Read for Later - “This gives us a way to connect with citizens where they are.”

This week’s headline quotes Lori Bush, a councilwoman from Cary, North Carolina, explaining the town’s interest in piloting an Amazon Alexa skillset that provides town service information and options for residents to open up case issues with the local government (Government Technology “7 state or local governments using Amazon Alexa”).

A reminder that we've opened the call for session proposals for our 2018 Symposium on the Future of Libraries, part of the 2018 ALA Midwinter Meeting, February 9 -13 in Denver. We had over 25 sessions at the 2017 Symposium and look forward to another rich discussion of the near- and long-term trends shaping the future of libraries.

You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our futures. The Center's trend cards are also available to help you talk with colleagues and members of the community, map how trends fit together or how they fit into your community, or spark innovation activities.

As you scan through these articles, consider dropping me a line to let me know what you're reading this week to help prepare for the future.    

And an update and an apology. Last week I shared news of a Brookings Institution survey on college students’ attitudes toward the First Amendment. One of our fellow readers, Sarah Braun, kindly sent along two articles from The Guardian and The Washington Post pointing out some of the limits of the survey and its results, including that the survey was opt-in, did not go through a peer-review process, and does not represent a broad enough sample of college students. I want to thank Sarah for reaching out and sharing these articles. I’m sorry for having not included these articles in last week’s coverage.   

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

The Verge “Ford and Lyft will work together to deploy autonomous cars”
Ford announced a partnership with Lyft to deploy self-driving cars on the ride-hail service’s platform by 2021. See also ArsTechnica.

Cities and Government

CityLab "America's most and least distressed cities"
The Economic Innovation Group’s 2017 Distressed Communities Index finds that one in six Americans are living in ZIP codes that are considered economically “distressed,” based on criteria including housing vacancy rate, adults not working, the poverty rate, median income ratio, change in employment, and change in business establishments.

Government Technology “7 state or local governments using Amazon Alexa”
As Alexa becomes more popular, governments are exploring the platform as a means of making information about services more readily available to constituents – Utah has used the service to help residents practice for driver’s license exams; Mississippi residents can find info about taxes and vehicle registration; and Los Angeles launched the L.A. City Skill to provide information on events sponsored by the city.

Demographics and Communities

Motherboard “Want more diverse entertainment? A new site has you covered”
The website Mediaversity reviews TV and movies based on how well they represent diverse gender, race, and LGBTQ characters and stories.


The Atlantic "The rural higher-education crisis"
Another look at the underrepresentation of rural students on college campuses – overall, 59% of rural high-school graduates go to college the subsequent fall, a lower proportion than the 62% of urban and 67% of suburban graduates who do.

ArsTechnica "Proposed New Mexico science standards edit out basic facts"
The state of New Mexico has proposed revisions to their adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards, science education standards that were developed by a group of prestigious scientific societies for free use by schools across the country - the state's revisions would eliminate references to climate change, the age of the Earth, and evolution.

Inside Higher Ed "The fruits of collaboration"
The University Innovation Alliance released new data showing that the eleven member universities increased the number of low-income graduates at their institutions by 24.7% in the past three years – the Alliance shares data across members, improves transparency, highlights successful efforts, and scales up new interventions.

Pew Research Center “Hispanic dropout rate hits new low, college enrollment at new high”
New Census Bureau data reveals a decline in the number of Hispanic students who drop out of high school – Hispanics' dropout rate was 10% in 2016, down from 16% in 2011.

ReCode “President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka are unveiling a new federal computer science initiative with major tech backers”
U.S. President Donald Trump issued a new directive to advance the U.S. government’s support for STEM and coding education, tasking the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to STEM fields. See also Gizmodo and TechCrunch.

CNET "Women students are still leaving computer science. Here's why"
A new report, "The state of women in computer science," shows that many universities are still struggling to keep women in computer science programs, failing to address critical retention issues including a lack of women role models, professors, and study partners, as well as continued intentional or unintentional stereotyping and sexism.

MIT Technology Review "What skills will you need to be employable in 2030?"
new report by the British innovation foundation Nesta and University of Oxford considers how automation and artificial intelligence will affect skill requirements by 2030, highlighting five desirable future work skills - judgment and decision making, fluency of ideas, active learning, learning strategies, and originality.

The Environment

Scientific American “Puerto Ricans could be newest U.S. climate refugees”
Hurricane Maria’s destruction on Puerto Rico could spawn one of the largest mass migration events in the United States’ recent history. See also Grist.


ArsTechnica "Boeing offers $1 million prize for inventing a personal flying machine"
Boeing is offering $2 million in prizes—including a $1 million top prize—to inventors of "safe, quiet, ultra-compact, near-VTOL personal flying devices capable of flying 20 miles while carrying a single person" – VTOL stands for vertical take-off and landing.

The Internet

Politico “Google, Facebook may have to reveal deepest secrets”
The investigations into Russia's role in the 2016 election have expanded to include social media’s role in spreading misinformation, as lawmakers begin to show an interest in the mechanics and algorithms that power Facebook, Google, and Twitter. See also CNET and again, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mic, The New York Times, ReCode and again and again and again and again, TechCrunch and again, The Verge, The Washington Post, and Wired and again.   

Gizmodo “Facebook deleted 'tens of thousands' of fake accounts during German election”
Richard Allan, Facebook’s vice president of public policy for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, announced that Facebook removed “tens of thousands” of fake accounts in Germany during the lead-up to the election.

The New York Times “As Google fights fake news, voices on the margins raise alarm”
Google’s control over search results has raised concern that technology companies are directly or indirectly censoring controversial subjects via their search algorithms.

TechCrunch “Tech giants pressured to auto-flag ‘illegal’ content in Europe”
The European Commission announced a set of “guidelines and principles” encouraging tech platforms to build tools to automate the removal of hate speech and other illegal content and to be more pro-active about takedowns of content deemed a problem.

TechCrunch “Zuckerberg details Facebook’s response to Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis”
Facebook will deploy a connectivity team to deliver emergency telecommunications assistance to Puerto Rico. See also Engadget, ReCode, and The Verge.

The Verge “Alphabet’s Project Loon may deliver internet to Puerto Rico with hot air balloons”
Alphabet’s Project Loon, which seeks to deliver internet service using hot air balloons, is exploring deploying Wi-Fi balloons to provide emergency connectivity to Puerto Rico.

The Guardian “Twitter says Trump's threat to North Korea was 'newsworthy' and will not be taken down”
Twitter explained its refusal to take down a tweet by Donald Trump threatening North Korea, noting that the statement by the US president was “newsworthy” and in the public interest, even as some users believe that it violated Twitter’s terms of service forbidding use of the platform to make violent threats. See also CNET, Engadget, Mashable, ReCode, and TechCrunch.

TechCrunch “Trump calls Facebook ‘anti-Trump’ so it goes soft on him” and “Mark Zuckerberg responds to Trump’s claim that ‘Facebook has always been against him’”
As attention focuses on Facebook’s role in the 2016 election, U.S. President Donald Trump declared that “Facebook was always anti-Trump,” prompting Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to respond that the point of Facebook is to “give all people a voice and create a platform for all ideas…Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.” See also Advertising Age, CNET, CNN, Mashable, The New York Times, ReCode, and The Verge

ReCode “Twitter is testing a big change: Doubling the length of tweets from 140 to 280 characters”
Hoping to have more people post, Twitter will pilot an expanded character limit for some users, testing 240 character tweets in place of the traditional 140. See also Advertising Age, ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, The Daily Dot and again, The Drum, Engadget, Fast Company, Mashable and again, The Verge, and Wired and again.

BuzzFeed "Welcome to the age of cheap overseas information"
As Facebook and Google transform the dissemination of information, content farms around the world monetize information by feeding niche interests including politics, mental health, marijuana, and American muscle cars.


BuzzFeed “People are worried about DHS plans to gather social media info”
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new rule in the Federal Register seeking to include "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" as part of people's immigration file – the rule has raised concerns among privacy advocates, including for potential effects on US citizens who communicate with immigrants. See also CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, Gizmodo, Mashable, and The Verge.

CNET "Google reports all-time high of government data requests"
Google’s biannual transparency report revealed 48,941 requests for data from 83,345 accounts from governments around the world – 4,000 more requests than the same time period in 2016.

CNET "Apple reported most national security orders ever this year"
Apple’s biannual transparency report noted an increase in US government requests in the first half of 2017 - Apple received 13,250-13,499 national security orders affecting between 9,000 and 9,249 people using Apple's devices, triple the amount of requests from the first half of 2016.

Gizmodo “Justice Department demands names of thousands who liked anti-Trump Facebook page”
The U.S. Justice Department has obtained three warrants to search the Facebook accounts of people associated with protests of Donald Trump’s inauguration and an anti-Trump Facebook page they used to organize the demonstrations – the searches would include the names of an estimated 6,000 people who simply “liked” the page during a three-month period covered by the warrant. The ACLU, which is representing the activists, is fighting the warrants on the grounds that they hinder First Amendment free speech and violate the Fourth Amendment because of how broad the searches are. See also Engadget and Mashable.

The New York Times “China blocks WhatsApp, broadening online censorship”
WhatsApp appears to have been broadly disrupted in China, even for text messages – having blocked video and audio chats and file sharing, the blocking of WhatsApp text messages suggests that China’s censors may have developed specialized software to interfere with such messages. See also TechCrunch and The Verge.

Restaurants, Retail, and Spaces

The Street "Walmart will start offering meal kits on its website by December"
Consumers' desire for convenient meal kits will expand to WalMart, which will begin to offer an array of meal kits from different companies on its website.

The New York Times "Disney reimagines its stores to be more like a vacation"
Experience-focused retail will expand to Disney stores as the retailer invests in movie-theater-size screens and simplified floor plans that will allow them to stream the daily parades from Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida and to put out mats for shoppers to sit on and roll out souvenir carts stocked with cotton candy and light-up Mickey Mouse ears.

TechCrunch “Target is adding Pinterest’s visual search tool to its app and website”
Target will partner with Pinterest to integrate Lens visual search technology into Target’s apps, allowing Target shoppers to take a picture of any product and then find similar items available for sale at Target. See also Retail Dive.

Consumerist “IKEA acquires TaskRabbit, saving relationships nationwide”
IKEA purchased TaskRabbit, the company that connects customers with “taskers” to run errands, wait in long lines, or put together furniture – the acquisition points to many retailers’ desire to integrate product sales with services. See also Advertising Age, Engadget, The Guardian, Mashable, ReCode, and TechCrunch

The Sharing Economy

Engadget “Uber offers basic sign language tips so you can talk to deaf drivers”
Uber will include features in its app to help riders sign basic phrases like "hello" and "thank you" for drivers with hearing impairments. See also Fast Company, Mashable, and TechCrunch.

Streaming Media

CNET “Facebook teams up with NFL to show game recaps”
Facebook will show recaps from all NFL games this season, including the playoffs and the Super Bowl, as part of a multiyear deal with the NFL that includes new shows NFL Turning Point and Sound FX.

ReCode “Amazon’s NFL audience beat Twitter’s — but is still much smaller than TV”
Amazon’s fist livestreamed NFL game, available to Prime subscribers, had 372,000 viewers worldwide – significantly smaller than the 14.6 million people who watched the game on conventional TV, but more than the 243,000 people who watched Twitter’s first livestream of a Thursday night NFL game last year.

Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality

Advertising Age "AMC Theaters backs virtual reality with $20 million investment"
Facing declining ticket sales for traditional movie showings, AMC Entertainment Holdings is investing at least $20 million in virtual reality arcades and productions – six VR centers will be introduced in North America and the U.K. over the next 18 months.

Voice Control

The Daily Dot “Amazon just unloaded a bunch of new Alexa-based Echo devices”
Amazon announced new Echo products, including a revamped Echo, a new Echo Plus that serves as a hub for connecting to other smart devices, the Echo Spot that features a 2.5-inch display and front-facing camera, the Echo Connect that lets you make landline calls through Echo speakers, and Echo Buttons that link Echo devices together for niche uses like buzzers for family games. See also CNET and again, Engadget, Fast Company and again and again, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Mashable and again, ReCode, Retail Dive, TechCrunch, and The Verge and again and again; for Echo Buttons, see also Engadget, Mashable, and TechCrunch; for Echo Spot, see also CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, Mashable, TechCrunch and again, and The Verge; and for Echo Connect, see also Mashable

The Verge “Google pulls YouTube off the Amazon Echo Show”
Google has stopped allowing the Amazon Echo Show to access YouTube – Google says it is in negotiations with Amazon towards an agreement that respects YouTube’s terms of service, most likely features like subscriptions, next video recommendations, and autoplay. See also ArsTechnica, Consumerist, The Drum, Engadget, Fast Company, GeekWire, and Mashable and again

TechCrunch “Google is building a smart screen competitor to Amazon’s Echo Show”
Google is reportedly building a tabletop smart screen for video calling that will compete with Amazon’s Echo Show. See also CNET, Consumerist, and Mashable.


PSFK “Nike has created a new connected jersey for the NBA”
The NikeConnect NBA jersey allows fans to access player and team information when they activate a small tag on the garment with their iPhone.