Here are 13 examples of communication technologies and their software that are used in the 21st Century:
- Social Media Platforms
- Live Video
- Conferencing Technology
- Group Wikis
- Group Forums
- Collaborative Documents
- Wearable Technology
- Smart Speakers
- Web Chat
Read on for descriptions of each.
21st Century Communication Technologies
Below I’ve provided brief outlines of 13 examples of communication technology that are used regularly in the 21st Century:
1. Social Media Platforms
Social media platforms allow people to create personal pages, post profile images and updates on their lives, and create a friend list of people who can see your updates.
The first social media platform was 6 Degrees, which was launched in 1997. MySpace was launched in 2003 and became the first mainstream social media platform. It was the most popular social media platform in the world between 2005 to 2008.
Facebook took over from MySpace as the most used social media platform and remains used by billions around the world today.
Twitter is another large social media site used to quickly share short thoughts to people around the web. Major corporations, public figures and governments use Twitter to quickly share updates and in-the-moment responses to sensitive issues of public importance.
Blogs are personal websites where people can publish or ‘log’ information for others with an internet connection to read – all around the globe.
A blog is usually a personal website where someone shares regular long-form posts about their lives or hobbies. More professional or commercialized blogs are run by media organizations, companies seeking publicity, or professional bloggers who monetize through advertising or affiliate marketing.
Blogs revolutionized mass communication. Before blogs you needed to get a publishing company to print and market your writing around the world at great expense.
Now, with the click of a button your writing can be seen around the world.
The first blog was written in 1994 on the website links.net by Justin Hall. Justin didn’t call it a blog at the time, but it had all the features of a blog.
The term ‘weblog’ was invented in 1997 by Jorn Barger. The word was a shortening of the phrase “logging the web”.
In 1999, weblog was shortened to ‘blog’ by Peter Merholz. Then, by 2004, ‘blog’ became the Merriam-Webster word of the year!
Vlogs are “video logs”. They emerged as an extension of blogging after increased bandwidths enabled regular people to post video online.
The typical vlog style involves the vlogger using a handheld camera or camera on their computer monitor to record themselves speaking. Some vlogs, however, are high production with complex graphics and recording teams.
The first vlog was published in 2000 when Adam Kontras posted a video on his blog for his family and friends to view.
With the emergence of YouTube in 2005, blogging became increasingly popular. YouTube gave everyday people the ability to upload and embed videos online. Another facilitating factor was the emergence of cheap smartphone cameras.
4. Live Video Stream
Live video is an extension of vlogging that has responded to online content consumers’ needs for immediacy and authenticity.
Live video was integrated onto the YouTube video sharing platform in April 2011. Competitor network Facebook introduced Facebook Live in August 2015.
Live video has the benefit of synchronicity in communication. On YouTube, for example, the live vlogger can read live community comments appearing on-screen in real time and respond to their comments or questions mid-stream.
An important element of live video stream is the capacity for video to be played, paused and rewound in real time. A video is not uploaded as a standalone packet of data that can only be viewed once it has been completely downloaded on the receiver’s end. Instead, the data is downloaded, buffered and played in real time.
5. Conferencing and Live Lecture Technology
Sophisticated conferencing technology helps workplaces communicate across long distances. Today, live conferencing technology tends to use live video alongside complex speaker systems.
Examples of common affordances of conferencing technology include:
- 360 degree cameras. Cameras automatically detect who is speaking then display the current speaker’s face.
- Microphone and speaker capacities to allow anyone in a room to speak clearly to people on the other end of the conference call.
Some of my favorite online collaboration tools also allow users to interact by sharing computer screens. A conference can have a brainstorming screen on which all members of the conference can write from their computers.
As a university teacher, I use this ‘cognitive tool‘ technology to allow my students to write on the lecture slides.
For university live lecture technologies such as Blackboard collaborate, a teacher can be speaking to hundreds of students around the world at once.
6. Group Wikis
A wiki is a website where anyone can edit and add content. The most famous wiki is, of course, Wikipedia.
Wikis allow collaborative crowdsourcing of information. This can help members of the wikis to amass a lot of information in a short period of time.
The collective knowledge that is stored on Wikis can be accessed at ease by all users, allowing the creation of a ‘hive mind’. Hive minds are knowledge or information stored and accessed by a community of people.
7. Group Forums
A group forum allows people to post questions and answers for others to respond to. Many forums are sorted by topics, such as Reddit, which allows people with shared interests to communicate with one another.
Group forums are also commonly used in education where online schools have students respond to a stimulus question each week.
Another benefit of forums is that people can reply to each others’ comments to create a long-form conversation between individuals online. The full conversation is recorded in comments and replies, leaving a paper trail of conversations which can be great for tracking the progress of the group’s thinking.
8. Tablet computers
The sleek, modern tablet computers that we enjoy today emerged around 2008-2010 with the emergence of big players like Android and Apple into the tablet computer market.
The emergence of tablet computers was made possible by technological advances that saw the requisite technologies both compact and cheap enough for the mass market.
Key challenges included creating small and affordable touch screen technology and compact long life battery packs.
Tablets are now widely used as a portable device that fits in the market between a smartphone that’s carried in the pocket and a laptop that usually requires its own bag. Tablets easily fit into carry bags, are sufficiently lightweight for carefree travel, and are powerful enough to make video phone calls, take photos, and carry out light personal computing tasks.
Podcasts are packets of audio information that can be uploaded and stored on cloud technology ready for anyone to download and listen to at-will. A podcast can be automatically downloaded onto a smartphone through RSS feeds so that fans of a podcast series can get the latest episodes at-will.
Podcasts emerged out of radio technology. Whereas radio is transmitted through radio waves, podcasts are transmitted through the more agile and feature-rich internet. This has provided features such as downloads at-will rather than forcing people to tune in at a specific point in time.
Podcasting has also given people the chance to access audio of their favorite topics from around the globe. Whereas radio tends to appeal to the widest possible audience in a specific geographical location (where it is transmitted), podcasts tend to appeal to a dispersed community of people interested in specific topics, such as ‘true crime’, ‘politics’, or ‘comedy’.
Publication of podcasts is also available to anyone with a computer and microphone. It is therefore very similar to other examples of communication technologies in this list (see for example: blogs). While once communicating messages to large audiences was restricted to the powerful, now we can all share our message from behind our computer screens.
10. Wearable Technology
Wearable technologies help make communication easier than ever. A wearable technology is any information technology that is carried on the body. Examples include:
- Smart Watches
- Smart Glasses
- Exercise bracelets
Smart Watches allow people to use voice commands to control them. With internet connections, wearable technology can provide quick answers to questions that we ask them, make hands-free phone calls, and help you keep spoken-word memos and notes throughout the day.
Exercise bracelets and other wearable health trackers tap into people’s bodies to measure vital signs and sleep rhythms. These bracelets can automatically send data to exercise trainers and medical professionals to provide quick and accurate updates on the health profile of the wearer.
Smart Glasses can integrate augmented reality into a person’s everyday life. When a user is wearing smart glasses, they can have the glasses project data like their travel speed or internet search data directly onto their retina. They usually also allow people to make phone calls through voice commands. Most smart glasses technologies also allow users to communicate with them through eye movements, blinks or hand movements.
11. Smart Speakers
Smart speakers are computerized personal assistants placed around offices and homes in order to help people complete tasks hands-free. They are usually activated using a hot word, like ‘Hey Computer’ or ‘OK Google’. Smart speakers can hear people from distances, allowing people to use the speakers while still going about their business.
Once activated by a hot word, the user asks the device questions or provides voice commands such as ‘turn out the lights’, ‘add this to the shopping list’ or ‘play a song’.
Furthermore, smart speakers can be hooked into phone lines and internet lines to allow people to ask search engine questions via voice command or make phone calls while going about their daily lives.
12. Web Chat
While web chat has been around since the early days of the internet, it has experienced a resurgence in recent years for business to consumer (B2C) communication.
Early web chat software included MSN messenger which was embraced by adolescents and young adults as a way of chatting with friends during the early 2000s. With the rise of Facebook and Facebook messenger, MSN messenger declined and was disbanded in 2012.
Smartphone apps have made webchat an increasingly popular form of instant communication between friends.
However, it has also recently been used by companies as a means of offering “web chat support” to customers seeking help with their products. Web chat support for business to consumer interactions is a viable alternative to phone helpline support. It enables customers to go about their daily lives and get a notification whenever the support team has a new piece of information, rather than waiting on hold on the phone.
While email has been around since at least the 1970s, it makes this list because of its continuing relevance in the 21st Century.
Email in fact outdates the internet by several decades. Early emails were sent via closed-circuit LAN networks in government and university databases. The first email using the ‘@’ symbol to direct the message to the correct servers was used in 1971!
Perhaps most emblematic of email’s increased relevance to our lives is the growing rate of ‘paperless billing’. Whereas once we would have received bills via post, most business to consumer (B2C) billing and invoicing is done via email today. Email has also rendered alternatives like Fax almost irrelevant in the 21st Century.
Communication technology has come a long way since the days of morse code. It was only a handful of generations ago that communication across long distances was excruciatingly slow and rudimentary.
If we went overseas, we wouldn’t expect to see the faces or hear the voices of our loved ones until we came home. Now, a quick (and free!) skype call can give us a live and immersive face-to-face conversation with our family back home.
The single greatest advance in technological capabilities in the past 50 years was the invention of the internet. Other hardware such as satellite capabilities and fibre optic cable have helped improve internet capacity and rapidly progressed internet-based communication.
Communication technology continues to advance at a rapid pace. The emergence of the internet has made communication more democratic than ever. Now, anyone with an internet connection can broadcast their ideas online.
However, with this increased capacity for anyone to share information comes challenges. The rise of ‘fake news’ highlights the importance of being critical of information passed on through online media and the need to inform ourselves using reliable, trustworthy and scientific information.
This list of examples of examples of communication technology highlights just some of the technologies that keep us connected in the 21st. Century.