Why’s Pensacon so popular? U. West Florida Researchers Seek Answers

Have you ever tried to quantify a social phenomenon?

It may sound complicated, but marketing researchers at the University of West Florida are doing just that when it comes to what they call “the gathering of the tribes.”

In layman’s terms: What is it about Pensacon that brings out huge groups of people?

The focus of the study was events where people go to be entertained and interact with like-minded thinkers. In Pensacola, Pensacon was the perfect place to start.

“I didn’t realize that the effect was so much stronger than what I imagined,” said Richard Hawkins, one of the project’s researchers from the University of West Florida.

In conducting the survey, researchers also asked questions about likes and dislikes. People’s biggest dislike isn’t exactly surprising.

“People are incredibly frustrated by lines when they first get to an event,” Hawkins said.  “This isn’t just Pensacon — I think this is true almost anywhere.”

But their likes supported Hawkins’s hypotheses.

“What we hear on the good side is an incredible sense of community among attendees,” Hawkins said.

The sense of community isn’t restricted to just one weekend a year. There’s a group that comes to Carmike Movie Theatre once a week to meet and discuss Sci-Fi movies.

“They come out regularly — we’re all part of the community,” said Julio Diaz, organizer of the Pensacola News Journal’s Movie Night.  “Things like this kind of keep things going year round for everybody.”

Researchers said the best example of the camaraderie is the lack of competitiveness in costume competitions where outsiders would think things get really intense.

“It’s very much a very supportive community,” Diaz said.  “People enjoy helping each other and admiring each other’s work.”

The study began in 2014.  The group is excited to continue to build their con data to study changes over time.

The next Pensacon will take place Feb. 17th-19th.

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