So, there’s been a recent uptick in subscribers to the newsletter version of this post – thank you! – and it makes me think it might be a good time to review the reasoning behind this effort.
About six months ago, Keith Fiels, ALA’s executive director, suggested that the Center should share more of its trend scanning work in a more timely manner. So I started this weekly blog post that has since morphed into an email newsletter. The idea is to look outside of the library profession at some of the news stories that point to trends and changes in our society. These stories might help us think more broadly about our current and future work and initiate new conversations with our patrons and partners (administrators, funders, community groups, faculty and students, etc.). Not everything will be news to everyone, and some things may not have an immediate implication for libraries, but hopefully it can help us start to think in new ways about how our work fits into an ever changing world.
This is one piece of a process that feeds into the Center’s trend collection and other work.
And, as always, let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.
The big story of the week is Apple.
A federal judge has ordered Apple to help the government unlock and decrypt the iPhone used by Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters, mandating that the company provide the FBI with a custom firmware file that would allow investigators to brute force the passcode lockout on the phone (ArsTechnica “Judge: Apple must help FBI unlock San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone”). See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fusion, Motherboard, and Re/Code.
Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, in a letter to customers, expressed the company's opposition to the order, indicating the need for encryption, the threat to data security, and the potential precedent this might set, while acknowledging the San Bernadino tragedy and Apple’s efforts to work with the law enforcement officials thus far (Wired “Tim Cook Says Apple Will Fight Court Order to Unlock iPhone”). See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Fast Company, Fusion, MIT Technology Review, Motherboard, Quartz, Re/Code, TechCrunch, The Verge, and The Washington Post.
The Justice Department contends that Apple’s position “appears to be based on its concern for its business model and public brand marketing strategy” and that the order “is not the end of privacy” (The New York Times “Justice Department Calls Apple’s Refusal to Unlock iPhone a ‘Marketing Strategy’”). See also Slate and The Verge.
Many anticipated the response of tech leaders like Google, Facebook, and Twitter, and their support for Apple (The Verge “Google’s CEO Just Sided with Apple in the Encryption Debate” and “Facebook and Twitter Join Apple’s Side in Encryption Battle"). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, The Daily Dot, Gizmodo, Re/Code, TechCrunch, and again. There’s also a nice summary of where companies and lawmakers stand on the issue (The Daily Dot “Here's Who's Supporting Apple Against the FBI—and Who's Not”).
No shortage of opinion pieces on this situation, including the threat to all individuals’ security (Slate “The Government’s iPhone Demands Undermine Security for All of Us”, Gizmodo “Why You Should Care About Apple’s Fight With the FBI”, and The Daily Dot “4 Reasons Why Everyone Should Care About Apple’s Fight with the FBI”), the benefit of this public debate (TechCrunch “Why Apple Is Right To Reject The FBI’s Push To Brute Force iPhone Security”), and the technical nature of what is being requested (ArsTechnica “Encryption Isn’t at Stake, the FBI Knows Apple Already Has the Desired Key”).
A couple of summary sources that will give a quick look at the situation:
- BBC “Apple v the FBI - A Plain English Guide”
- Motherboard “Everything We Know About Apple vs the FBI”
- TechCrunch “Apple vs. FBI: A Timeline”
Apple’s response, which will need to make the case for why the FBI’s request is burdensome and taxes the limits of the All Writs Act, is now due on Friday February 26th (TechCrunch “Apple Gets An Extension In iPhone Unlock Case, Response Now Due February 26th”). See also Gizmodo and The Verge.
Now, on to hoverboards. The Consumer Products Safety Commission notified manufacturers, importers, and dealers of hoverboards that any products that lack independent safety certification pose an "imminent hazard" and are subject to recall or seizure by the US government (The Verge “The US Government Is Cracking Down on Unsafe Hoverboards”). Hard not to see this as another example of how regulation and innovation may not be in synch. See also Engadget, Gawker, and TechCrunch.
Whether because of digital devices, a greater demand to read at work, or decreased time outdoors, myopia, or nearsightedness, has seen a marked rise in the U.S. (and even higher in some Asian nations), nearly doubling between 1970 and 2010 to 42% of the population (Wired “Lots of People Are Losing Distance Vision, and No One Knows Why”). See also TreeHugger.
I forgot to share this last week, but it’s still amazing. A look at how teens approach Snapchat that might help us better understand their communication styles, relationships, viewing habits, and more (BuzzFeed "My Little Sister Taught Me How To 'Snapchat Like The Teens'").
And another piece, this time looking at teens on Tumblr and how that age’s unique emotional intelligence may give them a digital strategy advantage (New Republic "The Secret Lives of Tumblr Teens").
Books, Publishing, and Media
A lot about BuzzFeed this week – they were named to Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies in that publication’s latest issue. Fast Company’s article highlighted the long-term vision for the media brand, assembling a global news team, video production studio, data operation, and in-house creative ad agency, while also adapting its approach to emerging social media (Snapchat, Pinterest, and some 30 different global platforms) and global markets like the U.K., Brazil, India, Mexico, Germany, Australia (Fast Company “How BuzzFeed's Jonah Peretti Is Building A 100-Year Media Company”). To put it in perspective, BuzzFeed generates 5 billion monthly content views, including half from video and a steady website viewership of 80 million in the U.S. every month. See also Fortune.
Even as BuzzFeed pushes into the next frontier of news and journalism, it is also investing in traditional roles, like its two-year old investigative unit, I-team, which is charged with high-impact digital journalism including pieces on match-fixing in tennis, (with the BBC), for-profit foster care companies, and a report on battered women imprisoned for failing to protect their children from their abusers (Poynter “Digital Digging: How BuzzFeed Built an Investigative Team Inside a Viral Hit Factory”).
The attention BuzzFeed has received is indicative of the growing parity between digital publishers and traditional publishers – as both groups race toward a future that includes push messaging, growing interest in audio (even replacing video), and a growing dependence on software development (TechCrunch “The Future Of News And Publishing”).
Amazon and The New Yorker have teamed up for The New Yorker Presents, a new streaming unscripted series with documentary shorts, cartoons, one-minute clips, poetry, and fiction featuring well-known New Yorker writers and artists (Wired “The New Yorker on Amazon Isn't Just TV. It's a Whole New Kind of Magazine”). The show is unique in its attempt to cross two potentially different audiences (readers of The New Yorker and Amazon Prime customers), to bring together a venerable name in publishing and a tech innovator, and to change some of the traditional streaming models by releasing just two episodes each week during its 10 episode run.
Facebook will open its fast-loading content format Instant Articles to all publishers later in the Spring (Nieman Lab “Facebook Instant Articles will open up to all publishers in April”). The format will be available to all publishers, including independent newspapers and blogs, and will likely pressure publishers to share content on the site or risk losing audience. It could be a countdown now until publishers publish exclusively on Instant Articles. See also Geekwire, Poynter, Re/Code, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
While we’re talking about Instant Articles, let’s also talk about one of its limits. Mashable’s coverage of Meryl Streep’s “We’re all Africans, really” comments at the Berlinale Film Festival was updated with a correction that fundamentally changed the story – but that important correction did not make it to the Instant Articles version of the story (Re/Code “Mashable’s Very Big Meryl Streep Correction Missing From Facebook’s Instant Articles”).
Scientists from the University of Southampton have developed a method of data storage that uses a “five-dimensional” glass disc that can store around 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at temperatures of 190°C (The Verge “'Five-dimensional' Glass Discs Can Store Data for Up to 13.8 Billion Years”). See also Gizmodo, Independent, and Re/Code.
Part of a growing trend toward bite-sized reading, Serial Reader delivers classic literature to mobile phones in daily 20-minute snippets, helping readers tackle classics like Moby Dick bit-by-bit (The Washington Post “Serial Reader: An App That Delivers Literature to Your Phone in Daily Snippets”).
Because my mom is an only child and she took care of her mother (my grandmother) and aunts (my great aunts), this one struck home. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are over 44 million unpaid eldercare providers in the US, and the majority of them are women who have access to very few support programs (The Atlantic “The Crisis Facing America's Working Daughters”). The strain on work and home life, forces many working daughters to change jobs, take more time off, or quit work altogether, creating a ripple effect of lost wages and benefits like health insurance, retirement savings, and Social Security. A thank you to Mary and everyone else that provides eldercare – and we should do better for them.
The latest issue of studentPOLL indicates that incoming college students still believe they will attend most of their courses in person – 85% said they wanted to take a majority of their courses in person; 37% said they could see themselves taking a handful of online courses; and just 6% said they were open to the idea of taking half, most, or all of them online (Inside Higher Ed “Remaining Residential”).
Google has announced plans to shut down their Google Play for Education site, which allowed schools to buy and distribute apps in bulk to their students and support Android tablets in schools, but educational apps will remain available in the standard Play Store (The Verge “Google's App Store for Education Is Being Shut Down”). See also TechCrunch.
After a struggle to design an inexpensive and durable product, Google’s efforts to deliver Internet service using high-flying balloons will enter testing in Indonesia and Sri Lanka over the next year (Re/Code “After Nearly Going Pop, Google’s Project Loon Heads Into Carrier Testing This Year”). See also Fast Company, Gizmodo, Next Big Future, and The Wall Street Journal.
Stateside, New York City’s LinkNYC continues to progress, with the addition of Android tablets to the public Wi-Fi hubs, allowing residents to check email, make phone call, or find directions on Google Maps (The Verge “New York's Public Wi-Fi Hubs Now Have Android Tablets”). The tablets time out and cookies are deleted after a minute of non-activity, but the project continues to raise concerns about privacy, including misuse for commercial or surveillance purposes (Motherboard “LinkNYC's New Free Network Is Blazing Fast. But At What Cost to Privacy?”).
At the New York Toy Fair, Mattel announced the new ThingMaker, a $300 3D printer marketed to kids and integrating a 3D printing app, ThingMakerDesign, that makes the design process as easy as possible for kids and parents (ArsTechnica “Kids Will Soon Make Their Own Toys with Mattel’s $300 ThingMaker 3D Printer”). See also Fast Company and TechCrunch.
Robots and Artificial Intelligence
The X Prize Foundation and IBM have announced a new competition for teams to design artificial intelligence technologies (image recognition, natural voice processing, etc.) as part of a $5 million challenge to advance humanity’s mastery of AI (Motherboard “The New X Prize Will Award $5 Million for Innovation in Artificial Intelligence”). See also World Future Society and TechCrunch.
A new survey from Goldman Sachs reveals that while customers may have been initially hesitant to try peer-to-peer (P2P) lodging (like AirBnB), once they have tried such a service, the likelihood that they prefer traditional hotels is halved (from 79% to 40%), a near complete turnaround from preferring hotels to preferring sharing economy accommodations (Bloomberg “Goldman Sachs: More and More People Who Use Airbnb Don't Want to Go Back to Hotels”).
Smartwatch sales have now surpassed Swiss watch sales for the first time ever - there were 8.1 million smartwatch shipments and 7.9 million Swiss watch shipments in the last quarter of 2015 (The Verge “Smartwatches Have Outsold Swiss Watches for the First Time”). See also CNET.