What will be the big social media trends for 2017?

Joanna Witt
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Gareth Dunlop, CEO at Fathom, a UX consultancy specialising in strategy...
First of all I think we’ll see an increased understanding in how to use social media and video. In 2016 we’ve seen shorter videos, wider use of captions and developments such as Facebook launching autoplay. In 2017, we’ll have an even better understanding of how to produce more engaging and more shareable content. I also think we’ll see a maturing of... Читать далее
3 января 2017  · < 100
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What is Social Media Marketing and why do we need it?

A London spiritual vegan feminist and instagram babe. Writing, photography...

Social media marketing is exactly what it says on the label - a way to market (or advertise) your business, product or service via social media. And content marketing (stuff like blogging and email newsletters), the most popular of which is social media marketing, is one of the cheapest and most efficient ways to get more customers, supporters or community members.

This is not to say that every brand or business needs social media marketing, but in 2017, most will benefit from it. Different types of businesses do best on different channels (food and wellness on Instagram, for example), but in general an effective marketing strategy will include social media basically on a daily basis. 

If you don't have a shopfront, or if you want more customers for your brand, social media marketing can be of use. Social media also helps companies build a community, and that's been all the rage in businesses in the past couple of years. A community is also a group of your fans. Some of them aren't ready to buy your products or services yet, but they like you enough to stick around on social until they are. So, if used well (with plenty of calls to action), you can raise your rate of conversion from followers to paying customers. And finally, even if your followers seem to only stick around for the content, don't get frustrated. More traffic to your pages means more people will discover you organically, and not only your following will grow, but also your sales. And you can always ask your followers to refer you to a friend: a survey conducted by the New York Times showed that 65% of new business comes from referrals! If you provide valuable content, the word of mouth will be great anyway, so you'll get referrals in no time. 

The bottom line is, no matter what you want to achieve with your business, blog or brand, so long as you know what your goals are, social media marketing can help you out big time when used appropriately.

6 марта 2017  · < 100

What are the major global trends in architecture today, and what does this tell us about society?

Senior Lecturer in Architecture, Northumbria University, Newcastle. @Northumbria...

Firstly, these are very broad questions, so I’ll define some parameters, then I’ll outline a couple of scenarios and finally I’ll give you my opinion.

I’m going to assume when you ask about “trends in architecture” that we are talking about the design of buildings. That might sound self-evident, but architecture has always been concerned with more than just buildings. For example, Vitruvius’ ten books on architecture, De Architectura, are as concerned with geometry, the specification of materials, engineering and machines as with temples and types of houses. Or, considered from a different perspective, what is the difference between ‘mere’ building and architecture?

"As Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup demonstrates, even if an architect has designed a building, it doesn't guarantee that the result is architecture!"

Although it is a criminal offence in the UK to call yourself an architect if you are not registered, or even to use the initials RIBA, RIAS or RSUA after your name, there is no requirement in the UK for a registered architect to be involved with a building at any stage. Yet, as Building Design’s annual Carbuncle Cup demonstrates, even if an architect has designed a building, that does not guarantee the result is architecture!

  • Plymouth's Drake Circus shopping centre, winner of the inaugural Building Design Carbuncle Cup for 'crimes against architecture'

I’m going to go further, and suppose you are actually asking about “style”, although I personally think architectural styles are less about architecture and more about the retrospective classifications of critics, historians and curators trying to tidy up a messy reality as a neat story. That is not to say, however, that architects have not also promoted their ideas as, affiliations to, or rejection of, ‘movements’. Philip Johnson’s MOMA exhibitions were the architectural equivalent of Hogwarts' sorting hat. The International Style in 1932 and Deconstructivism in 1988, architectural styles were conjured out of just their proximity in these displays and architects were judged in or out of the gang.

Charles Jencks’ famous horizontal lava-lamp of a diagram, which he reworked between 1973 and 2000, attempted to show architects, movements and concepts cross-fertilising, rather than competing and superseding each other. Although Jencks’ diagram suggests there are tears in this fabric for periods of time, essentially there is still a linear progression, if not a beginning or end point. The strands that make up the continuities of architectural themes he defines as “logical”, “idealist”, “self-conscious”, “intuitive”, “activist” and the “unself-conscious 80% of environment”.

"It would not be unreasonable to say Deconstructivism was the logical conclusion of Post-Modernism, when both the abstract and expressionist strands of 20th Century modernism were welcomed into the dressing-up box."

Jencks’ genealogy is useful – up to a point – not least because of the arguments it provokes, and as a snapshot of how styles or movements were perceived by him at particular times. For instance, Brutalism is shown morphing into Post-Modernism, rather than Po-Mo being a rejection of abstraction and modernism, whereas Deconstructivism is shown as emerging separately and in parallel with Po-Mo during the mid-1980s. However, in retrospect, I think it would not be unreasonable to say Deconstructivism was the logical conclusion of Post-Modernism, when both the abstract and expressionist strands of 20th Century modernism were welcomed into the dressing-up box.

  • Frank Gehry's deconstructivist Building 32 (aka the Ray and Maria Stata Center) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

If you want to forecast future trends, I think you need to look at what is fashionable in Schools of Architecture. Architectural education is based on precedent and what Jencks’ diagram does not show, is the two-generational cycle of fashion. When considered on a timescale of decades, it should not be surprising that Brutalism is belatedly being re-evaluated and appreciated by a new generation, even as the original examples are being demolished, or that Post-Modernist buildings now find themselves under threat.

Just as Brutalism and Post-Modernism were both attempts to reconcile international modernism to regional differences, and both professed their moral superiority to one another through their “ugly and ordinary” aesthetic, so there has been a reaction against the international signature-style 'Starchitects' of the 1990s and 2000s, including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas and Daniel Libeskind, who were all featured in the MOMA Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition. In the run up to the Millennium, the “Bilbao Effect”, the term used to describe the regenerative impact of landing a major cultural institution – the Guggenheim Bilbao designed by Frank Gehry, which opened in 1997 – into a formerly industrial city could, for a time, sprinkle the fairy dust of the service and tourism economy into areas of social and economic decline.

"Technologies such as 3D printing have been over-hyped in a way redolent of the introduction of robotics into factories in the 1960s, but have the potential for massively reducing wasted materials in the construction industry."

As the pendulum has swung back towards the regional rather than the international, a concern for architecture that is representative of the spirit of its place, the Genius Loci, rather than the genius of its designer, has brought about a resurgence of interest in the physical qualities of the materials and how they are put together. Words like “honesty” and “craft” are applied to brickwork, but not glass curtain-walling. Technologies such as 3D printing have been over-hyped in a way redolent of the introduction of robotics into factories in the 1960s, but have the potential for massively reducing wasted materials in the construction industry and for making bespoke and complex buildings affordably.

Above all, there is an aspiration to design buildings which have the feeling of mass, plasticity of form and the marks of making which have previously only been achieved in reinforced concrete. Improved technologies and chemical engineering mean that concrete can now be made resilient to the effects of weathering. Even existing buildings can be treated retrospectively.

Currently there is a perception that both the embodied energy in the production of concrete buildings and the need to minimise the energy consumed in maintaining them at a habitable temperature makes a full-on Brutalist revival unlikely, even if there are key examples of Contemporary-Brut, like Grafton Architect’s award-winning UTEC Building, Lima.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/-nr3FCGoVBA?wmode=opaque

However, commercial buildings are still largely constructed of concrete; they have just been hiding it under a decorative skin. Nano-technologies, like carbon-capture concrete which might offset the carbon cost of producing concrete, could radically alter the sustainable balance of concrete buildings and bring concrete back to the facade. After all, few people object to infrastructure projects showing their concrete bridges and retaining walls.

If we concentrate on styles, we also miss the implicit, but critical, economic and political influences on architecture. In Anglo-Saxon countries, since neo-liberalism replaced social democracy as the common ground of mainstream politics in the 1980s, from Margaret Thatcher, who subscribed to George Bernard Shaw’s description of professions as a “conspiracy against the laity”, to Michael Gove’s Brexit rejection of all expert opinion, traditional professions have been under attack from politicians.

"Architects themselves have been all too willing to embrace cut-throat competition whilst surrendering their central position in the construction industry to an army of consultants with a better grasp of spreadsheets."

While solicitors and lawyers have benefited hugely from the litigation ushered in by the neo-liberal experiment, created by the 'rights not responsibilities' society and the petty officiousness of the state ceding functions to for-profit companies and busybodies with a clipboard and a Hi-Viz vest, architects have been a whipping boy, easy to accuse of monopoly practices and arrogance. Architects themselves have been all too willing to embrace cut-throat competition whilst surrendering their central position in the construction industry to an army of consultants with a better grasp of spreadsheets.

At the same time, there has been an academizing and professionalization of almost all white-collar activities, with qualifications replacing experience and higher education portrayed as a means to a better paid job, rather than a pursuit of knowledge for its own sake. The doomsday scenario for architecture as a profession is that it reverts to being a hobby for the wealthy – or becomes little more than the title of ‘exterior decorators’. On the other hand, despite the length of qualification, architecture remains a competitive and popular degree subject and, in countries with emerging economies, the profession of architecture is still perceived as a means to personal social mobility and local economic and environmental improvement.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/fyA6hYIXUP4?wmode=opaque

Some of my Masters students are currently working on a project which includes cultural exchanges with students in Shanghai, China. This is part of an international student project organised by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) called PolyArk IV. The original PolyArk project was devised by the late architect, Cedric Price, as a radical disruption to the master and pupil model of architectural education inherited from the Beaux Arts and apprenticeships.

The first PolyArk involved a group of Architectural Association students converting a double-decker bus and touring the country picking up and dropping off architecture students along the way until the bus broke down. The current incarnation of PolyArk relies on digital networks for virtual travel, collaboration and exchange. This project is only just beginning, but already suggests that the architecture students in China are also trying to reconcile Chinese history and sensibility with the breath-taking rate of development and the ubiquity of ‘western’ culture.

Shortly before Christmas I was invited to visit a School of Architecture in Lima, Peru. The majority of students’ work was deliberately seeking a Peruvian sensibility based in the landscape, in the familiar and ordinary, trying to incorporate and value their built history and to design buildings which were environmentally responsive. The social and economic conditions in Lima, in Shanghai and in Newcastle upon Tyne could not be more different. The sensibilities with which the students are approaching these are culturally-specific. But there feels a commonality of intent, which values the local over the international. Critically though, this is not nostalgic or isolationist, but an attempt to enrich the quality of the encounter and experience.

13 января 2017  · < 100

What are the real life applications happening in virtual reality?

Associated Professor of Computer Engineering at the University of Hertfordshire...

VR is widely adopted already in many areas, including manufacturing, automotive and aerospace, for simulations, assembly and prototyping. Instead of building multiple actual prototypes, which requires a lot of time and material, the manufacturers fine-tune their products in virtual reality. That not only speeds up the development by up to 50 per cent and cuts cost but evidence exists that the resulting products are also less prone to defects.

Computer games make widespread use of VR too. Meanwhile medical exploration and surgery is also successfully adopting VR elements such as S3D visualisation, and it plans to start using more haptic technology as well.

At the University of Hertfordshire, we have developed a 3D endoscope that captures three-dimensional imagery of the patient’s insides. There is quite a bit of evidence that 3D visualisation provides surgeons with better awareness of the space in which they are operating, which in turn results in better accuracy and less unwanted damage.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/YfDCwh0m3n8?wmode=opaque

  • All sorts of weird things can be experienced in virtual reality. This guy crashes with a passenger jet.

What could happen in the near future depends on the success of VR being adopted by the consumer market, e.g. to remotely observe landscapes and cities as well as buildings, houses and merchandises, bringing e-shopping, e-tourism and house e-viewing experience to a new level.

For example, when you are looking to buy or rent a new house or flat, today you always have to travel to the area and arrange the viewing. But in future, you would only go to see the really best candidates because you would be able to rule out the not suitable properties either from the comfort of your home or the real estate agent’s office through a virtual reality tour.

Similarly, when deciding on your next holiday destination, you wouldn’t just look at photos, you would get a taster experience through a virtual reality headset.

3D viewing will enable an operator to remotely ‘visit’ a dangerous place, for example a broken nuclear reactor, using a virtual reality headset and a ruggedized robot.

In fact, at the University of Hertfordshire, we have developed technology that does exactly that using a commercially available smartphone and a Google Cardboard-like headset. Everyone who has ever tried our technology was quite impressed. The users get a three-dimensional 360 degree view of, for example, a beach in Sicily. They can look up and down, turn around and it feels perfectly realistic. Add haptic experience, sound and the sense of smell to it and you get a perfect illusion.

Travel agencies could use this technology to show hotels or let the customers experience some of the highlights of the destination such as significant cultural or historical sites.

Virtual reality, or 3D viewing, will also play an important role in the field of robotics where an operator would be able to remotely ‘visit’ a dangerous place, for example a broken nuclear reactor from the comfort of a control centre via a virtual reality headset and a ruggedized robot capturing and transmitting the 3D imagery.

Do we believe what the media tell us?

University of Cambridge researcher focusing on public debate, social media, and...

The question of how media influence public opinion began being asked in earnest after World War II, when researchers first tried to model the ways information reaches a mass audience. Since then, a whole gaggle of theoretical frameworks has sprung up, with their roots in such diverse fields as cognitive psychology, political science, linguistics and semiotics.

These theories can be placed on what I call a high influence-low influence spectrum. On the one end we find 'hypodermic syringe'-type models, which predict a more or less direct link between media content and public opinion; what you consume is what you believe.  On the other end of the spectrum theorists assign a great deal of autonomy to audience members themselves; individuals actively seek out what information they want to receive, and media outlets respond to this demand by tailoring their coverage to their audience's preferences.

The outer fringes of the spectrum are somewhat dimly lit and underpopulated nowadays, but the middle is vibrant and full of life. In this middle section, theorists borrow freely from diverse scholarly fields in order to encapsulate the complexities of how media coverage works and how people's opinions are formed and maintained. I'll briefly gloss over the most important ones.

First, agenda-setting theory states that the media cannot tell us what to think, but can tell us what to think about. By choosing which events to cover and in what way, media outlets decide what issues are on the public agenda. A tributary to agenda-setting theory is framing theory, which seeks to establish the different ways in which media coverage leans in a particular direction, for example through the use of certain talking points or phrasing.

Second, gate-keeping theory sees media outlets as, well, gate-keepers who are in control of the flow of information. The media serve as a filter, as it were, for making sense of the unordered blob of events and occurrences that make up our daily life. Gate-keeping theorists come in different stripes. Some emphasise the importance of journalists' personal preferences and biases for deciding what information makes it through the gate (similar to agenda-setting theory). Others see more value in looking at the salience of individual unfolding events, editorial decision-making processes, or market incentives. Gate-keeping theory becomes even more complex when you look at online media, because gated walls become much more porous in a large, interactive network.

Finally, there are theorists who study the political dimension of mass media. A famous example of this is Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky's propaganda model. Herman and Chomsky argue that the very structure of the capitalist system ensures a media coverage bias in favour of the pro-corporate, capitalist status quo. They emphasise the importance of ownership structures and advertiser incentives; a company is unlikely to advertise on a channel with an anti-consumerist slant, which means less ad revenue, which means bankruptcy. This overarching media bias ensures that, although freedom of the press exists, counter-capitalist narratives can never gain enough salience among the public to truly upset the status quo.

Personally, I am somewhat on the low-influence side of the spectrum. I certainly believe that the media, as a collective, have tremendous power over what we think and talk about. However, in this era of unimpeded global flows of information we can no longer speak of the media as a homogeneous entity. The barrier to accessing any media outlet you like has become lower than ever. It's not hard to find a community of people who agree with you in comment sections, forums, and on social media. So instead of the media being the prime mover of public opinion, the ubiquity of information gently pushes us into ideologically self-inforcing bubbles, where we can provide feedback to content creators and freely discuss the news with others. This is not to say that content does not matter; the media do, in my view, still set the agenda and decide what issues become important for us to talk about. Furthermore, the political dimension should not be ignored; overt and covert propaganda are arguably more prevalent in society today than at any point in the last 20 years. However, the news is discussed and challenged more and more in this era of new media. Audiences have an unprecedented say in shaping media content, and whatever risks that may bring (see this question about citizen journalism), it does imply a significant change in how audience members view the role of media in their lives, and how we incorporate the information we receive.

Do you think it's important to believe in miracles?

(Kevin Hurley – Actor in Woodside, New York)

Absolutely. Hey, you've got to keep hope alive. I think hope is the most important thing. Not just in kids – kids are filled with hope until they grow up and become adults.

I like to see adults loosen up around the kids too. They go shopping with their kids, which is kind of a pain in the butt sometimes. But the magic happens when they see the smile and the sparkle in their kids' eyes – and the parents get to the Christmas spirit! This is what it's about! My job is not just for the kids. I really do look for adults too, and anyone who wants can come sit on my lap and get a Merry Christmas from Santa, and tell me their dreams of what they want. I had one lady today, she just came up to me and she said 'I want my family back'. Her family died. And her boyfriend will be not in the city for Christmas, so she will be alone for Christmas. And I said to her that things are going to get better, the days are going to start getting longer, spring will soon come back and we are going to have summer, everything's going to be beautiful again. You've got to just keep things going. She was very happy because I reminded her that today might be sad, but in five years you're not going to be thinking about today. You don't go for worries, just be as happy as you can. So forget the kids. I mean the kids are great, but I really love what I do for for the adults. And I'm doing this for me too. It's making me happier. It fills my soul.