How human communications needs will combine with emerging technologies to change the media landscape in the near future?
synchronization in time and space
Human communication takes forms of either person-to-person individual information exchange, including chatting or giving a talking to, or broadcasting-like one-to-all information conveying and sharing, such as mass media and storytelling. Both forms require two types of vicinity: temporal synchronization and spatial locality.
The first category of vicinity, temporal synchronization has been widely addressed throughout the history of technological development: besides talking face to face, the mailing system is the most primitive technology the human kind uses to communicate with others. Development of this technology experienced the period of using human power, animals (including horses and pigeons), to machineries (such as cars and planes). Those technologies largely reduce the delay in temporal synchronization among human communication. Sophisticated mailing systems makes it possible to handle large communication throughput, such as the well designed logistic algorithms and protocols. On the other side of the horizon, broadcasting media-based communication or storytelling starts with the spread of rumors, hanging of posters, printing of newspapers. Those technologies of communication are also largely dependent on means of transportations such as delivery by human, car, or plane. With the approach of Electric Age, both forms of communication got accelerated to further satisfy our need for temporal synchronization: telephones firstly made live communication over large distances possible. It started with landline phones and developed to cell phones, shortened the communication delay from spending the time to reach a land line to picking up a phone right away. Telegraph makes media storytelling faster as well. News and stories happening all over the global could be broadcast by radio wave and shared with people on the other side of the world via printing media. The advent of information age completely eliminated the communication delay and enables absolute temporal synchronization. People use FaceTime to talk to people on the fly. Internet websites can publish and share events and stories at the first second. Medias such as Instagram and Facebook even makes individual live storytelling possible by all the live video sharing functionalities. Technologies have confidently satisfied our communication needs on temporal synchronization.
On the other hand, the spatial locality has not been well tackled, despite our ardent desire for it. With telephone, people are far from being located in the same space when communicating with each other. The invention of camera gives mass media a chance to sort of bring the space where the event or story happened into the audience by a 2 dimensional projection of the space printed on a plane: photographs. Video recorders and TVs added another dimension to the projection: time, which is, however, far from realistic. People also uses sound to improve the lower-dimensional replica, in order to approximate spatial locality. An emerging technology, Virtual Reality, is one significant step further to realize true spatial locality. The 360-degree view created by VR plus head and gaze tracking has brought our pursuit for spatial locality during communication into a whole new level: people can talk to their friends using VR, just as if the friend were sitting next to him/her. Media could broadcast breaking news of stories by project the whole scene to their audiences via VR. These could be easily implemented in the near future by this emerging technology.
Although the current VR technologies allow the deception of our eyes and ears, other senses could also be satisfied potentially by the next level of VR: haptic, smell, taste, etc. The satisfaction of these senses will further increase the fidelity of our simulated spatial locality. These are the next level of Virtual Reality we could use in our communication of either forms, and a pseudo-trueness of the temporal and spatial vicinity could be achieved at the same time. However, pseudo is after all pseudo. The boldest vision of human kind to achieve spatial locality during human communication with absolute fidelity is teleportation. Only with means of teleportation can people communicate with each other over large distances within the same space. We could talk to a friend after we are teleported to them. Media could tell their stories by teleport their audiences to the space where the story is actually happening. Teleportation is far from emerging technologies, but one of the drives behind the research toward it would also be our communication needs for spatial locality.