those surveyed indicating that they attended offsite meetings at hotels “at least occasionally”. Most of these participants (84%) agree that cost considerations have resulted in fewer meetings and more phone and videoconferencing. As airfare and accommodation costs escalate, particularly for organization that have global and/or regional outreach, the tendency to view computer mediated communication devices more favorably is obvious.” (Why Face-to-Face Business Meetings Matter, Professor Richard D. Arvey, 2009)

B. Social meetings

- online social networks
With more than 360 million internet users worldwide (Internet World stats, 2010), the web is a more and more commonly accepted substitute to physical meetings, as it offers entertainment (video streaming, online music, online gaming) and quick and easy possibilities to meet people (dating websites, friends online communities, blogs, forums). According to Nilsen// Netratings, social networking sites grow 47%, year over year, reaching 45% of web users in 2006. The distinctiveness of social websites as being a user-generated content platform nurtures visitor’s interests and loyalty.

Sources

• Why Face-to-Face Business Meetings Matter, Professor Richard D. Arvey, 2009
• Internet World stats, Internet Usage and World Population Statistics are for June 30, 2010, http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm, last retrieved August 22nd 2010)
http://www.nielsen-online.com/pr/pr_060511.pdf, last retrieved August 22nd 2010