36 students. 36 hours. Early mornings and late nights. Coffee, Red Bull, and a lot of snacks. All for the purpose of exploring the future of social media.

Social Media Futures, a design charrette presented by the iSchool and the COLAB design center at the College of Visual and Performing Arts, has just wrapped up at the Warehouse. It was my first charrette, and the first time I’ve had the opportunity to collaborate with the COLAB crew. It was also the most amazing learning experience I’ve had in a long time!

The purpose of a charrette is to bring students together from different disciplines to focus on a single problem or question. In our case, we challenged students to forecast what the future of social media will be like when they enter the workforce and begin leading businesses and non-profits.

Surrounded by the amazing COLAB environment, each of the student teams worked long into the night idea gathering, idea sorting and idea growing. During meals, they listened to panels featuring guests like Matt Hames, social media strategist at Eric Mower and Associates, Alana Edmunds of GE (iSchool ’08), Josh Frost of MLB.com (iSchool ’08) and Sean Branagan, CEO and founder of Digital Vertical. I had the pleasure of moderating these panel discussions, including an impressive student panel that included graFighters creators Dave Chenell and Eric Cleckner, Dan McSwain of the Obama campaign, and Chris Prior – an MFA student who is building augmented reality sculptures from peoples’ online profiles!

By Sunday, the teams were tired but focused. It was incredible to witness ideas take shape as they developed their presentations. I overhead Shay Colson, an iSchool IM student, comment on how so many had come together to accomplish something we might have also attempted virtually. Across the room, I heard Alyssa Henry, a broadcast journalism major, declare what would become a popular quote for the rest of the event, “Social Media is about faces, not logos!”

The public turned out to witness the results on Sunday afternoon, and the students absolutely delivered! Check out the other posts from our guest bloggers, Kelly Lux and Dan Klamm, for a recap of each group’s ideas. Also, search twitter for #SUcharrette to read the tweets posted throughout the weekend.

I witnessed the true power of collaboration this weekend, but also in the planning of this event. Working with Chris McCray, Shoham Arad and the COLAB team, we developed a program that highlights the endless possibilities of Information+Design. This is the result of CommonGround, an ongoing exploration between the iSchool and VPA, which Jaime Snyder has been leading over the last year.

It was such an honor to be part of this event. I’m looking forward to collaborating on my next charrette with COLAB very soon. We’ve already decided this was the first of many.

Oh, and stay tuned for a documentary film of the Social Media Futures event by Mercury Studios, coming soon. I’ll post it as soon as it’s released.