It is no longer controversial to suggest social media is here to stay. From blogs, twitts, to Facebook and LinkedIn, PARC is actively participating in understanding and shaping what is to come.
I believe there are at least three interesting ways to look at Social Media and how they are impacting what we do today.
Disrupting Traditional Services
Dis-intermediation is an old concept from the dot com time. And, we are seeing it play out today in industries like newspaper. The woes facing the traditional newspaper is well known. The bundling of breaking news, fact checking, investigation, and editorials to attract a broad audience for advertisers is no longer compelling given the proliferation of citizen journalists and opinion makers through blog, twitts, and videos who in term break up audience into more targeted segments.
There is a lot of work on finding a new business model for the traditional newspaper. I think the litmus test for a new model is to think of how would the next (goodness forbid) "Watergate" would be exposed and discussed.
New Data and Interaction
It is also fascinating to consider how social media is creating a new layer of social fabric into our daily life. For example, some of my friends can only be found via Facebook these days. Conversely, with so much data and unverified facts flowing, how do I know who/what to believe? At a high level, what are the additional insight on social interactions that was not knowable until now where every user is generating discreet data as a primary source?
This is an area of much work at PARC.
Tomorrow's Social Media Today
Finally, with a combination of changing social norm and new technology, it is also changing the lens we will use to see the world. For example, how will the increasing power of smartphone play into this picture? There is a term "reality mining" that may make into the mainstream one day which describes what is possible given the explosion of personal social media and location data through the use of social media tools on smartphones. We have built quite a bit of technology on this front at PARC.
As for the question of the ultimate big brother or the ultimate personal assistant? Only time will tell.