In what has felt like a sudden onset of one natural disaster of epic proportion after another, the last thing from which one might expect to be kept informed would be a social media tool traditionally used for personal updates to a network of friends, industry peers and family. But now, a program built around “short codes,” is playing a role in disaster recovery and affecting people emotionally and financially. So with the recent earthquake in China, the cyclone in Burma and the fires in California, it’s rather surprising that a growing trend has emerged with accounts of these disasters being reported on Twitter en masse.
A recent article in PRWeek got me thinking about the value of such social media tools that, in many ways, have come to be much more than strictly “social.” As tweets began to provide status updates on those in devastated areas of China, Twitter took on a new life, a new role. It became philanthropic and educational. The Salvation Army began using its Twitter page (twitter.com/salvationarmy) to let followers know about progress on relief efforts and directed people to where they could find more information and resources. Other organizations were right in step with this as well.
“Though the American Red Cross doesn’t have a staff in China, it did use Twitter (twitter.com/redcross), as well as traditional media notifications to tell victims of last year’s Southern California wildfires where to find help during the disaster, says Wendy Harman, senior associate for new media integration at the American Red Cross,” reported PRWeek.
Tweets have continually evolved; from personal status updates to a means of spreading news and trends. However, I must admit, if tools like Twitter can make finding shelter easier, allowing loved ones to reunite or even raise money, social media just got even better. I kind of love it even more.
In an Australian first, and in a scene reminiscent of a Star Wars Jedi Council meeting, Australia’s dominant carrier Telstra has projected a life-size 3-D hologram of its chief technology officer, Dr Hugh Bradlow from Melbourne live to a stage in Adelaide, which is more than 700 kms away. Dr Bradlow’s life-sized, real-time hologram walked, talked and interacted with business executives at an Adelaide conference while he stood in front of cameras in Telstra’s Melbourne office. Cameras and microphones in Adelaide allowed Dr Bradlow to see and hear his subjects in the Adelaide audience, as they watched his high definition image projected onto a transparent screen or “foil”. Click here to see the video on ABC News.
The technology, created by British company Musion Eyeliner, has already enabled former US vice president Al Gore to speak to the Live Earth concert’s London audience from Tokyo, and retailer Target to host a model-less virtual fashion show in New York last year. UK band Gorillaz has also used Musion to give life to three-dimensional cartoon characters who performed their song at a 2005 MTV Awards concert in Portugal as rappers interacted with them live on stage.
But Telstra reckons it’s not just for entertainment, but believes there are real business applications and serious benefits from this technology. Perhaps it will help to reduce carbon emissions as executives take less flights, opting instead for their 3-Image to travel? Certainly, that would be a more productive use of one’s time, and reduce travel costs. But clearly it is early days and the costs of this technology as still quite high. This particular holographic video projection system took about half a day to set up, and to move the image the infrastructure needed was “tens of megabytes”, which Telstra ran across its high-speed internet-based Next IP network, which was launched in April last year.
So, a sign of things to come, or pure science fiction?
This AP article by Peter Svensson strikes me as potentially very significant. The digital divide has always referred to the imbalances between those with access to information technology and those without. Now we see the term applied to imbalances within relatively tech-savvy populations caused by next-generation broadband.
The article quotes Dave Burstein, editor of the DSL Prime newsletter saying: “a quarter of the U.S. is going to get one of the best networks in the world.” The rest of us have to make do with DSL and cable – the horror.
But actually I think there’s something to this; in fact, I think the issue is deeper and more problematic. It’s very easy to think that everyone is embracing the latest thingamawhatsit but most people have, if not better, then at least more important things to do.
If we are about to be divided by connectivity speed then there’s every reason to believe that we will also be divided by either our ability to use, or our affinity for, social networking, blogging, twittering, current Web 2.0 applications and future applications enabled by the semantic Web.
If the pace of technological change is creating digital subdivisions – and I think it is – it’s going to create communication and marketing challenges for certain, but will also lead to real societal and cultural divisions that have the potential to be as profound as any that have come before.
I may be wrong as to the degree, but there’s no question in my mind that ‘digital divide 2.0’ is coming. What does everyone else think?
A really interesting IDC study, titled “The Hyperconnected: Here They Come” was released this month which talks about the exploding “culture of connectivity” and the implications that hyper-connectivity has on the enterprise and business practices.
Whilst on a fact finding mission, another interesting point that I came across is that the global mobile workforce continues to grow unabated – IDC expects the global mobile worker population to increase from 758.6 million in 2006 to more than 1 billion in 2011, representing just over 30 percent of the worldwide workforce. [see more details here]
The thing that really struck a chord with me is that we are becoming a generation addicted to connectivity. We are seeing our younger colleagues enter the workforce as ‘digital natives’ (an idea widely discussed by Peter Sheahan) – they only understand communication via IM, email, text messaging, social networking and so forth. This is the ‘conventional’ that they seek and the ‘unconventional’ that the rest of us are all so keen to adopt. Today, we are spending more time connected and switched on in both our personal and work lives – so much so that we are now seeing a blurring between the two.
More and more people are starting to leverage Web 2.0 tools in business (a term coined Enterprise 2.0) such as shared wikis, IM and social networks in order to better facilitate information sharing and collaboration between workers and provide a competitive edge to those businesses that embrace it.
I think we will see Enterprise 2.0 increasingly extend beyond the office as wireless technologies such as in-built 3G, WiFi and WiMAX become faster and more efficient for business users to access personal internet on-the-go, and as mobile devices become sleeker and lighter for users to carry with them.
The IDC study predicts that “hyperconnected business users will likely rise to 40 percent in five years”. Another five years down the track, I am sure we will see a substantial increase on this figure. Application and web developers, mobile device/ notebook manufacturers and telecommunications providers will need to cater towards making this hyper-connected experience for users a more seamless one.
Watch this space!
I am personally extremely excited to start this blog not only because it will be a platform to share our thinking and engage in conversations with a broader community but because it will be really broad. In fact we have contributors from our Tech Practice from all around the world: from San Francisco to Singapore, from London to Sydney, we have people coming together with a common, global passion. Not, it’s not soccer. OK. It is soccer. But it is, mainly, Hi-Tech PR.
In this venue we will share what we see in the world of technology PR and beyond. We will talk about trends, ideas, things we stumbled upon, questions we might not have an answer for (and maybe you can help us.). Experiences of working with colleagues from other practices and disciplines. What’s changing and happening in the different markets: locally, regionally or globally.
We didn’t want to have the point of view of just a few senior PR professionals. So I am particularly thrilled to have members at every level be contributors. Fresh air. A different perspective. Young. Old. Experienced. Opinionated. Thoughtful.
We want to make it easy to have conversations with our clients, competitors, industry leaders, students, fellow bloggers and not just among ourselves. We would love to see a lot of content, ideas and participation.
Join the conversation. Throw us a Tech PR Nibble!