‘Transcending space’ with Innophoria's social sector clients

Written by
Lucy Innophoria
Added
May 05, 2011

Over the past couple of weeks, as part of my new job working for Innophoria Labs – the innovative branch of Marceloiniarra.com, I’ve been carrying out a lot of research on ‘transcending space’. Looking at the ways in which the internet, mobile phones and computer technology are accelerating and revolutionising the way the world collaborates, connects to each other and conducts business.

Amber Case,a cyborg anthropologist and technology consultant, gave a presentation for the TEDWomen conference, ‘We are all cyborgs now’, where she spoke of the massive advances in smartphone technology that have occurred over the past couple of years. This means that human beings now have the ability to virtually transport themselves to a completely different location with just one click of a button. But Amber insists, ‘It’s not that machines are taking over. They’re helping us to connect with each other, regardless of geography [...] helping us to increase our humanness.’

As far as charities are concerned, this technology and the massive leaps in real-time virtual connections that its potential implies, can be applied and utilised for the benefit of our work, especially in the areas of fundraising, campaigning and branding.

Supporters are no longer content simply to hear about an issue on a podcast, see it on a YouTube video, ‘like’ it on a Facebook fan page, or follow it passively on a Twitter feed. They want to experience and contribute to an organisation’s work and interact with the people and places they are helping.

Mobile video

The chief executive of Skype, Josh Silverman, believes that live conversation is the only communications method that allows for the combining of oral, visual and written traditions into a virtual presence. In other words, it is the only means of communication that really enables human beings to transcend space and share a ‘real’ experience or connection with someone else, no matter where they may be.

Although services like Skype (that currently boasts 560 million registered users) are already enabling charities to reduce their basic communications costs, new developments in connectivity, which allow ordinary mobile phones to function out of the range of a mobile phone tower, could prove vital in improving the safety of workers in the field and the services they provide. There are now also smartphone apps that can carry out basic testing for diseases (including malaria) and other apps that transform a mobile phone into a stethoscope and even an ultrasound machine. It won’t be long before services like Skype can permit real-time, detailed interaction between doctors working in remote places and sophisticated hospitals in the developed world.

Live-streaming

While live streaming is still not widely used amongst charities, there are few other technologies that permit the same level of real-time interaction between supporters and what they’re supporting.

Indeed, some organisations are already making the most out of these free services, which include Livestream, Ustream and Justin.tv, to provide their supporters with a live ‘virtual’ experience of their work or fundraising endeavours.

Some examples of this include UNHCR’s World Refugee Day Live, which involved a live video feed from several refugee camps around the world, allowing potential supporters to gain a very real insight into the lives of the people that their donations would go to assist.

Project4Awesome, an organisation that aims to ‘make the world suck a little less than usual’, runs an annual live-stream over YouTube in order to discuss and promote the work of charities such as The Make a Wish Foundation and Save the Children. In 2010, the organisation decided to hold a live raffle among viewers, raising over $108,000. Not bad for just one event.

With most live-stream services featuring social media apps that enable users to live stream videos, speeches, webcasts, chats, webinars and even online games direct from their Facebook pages, there is no reason why social organisations shouldn’t experiment with this free technology on a small scale. Perhaps stream your next fundraising event or campaign over Facebook and encourage supporters to get involved virtually, even if they’re not able to be there in person.

The future...

The future of virtual, real-time communication is, without a doubt, augmented reality. For those of you who haven’t seen my article on augmented reality and its application within the social sector, augmented reality, or AR, refers to interactive fictional layers that can be downloaded online and then observed within the context of your immediate reality using a computer or the camera viewfinder on your smart phone.

AR technology is already being utilised to do away with traditional barriers to communication, enabling users to have a real experience with a virtual presence. In his exclusive interview with Innophoric Watch, spatial computing expert Albert Hwang revealed the importance and potential impact of incorporating this new technology into our day-to-day work. He says, ‘There is a lot of technology available to give people the sense of an environment without actually being there, which gives people a sense of the size and the scale of a place and what sort of activities are being done.’

Just imagine the impact that we could have if we could provide our supporters with a free, virtual experience of our work, if we could show them the lives of the people and places we help and show them exactly what we are doing to help resolve some of the issues.

If you would like to find out more about transcending space in the social sector, click here to download the latest edition of Innophoric Watch. For more information about my work, check out my Facebook page or drop me an email at lucy@innophoria.com.

Until next month!

Lucy xx

© Lucy Innophoria 2011.

About the author: Lucy Innophoria

Lucy Innophoria

Some of you might already know me from Innophoria or my Facebook page. Innophoria is a new online game that aims to help charitable organisations all over the world to become more innovative. The word refers to that ecstatic feeling that happens when you’re on the verge of discovering an idea that could really rock the world. I’m always getting them, which is why my colleagues nicknamed me Lucy Innophoria.

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