The Future

Some predictions about the future of social media and public engagement

Augmented Reality

Advances in smartphone and webcam technology could make Augmented Reality a more feasible prospect in many areas. Augmented Reality enhances a user’s experience of the real world by using technology to add elements from the virtual world. For example, a smartphone with internet access, webcam, GPS and integrated compass could, when viewing, say, a street for example, overlay information from virtual maps and location data to notify a user where the nearest train station is and program a route for them to follow, overlaid onto the view of the street as seen on the screen.

This technology could have applications in science centres and museums – to enable visitors to view exhibits with far greater amounts of information to hand which could be tailored to each individual, for example. In the home, users could use a webcam to conjure virtual objects that could appear on the computer screen’s view of the room which they could then interact with – technology which is already being used in games consoles to create a virtual pet.

Augmented Reality on Wikipedia

'Traditional' vs 'New' Media

The presence of traditional media within the ‘social’ media space is well-documented (the Guardian science blog, BBC News on Twitter etc) however, the roles of contributor and consumer could be reversed in the future, making social media a more important source for the traditional media. Examples of this are already visible – Twitter feeds being quoted during breaking news stories or phone camera footage being aired in the broadcast media. The ubiquity of social media could mean that the barriers between the two ‘tribes’ could begin to dissolve entirely or, alternatively, polarise the differences as the traditional media evolves to continue to compete against a free democracy.

The phenomenon of citizen journalism is not new but its effects are not particularly felt within the science community; however, in the future this could possibly change as social media could democratise the process of publishing findings and could circumvent the traditional peer-review process. In the wake of Climate-Gate and similar controversies, researchers may choose to open the entire research process to public scrutiny from the very beginning in order to maximise public trust in the sciences – it is not known, however, if the call for this openness would originate from within the scientific community or from the public.