Mobile phones have been spreading much faster than computers. By the end of 2010, almost 75% of the world population will have access to a mobile phone. And these phones can bring all the benefits of the Internet and computing to the masses. The widespread use of mobile phones even in remote areas of the developing world clearly suggests that people in every part of the world find it much easier to use their phones than their computers. By providing audio-visual-tactile interfaces in phones, we can help people create and access content. Most mobile phones have built-in cameras, microphones, and other sensors. These devices could make content creation and access less dependent on language and education level than in current systems. More importantly, these devices could be the foundation for next-generation social networks. Current social networks started with the primary goal of connecting people for rapid and focused communication and sharing of information and experiences among a group of people, centered around an individual. These networks are now ready to evolve toward the next natural stage.
We can look at the next-generation network systems as a very different form of social networks that brings ideas from situation awareness and related areas. By continuously monitoring microblogs and micro-events, these systems will understand evolving situations and will help people make correct decisions and organizations to appropriately deal with situations. This is particularly important in developing countries, where lack of physical infrastructure makes dealing with the health, emergency, agriculture, and transportation needs of masses very difficult. Mobile-phone-based NGSN will help people in these countries deal with life-critical situations easily and efficiently using the technology that they are already getting used to. A simple demonstration of such an approach was presented in our work on social pixels for swine flu epidemic using microblogs.
These developments will require thinking out-of-the-text-centric-box, however. Text has been and will remain useful. But itâ€™s time to reduce our dependence on text by using all other data modalities and organizing and presenting information in ways that are more perceptual and cognitively meaningful. By providing an environment for experiencing events to gain insights and share event experiences, technology will accelerate knowledge growth at an unprecedented rate. Moreover, the ability to effortlessly share event experiences with fellow humans will help us identify those with similar interests and subsequently build communities across the globe. These new technologies will truly make the whole world a global village. Some of these ideas are presented in a presentation related to EventWeb that can be viewed here.