Designing the Future of Social Media

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 (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.

Anthony Rotolo

Anthony Rotolo is a leading expert on emerging technologies and formerly a professor at Syracuse University. Anthony is also the former director of NEXIS, a student research lab at the Syracuse University iSchool.

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  • mjsciald

    One thing that struck me as interesting was that nearly every group touched upon how social media can be integrated into education. In fact, a few groups made it the focus of the future they foresaw! This generation of learners is DEMANDING the integration of social media into their educational experience!!

  • Jason Adams

    This was an experience I will never forget. I am constantly reading about social media and the perspectives of “experts” in the field, but to sit down and listen to the amazing opinions of my group members was better than any online article I could ever hope to dig up. My views of social media go much deeper now, and I feel better prepared to start my career in social media because of the people in my group and the great presentations Sunday. If I wasn’t graduating soon, I’d jump at the chance to attend another charrette (as long as it’s not during tree pollen season).

  • Alyssa Henry

    This blog post sums up my experience at the Charrette. Collaborating isn’t easy, but it has great results. I think everyone involved saw that at the presentations. So, congratulations to all my fellow students who put so much time and energy into their innovative ideas, it really showed. A HUGE thank you to everyone at COLAB and the iSchool for organizing it and challenging us. Bring me back! I need more breakfast pizza! And, as always, “Faces not logos!”


  • Nicole Hering

    Loved reading all the blog posts and tweets throughout the weekend. I graduated Syracuse a semester early (and now working at a social media agency!) but so happy to see that the University is embracing and taking such a critical and innovative approach to new media. Keep up the great work, guys! Loved the results!

  • Congratulations to everyone who participated in the charrette! The presentations were fascinating….I learned a lot, and look forward to seeing the results of many future charrettes.

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  • What is augmented reality

    “Social Media is about faces, not logos!”

    What a great statement!!. . . and very correct for the way technology is moving

    When eyeware becomes fully available for your mobile devise we are going to see Social Media combined with Augmented reality fly at a pace beyond all other technologies.

    “As advances in technology continue, and we see an increase in smaller, more powerful devices, the barrier between man and machine via Augmented Reality via our Iphone , or Virtual Reality is not as farfetched as it was”

    The next big step in all this technology is going to be eyeware. We are all going to know almost everything about each other just from a glance. . . I don’t know if its going to be a great thing or a very bad thing???

    We are currently looking into the application of graphene into the eyeware and are seeing some exciting things for the future.

  • Mross4

    we are a local business in Cicero NY – we would love to work with you/students to see what we can do to change the social media we are now using and how to update and go to the next level to get the “word out” – do you have any programs and/or graduate students who would like to work with us to review what we do now and what/where we should be/go to get our marketing social media information to the next level?u00a0 If you do not do this can you send me any information that you might have to help us connect with the right person.u00a0 Thank you, Mary Ross – Admin Asst 315-699-1441 x25, 315-699-2596 FAX

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