This week’s headline quotes Ellie Wilson, executive director of the Autism Society of Minnesota, one of the consultants on the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board’s new Sense Tents project, which will provide a space at events where people with sensory processing disorders can go to either soothe or stimulate their senses when they’re overwhelmed (NextCity “Minneapolis parks thinking about inclusion for people with invisible disabilities”).
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Engadget “IBM is sending Watson to the Grammys”
IBM and the Recording Academy will partner to use the Watson Media suite at the Grammys to curate and distribute award-show content and images, replacing third-party photography services to aggregate and distribute images from the five-and-a-half-hour red carpet pre-show – Watson will ingest red carpet images from Getty and analyze them in real time to identify the people in the photos, the people's emotions, the colors of the outfits being worn, and even cross-reference outfits worn this year with looks from past red carpets.
The Guardian “Prize launched for thrillers that avoid sexual violence against women”
Founded by author and screenwriter Bridget Lawless, the Staunch book prize will recognize the best thriller “in which no woman is beaten, stalked, sexually exploited, raped or murdered” – the award comes at a time when more films and books use the sexual abuse of women as a plot device.
Motherboard “More than 750 American communities have built their own internet networks”
A newly updated map from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s MuniNetworks shows that more than 750 communities across the United States have embraced operating their own broadband network, are served by local rural electric cooperatives, or have made at least some portion of a local fiber network publicly available.
NextCity “Minneapolis parks thinking about inclusion for people with invisible disabilities”
The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board is piloting a Sense Tents program, which provide a space at events where people with sensory processing disorders can go to either soothe or stimulate their senses when they’re overwhelmed – Sense Tents will be available at outdoor concerts and movies in Minneapolis parks through the summer and will also be used as a teaching tool for people who may not know much about autism or sensory processing disorders.
The Atlantic "The libraries bringing small-town news back to life"
A look at how libraries and librarians have leveraged their information expertise to address the sharp decline in original local news – some examples include the Dallas Public Library’s Storytellers Without Borders program for high schoolers, WGBH’s Boston Public Library Studio, and the Black Hills Knowledge Network program that works with librarians and community organizations to aggregate and organize local news, resources, data, and historical archives.
Books and Publishing
ArsTechnica “Walmart joins, well, most of its competitors in selling e-books”
Walmart will partner with Japan's Rakuten to sell e-books, audiobooks, and Rakuten's Kobo e-readers on Walmart's website and in its stores – Kobo e-readers and compatible e-books are mostly popular outside the US in countries including Canada, the UK, France, Italy, and Australia.
TechCrunch “Print book sales rose 1.9% in 2017”
Business data firm NPD Group reported that print book sales rose 1.9% in 2017, a decrease from the 3% growth posted in 2013-2016 that was driven by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in 2016 and the rise of adult coloring books.
Bloomberg “Apple’s getting back into the e-books fight against Amazon”
Among the reported changes to its iOS 11.3 mobile operating system, Apple will refresh the iBooks app to become just Books, possibly signaling a greater profile in the e-books market that Amazon has dominated. See also Engadget and TechCrunch.
Cities and Government
TechCrunch “UK to set up security unit to combat state disinformation campaigns”
The UK government has announced plans to set up a dedicated national security unit to combat state-led disinformation campaigns — the new unit will be named the National Security Communications Unit and will monitor social media platforms to deter adversaries by flagging fake information. See also Engadget.
Demographics and Communities
The Daily Dot “Anti-LGBTQ murders rose by over 80 percent in 2017”
A new report from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) shows a continuing increase in the number of homicides targeting LGBTQ Americans – 52 homicides targeting queer Americans were reported, up from 28 in 2016 and 24 in 2015, with “consistent and steadily rising” homicide reports targeting transgender women of color.
Economics and the Workplace
Georgetown Public Policy Review “Lifelong leveraging of human potential: The role of public libraries in lifelong workforce training”
A look at how public libraries can address a system of cyclical adverse incentives that can be labeled the Catch 22 of Workforce Training – employers have no incentive to invest in employees because they fear that the individual will leave with the newly acquired skills, depriving them of their return on investment and potentially even using that training against the company as an employee of a better paying competitor, and employees have no incentive to stay at a company that will not invest in them, a sign of a career stuck in perpetual static routine.
Fast Company “Starbucks offers all U.S. hourly workers paid leave benefits this year”
Starbucks is the latest company to add paid leave benefits for its hourly workers, or “partners” as the company refers to them – the new parental leave policy will include up to 6 weeks of paid leave for the birth mother and all non-birth parents and will “allow partners to accrue paid sick time based on hours worked and then use them if they or a family member needs care.”
University Business “AAC&U announces five-year strategic plan”
The Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) released its 2018–22 strategic plan, We ASPIRE: Advancing Student Performance through Integration, Research, and Excellence, promoting higher education’s civic mission of educating for democracy and reaffirming a commitment to demonstrating and promoting the value of liberal education in the face of growing mistrust and negative public perception of higher education.
Fast Company “AltSchool has been quietly testing its platform in public schools”
Education startup AltSchool, known for its micro-schools and personalized learning platform, has launched small pilot programs at California school districts Arcadia Unified and Menlo Park City – at Arcadia Unified, superintendent David Vannasdall has been implementing the AltSchool platform in a small lab school for 35 seventh graders.
Scientific American “As Cape Town water crisis deepens, scientists prepare for ‘day zero’”
The water crisis in Cape Town, South Africa, continues to escalate with the city’s government preparing for “day zero”—when Cape Town becomes the first major city in the world to run out of water, as reservoirs dip too low to deliver a potable supply. See also NPR and Time.
Wired “States and cities keep the battle for net neutrality alive”
Montana Governor Steve Bullock signed an executive order effectively barring state agencies from doing business with internet service providers that violate net neutrality and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a similar order – the moves follow a lawsuit filed by 21 states and the District of Columbia challenging the FCC's decision to overturn its own protections. See also Government Technology; for information about Montana, see also ArsTechnica and again, CNET, Engadget, Fast Company, The Hill, Huffington Post, Mashable, and TechCrunch; and for information about New York, see also CNET, Gizmodo, Mashable, and The Verge.
Journalism and News
Mashable “Google's new app has a questionable purpose: Letting anyone be a reporter”
Google’s new Bulletin app is designed to let anyone contribute "hyperlocal stories" about their community, launching as a pilot in Nashville and Oakland – Google worked with local publishers in both Nashville and Oakland when developing Bulletin, and the publishers expressed a lack of resources and interest in covering many hyperlocal events. See also Slate and TechCrunch.
Nieman Lab “The Financial Times is giving high-schoolers around the world free access to FT.com”
The Financial Times is giving 16- to 19-year-olds enrolled in high schools around the world free access to FT.com, extending a program that had previously been available to students in the U.K. – high schools must register and will be contacted with more details. See also Fast Company.
Poynter "Tale of 2 polls: What do librarians have that journalists don’t?"
A sort of follow up to news shared last week, a comparison between the results of the Knight Foundation and Gallup poll on American’s trust in media and the Pew Research Center’s 2017 report on American’s views on libraries – as libraries fill in the gaps left behind by shrinking traditional media, they bring with them a built-in sense of trust from having engaged with their communities, opened their spaces, and provided helpful and responsive services as times have changed.
The Verge “Artificial intelligence is going to supercharge surveillance”
Artificial intelligence could supercharge surveillance cameras, with early examples like the IC Realtime system that uses AI to analyze what’s happening in video feeds and make it instantly searchable.
The Economist “In China, consumers are becoming more anxious about data privacy”
Sensitivities to the gathering, storage, and use of digital data about individuals is growing in China as consumer groups look at the effects of data collection by search engines like Baidu and Ant Financial (the financial arm of Alibaba) – those internet companies are lobbying for better data protection as user data becomes a more valuable commodity.
The Verge “Exclusive: ICE is about to start tracking license plates across the US”
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency has gained agency-wide access to a nationwide license plate recognition database that provides access to billions of license plate records and new powers of real-time location tracking, according to a contract finalized earlier in January – the Vigilant Solutions product has amassed a database of more than 2 billion license plate photos by ingesting data from partners like vehicle repossession agencies and by partnering with local law enforcement agencies, often collecting even more data from camera-equipped police cars, each tagged with a date, time, and GPS coordinates of the sighting. See also Fast Company.