Many academics lament that their books and articles just collect dust on library shelves, never to be seen again. Now with the rise of the digital age, there is a solution to this problem. People are constantly reading away on their Ipads or tablets, but contrary to popular opinion, most of the internet lacks good content. You can only facebook or tweet so much before you get bored. Internet users need content to read, watch, and listen.
The younger generation that is now growing up with social media and expects that information to be more accessible. The major problem with current academic publishers is that they are trapped back in the dinosaur age. When Salon, HuffPost, and others are experimenting with an open access platform, academic journals are stuck with stodgy and stingy article databases.
Really, all of academia is behind the times, but there is still hope. A number of academics now have blogs such as NeuroAnthropology on PLoSBlogs. There have been several initiatives like PLoS, eLife, and now the World Economics Association to create open access journals and an open review system. There was also a conference that KU Journalism hosted. KU Journalism put a live UStream up for the conference proceedings and created a twitter hash tag to answer questions (link). UStream has changed since then, so now it is possible to chat directly on UStream.
Hopefully, these recent developments will pave the way for academics to interact with the public. In the future, it should also bring down publishing costs as it becomes easier and cheaper to create open-access journals. In addition, conferences could incorporate LiveStream to make conference presentations open to the public and interactive.