“Our future communication networks will not only be by using a smartphone, but actually, people will acquire and physically share information via human mobility networks,” said James She, director of the HKUST NIE Social Media Lab and a visiting professor of engineering at HKU.
Living in such a hi-tech world, the sharing of data is really important. Nowadays, most people are using a smartphone to share and receive information. However, according to James She, he thinks that is not enough. “We should step forward,” he said.
She discussed a term he called the tipping point, referring to the possibility of making something go viral on the web.
“Future social networks will be cyber-physical social media networks – the next stage of the online evolution.”
The professor and agroup of students launched the HKUST NIE Social Media Lab in February 2012 to analyse the future forms of our social networks, with the concept of user-generated content merging with physical dissemination of information.
She said a group of students put together a high-quality YouTube video as an introduction to the lab.
“The future is no longer just about social networks – they are not new things – we used to gather in a room, but now we’re doing the same thing again and again just on different platforms,” She said.
In his presentation, She introduced the concept of using social graphs where a visual image can be drawn reflecting users’ social roles in an online network/community.
These graphs can show the structure of certain communities according to different values or definitions such as the interests or the connections they share.
The technology is available today where smartphones can directly transfer information with a bump of the device, similar to how “we once distributed posters”.
“We can now just send images or files to others by using a finger, this doesn’t mean pressing any buttons, but actually by putting two technological tools together and just send the file by
moving the finger from one device to another,” She said.
He concluded that the media world has changed. We do not share information with each other by distributing booklets or paper, we are now disseminating the data through the internet.
She said in the future, the sharing of data would no longer be just online, “we are not only downloading from the Internet, but it may changed to a cyber-physical form between users” or through interactive billborads in our environment, where a person can touch posters to download or access the information.
“People become the source of disseminating information,” he said.
Three Steps to Going Viral
James She, the founding director of HKUST NIE Social Media Lab, suggested that it’s possible to create the conditions that could lead to a tipping point.
She proposed a three-step methodology to create conditions that could make social media content go viral:
1) predict the interests of the users/audience
2) predict the location of the users/audience
3) identify influential people within a specific community
She explained that it’s important to identify the interests, locations, and level of influence of the audience in order to make social media content go viral because the power of social media lies in its interactive and personal nature.
The NIE Social Media Lab, the first of its kind in Asia, combines engineering techniques with research on social media networks to help journalists reach the tipping point with their reporting, She added.