Social media have continued to evolve and have become a staple in many businesses. In response to social media’s growing influence on society, Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) and College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) set students to work on the problem of developing new ways for businesses to communicate internally as well as connect with their clientele through interactive, user-driven information technologies.

VPA’s COLAB and the iSchool hosted a three-day charrette April 16-18 for 36 students selected from several of SU’s schools and colleges. A charrette, sometimes called a design charrette, is an intense design-based project completed through interdisciplinary collaborative work over a short period of time. Charrettes serve as a way of quickly generating a design solution through interdisciplinary collaborative work, integrating the aptitudes and interests of a diverse group of people.

During the Social Media Futures Charrette, the students developed ideas over a three-day period to advance social media’s impact in business and explore ways to maximize its potential. They conducted their work in COLAB, on the fourth floor of The Warehouse, 350 W. Fayette St., Syracuse.

Students from each college were nominated by their dean to participate in the charrette. Those selected took part in idea-developing activities designed to jump-start the creative process, including presentations by leaders in industry who are advancing the study and usage of social media. Participants were advised by the COLAB team throughout the innovative process and will be able to respond to the professionals brought in to present.

“Millenials—whose fabric is woven with social media—offer a perspective that no generation has had yet, where a world without social networking has never existed,” says COLAB Executive Director Chris McCray. “This short and immediate program serves as an exploratory and small example of what a longer conversation could generate. My hope would be that students who participated in the process gained a better understanding of the potential that social media can play in their lives post academia.”

Anthony Rotolo, iSchool social media strategist and co-organizer of the event, says students can play an important role in shaping the future corporate environment. “Most major corporations are still scrambling to find effective ways to incorporate social media in their business and communications efforts,” he says. “Our students live in this social media world, and they are currently leading the transformation of how companies, as well as other elements of society, interact. Our students, after all, are the employees, customers, and clients of tomorrow. We were very excited by the innovative ideas  generated during this charrette process.”

Students began the charrette Friday evening with dinner, introductions, and some ice breakers. Saturday morning of the charrette kicked off with a conversation with a group of innovators, including Sean Branagan of Digital Vertical, Matt Hames of Eric Mower and Associates, digital marketer and iSchool alumnus Josh Frost ’08 and iSchool alumna Alana Edmunds ’08 from GE’s Information Management Leadership Program. Later in the day, the student participants heard from current SU student entrepreneurs Eric Cleckner ’10, G’12 and Dave Chenell ’10, G’11 of and Dan McSwain, who worked on President Barack Obama’s social media campaign.

The student teams presented their projects and ideas to community, university, and business leaders on Sunday in the Warehouse Auditorium.

COLAB was created to bring together students and faculty from various disciplines, with diverse skills and experiences, to learn how to approach problems collaboratively and share multiple perspectives while working toward creative solutions. COLAB will nurture partnerships with institutions and organizations from education, government, commerce and public interest from the local community and beyond.

The charrette is part of Common Ground, a yearlong exploration, sponsored by the iSchool and VPA, focusing on the intersections between information, technology, art, and design.