The goal of this paper is to take a small step toward understanding the future of online social media. The media artefact chosen is a very short (1:19) preview of Microsoft’s vision of the future of online social media, entitled “Is this the future of social media?”
The video depicts a number of extensions of current technologies involving online social media, such as those of Skype and Facebook. I will focus upon three of these. First, a futuristic house is depicted in which the table-tops and walls are computer screens. In addition to the near-constant access to relevant technologies thus afforded users, the technology will soon exist (perhaps it does already, in the form of Microsoft’s ‘Kinect’ technology for Xbox) for one’s computer to track one’s movements through the house. Second, there is a concept called ‘light space touching’ in which one’s use of each of two or more screens influences the others. The narrator speaks of one’s body, in such a case, forming a conduit for information. Finally, the most impressive demonstration in the video concerns something called ‘Magic Window’. Picture a transparent glass wall (a wall-sized window) which serves as a fully interactive Skype interface, including video, audio, and even digital imagery. The claim that Microsoft makes in the video (and their demonstration seems to bear out the claim) is that one may thereby speak to someone on the other side of the world as if he or she is right in front of one.
The advantages of such technologies are largely obvious. But what about their potential disadvantages and dangers? I will mention only one. It is easy to imagine people taking such advantage of, and becoming so reliant upon, the technology that they stop traveling and physically visiting friends and relatives. Some might disagree, but I think it is clear that this would be unfortunate.