We Media conference comes to campus

Approximately 250 media practitioners, from old school journalists to new age bloggers, joined members of the business and technology communities for the third iFOCOS We Media conference. The University of Miami hosted this year’s conference, with most of the sessions taking place in and around the Storer Auditorium.

Forty student volunteers and a handful of staff from the School of Communication, one of 18 sponsors, assisted in various aspects of the conference. Other major sponsors included the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Associated Press.

On Thursday and Friday, the forums showcased speakers such as Jeff Taylor, the founder of Monster.com; Chris Ahearn of Reuters; John Zogby, president and CEO of Zogby International; and UM President Donna E. Shalala.

The Knight Foundation, a journalist-supporting organization headquartered in Miami, encouraged We Media to host the conference at UM, bringing communication and business professionals to campus, and allowing students to listen in on the buzz though broadcasting a live feed of the conference to LC 130.

“I think it puts us on the cutting edge of what’s going on, and it means that our students have an opportunity to see not only the leaders in the field, but what they might become as part of the future,” Shalala said. “We’re preparing students for jobs in the future and they might as well know who the most creative people are in communication.”

Besides presenting media-related entrepreneurs to conference attendees, the We Media conference also discussed new-age technology such as Second Life, the 3-D online world built and owned by Internet users who become Second Life residents.

The conference concluded by bringing together ideas from the previous forums in a town hall discussion moderated by Michael Rogers, the New York Times’ futurist-in-residence. Rogers emphasized that members of the media have a civic responsibility to promote communication and noted upcoming advances in technology.

“I think we’re going to, over the next five years, see an incredible flood of mobile devices,” Rogers said. “The laptop replacement: Laptops now outsell desktops at retail. The desktop replacement has happened. What will replace the laptop?”

Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review and “stagesetter” (on-stage participant) at the Town Hall session, also discussed technology changes over the next few years, including the growth of a YouTube competitor known as SplashCast. SplashCast allows any internet user to create streaming media that combine pictures, music, video, text and narration.

“SplashCast is so cool,” Pontin said. “SplashCast allows you to do all the things you are doing on MySpace, but you can also create your own TV program. User-generated video will really come to populate the net.”

Pontin also forecasted an overwhelming turn towards Internet-based text and news, noting that print probably has another 10 to 12 years.

At the end of the We Media conference, Shalala along with School of Communication dean Sam L Grogg and Knight Foundation president Alberto Ibarg