Dear Mr. datadirt, we’re doing research

Journalism students from the Dutsch university of applied sciences in Utrecht are currently conducting a survey about the popularity of social media – if you run a popular blog, the questionnaire probably already arrived in your inbox. All interviews with social media experts will be published on the crossmedialab homepage – good questions, I'm really curious about the results of the study and my colleagues' answers, just mailed mine to Wolfgang.

How long have you been working with online social media and what was your reason to get into this topic?

The question is: which online services do qualify as ?social media?? I?ve started using the internet in 1994 ? out of mere curiosity. A couple of years later I started working as a web designer for APA (Austria Press Agency). At the same time, 3 fellow students from the department of science of communication and me launched the platform ? a community site for publishing ?grey? student literature about media-related topics. The project doesn?t exist anymore, the site is archived in the Austrian National Library though. The comment function was one our most important features back than ? and even though services like Facebook and Twitter were lurking in the far future, we used e-mail and mailing lists for discussion and organisation purposes.
To me, there is no clear-cut between ?Web 1.0? and ?Web 2.0? ? technologies have evolved, dynamic web applications did replaced static content. So the new tools fuel the use of social media, but the basic principle of enabling dialogue and connecting people has been one of the main strengths of the internet from the beginning.

Why do you think online social media is so popular?

The formula of simplicity has got a lot to do with that: take Twitter, for instance: despite the complexity of the service, it?s extremely easy to register and to post; even Facebook with all its apps and features is pretty much self-explanatory. The first complex online services were all about the technology ? built by technicians for technicians. This has definitely changed.
Yet there are two more important factors: on the one hand, old media generated an enormous hype that reached its peak when Obama won the presidential election. And on the other hand, many of these services develop a strong ?suction? over time: as soon as a certain percentage of your friends use Facebook (and tell you about it offline), you?re bound to get curious.

What do you think are the main motives for people to use online social media?

Triple-C: Curiosity, Convenience and Communication. Wikipedia statistics show clearly that only a tiny percentage of the overall visitors produce more than 90% of all articles ? not everyone will become a publisher, that was a common misconception in the early days of social media. But enhanced comfort as well as better (and cheaper) means of communication attract nearly everybody.

Do you think use of online social media has an impact on the way people communicate in ordinary life? If so, in what way?

It clearly does ? but this is not a specialty of social media; this applies to all mainstream media. McLuhan wrote some very interesting things about the way media shape our notion of the environment. I believe it?s too early though to describe the kind of change whichhappens right now.

What is the future of online media? Do you think that online social media is going to be here after ten years?

The near future of online media is connected to the economic viability of the underlying business business models. Twitter is probably going to make some decent money soon, Facebook is still struggling ? and these are two of the biggest players. But I see a lot change happen in the field of blogging for example: citizen journalism and hyper-local news will ? in the not-so-long-run ? replace a lot of newspapers and magazines.

But even if some players will not survive a possible web 2.0 crash, people will continue using the internet ? even a lot more. Many key-technologies are available as Open Source – the net doesn't depend on corporations, not even big G. The evolution of social media will continue to happen at an amazing pace, so it?s rather impossible to predict the future. Actually, there?s only one fact I?m 100% sure about: in ten years, folks will use social media in ways we could never imagine today.

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