There’s a lot of Facebook info this week and the coverage spans Books, Publishing, and Media, The Internet, and even Artificial Intelligence headings. Maybe that will keep you reading through to the end of this week’s compilation. Maybe. Along the way you’ll also see some interesting trends in education, privacy, and even robots.
You can always check out the Center's trend collection to see how this scanning comes together to identify trends relevant to our future work.
And let us know what you're reading this week to help think about later.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
News of a Hong Kong designer’s Scarlett Johansson-inspired robot raise concerns about the objectification of women in the design of robots and artificial intelligence – not only the possibility that moving, smiling, talking, and even flirting robots could be designed to resemble any female, but also the continued use of female identities (Siri, Cortana, Alexa) in bots that perform labor or serve as personal assistants (Wired “The Scarlett Johansson Bot Is the Robotic Future of Objectifying Women”). See also Mashable.
A couple of weeks back we talked about possible pronouns for robots (rhe, rem, rey) and now more of those small but important details – like how we’ll feel touching a mechanical body. A new study looked at how humans responded to touching “high accessibility” areas like shoulders and elbows versus “low accessibility” areas (think about it) and found that because robots are shaped like humans and designed to act and speak like humans, that we imbue them (rem?) with a sort of temporary humanity when we interact (TechCrunch “People Feel Weird About Touching Robot Butts, Researchers Find”). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Gizmodo, and Slate.
Facebook’s Automatic Alternative Text tool will leverage artificial intelligence to caption News Feed photos for the visually impaired, using deep neural networks to identify objects and even characteristics of individuals in photos that can be read aloud by text to speech tools (Wired “Facebook’s AI Is Now Automatically Writing Photo Captions”). See also CNET and The Verge.
Virtual assistants, bots, and software agents (Alexa, Cortana, and Siri could be just the start), could become the future of search, answering queries, accomplishing tasks for us, and even asking questions of us in return (Slate “Alexa, Cortana, and Siri Aren’t Novelties Anymore. They’re Our Terrifyingly Convenient Future").
Books, Publishing, and Media
This week’s release of the Panama Papers demonstrates what may be the future of leaked documents. At 2.6 terabytes the leak is well over a thousand-fold larger than 2010’s WikiLeaks (1.73 gigabyte) - Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers included 7,000 pages or a couple dozen megabytes if it were contained in a modern text file - and were initiated via an encrypted chat to Germany’s Süddeutsche Zeitung which worked with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) to build a two-factor-authentication-protected search engine with a real-time chat system that allowed reporters to exchange tips and find translations for documents with access shared via encrypted email (Wired “How Reporters Pulled Off the Panama Papers, the Biggest Leak in Whistleblower History”). See also Deadspin, The Economist, Engadget, and Nieman Lab.
Facebook continues its move toward video, introducing their Facebook Live feature that will try to keep users’ interest with live, streaming video from personal networks as well as news organizations and celebrities around the world (The New Yorker “Facebook Live: Now You Can Never Leave”). See also CNET and The Daily Dot.
News organizations, increasingly accustomed to adapting to distribution trends set by social networks, will likely respond to the video push of Facebook Live, hoping to lure audiences with video streams as Facebook itself tries to broaden Live by offering financial incentives to organizations such as The New York Times and BuzzFeed that use the live streaming feature (Poynter “Facebook Wants News Organizations to Use Facebook Live, and It’s Paying Some of Them to Do It”). See also Digiday and Engadget.
For the librarian in all of us, Facebook is also improving search for videos on the platform, prompting verified Pages to tag their videos with keywords and likely also driving a means to open up advertising opportunities (allowing companies to pay for the top results) and to drive audiences to video (TechCrunch “Facebook Adds Video Search to Combat Original Content Sharing Decline”) See also Engadget.
If you are intrigued by Facebook Live, these ten tips for journalists are just as applicable for libraries (Poynter “So, You Want to Try Facebook Live? Here Are 10 Tips for Using the Livestreaming App”).
Beating out Amazon and Verizon, Twitter has secured the rights to stream 10 NFL Thursday Night Football games, allowing streaming of the whole games, as well as pre- and post-game shows, and behind-the-scenes footage broadcast on Periscope (The Verge “Twitter and NFL Partner to Stream 10 Thursday Night Football Games”). See also Engadget, Motherboard, and Nieman Lab.
The premium channel Starz will enter the streaming business with a new standalone Starz app, providing access to over 2,400 shows, original series, and movies (ArsTechnica “Starz Enters Streaming World with Its Own $9/month Subscription Service”).
Podcasts for adults are rising in popularity, but podcasts for kids are few and far between, save for audiobook-like storytelling podcasts or offerings from major brands like Sesame Street or Nickelodeon – a possible opportunity for creatives and educators to step in and help solve “screentime” problems, foster imagination, spur language acquisition and literacy, and develop questioning and problem solving skills (The Atlantic “Why Aren't There More Podcasts for Kids?”).
BuzzFeed is focusing in on DIYers with Nifty, a Facebook page similar to its cooking-focused Tasty page that will feature money-saving hacks presented in made-for-social instructional videos (Digiday “BuzzFeed Targets DIY with Nifty, a Platform-focused Video Brand”).
State, local, and federal governments may face a $7 trillion shortfall in funding coming pension payments, according to credit-rating agency Moody’s - along with unfunded liabilities for Social Security and Medicare programs that could total over $16 trillion, forcing concern that in the future many people will need to work longer or not retire at all (Business Insider “The US Government Has a $20.4 Trillion Retirement Problem”).
Over 40% of students who borrowed from the government’s main student loan program aren’t making or are behind on payments for debts totaling over $200 billion according to data from the Education Department (The Wall Street Journal "More Than 40% of Student Borrowers Aren’t Making Payments").
A new Gallup survey sponsored by the Knight Foundation and Newseum Institute finds that college students are highly confident in the security of the First Amendment - most notably the right for freedom of the press, freedom to petition government, and freedom of speech – even as they see justification for restrictions on campuses, including restricting language and behaviors that are intentionally offensive to certain groups and limiting the press if reporters are believed to be biased, if protesters have a right to be left alone, or if protesters want to tell their own story via social media (The Knight Foundation “Students Confident First Amendment Rights Are Secure, but Nearly Half Say Some Campus Speech Restrictions Can Be Justified, Gallup Survey Shows”). See also The Chronicle of Higher Education.
This feels like fodder for information literacy or consumer information education. As more traditional forms of advertising (television commercials, print media) decline, celebrity social media accounts have become an important tool for marketing products and making money for celebrities – usually by either being paid directly by brands to promote products; by leveraging the reach of their networks to receive higher pay for movie, television, record, or book projects and then using those networks to sell and promote their projects; or by trading comments or posts for free clothes, cars, beauty treatments, or even vacations (The Daily Dot “This Is How Celebrities Use You on Social Media”).
Facebook is taking some steps to make it more obvious when a celebrity or publisher posts about third-party goods, requiring a new tagging feature that must be used by anyone posting something tied to a marketer so that the company being referenced can view analytics and adding a “with” tag that is similar to when friends are tagged in updates, making it more obvious to readers that the post is made as part of an arranged endorsement (Engadget “Facebook Is Making Product Endorsements More Obvious”). See also Digiday.
The real winners in this may not be users, as the move benefits publishers and creators by allowing them to share more branded content across text, photos, videos, Instant Articles, links, 360 videos, and Live videos, and other posts and helping to secure more and more online content for the Facebook platform itself (TechCrunch “New Facebook Rules Allow Publishers and Celebrities to Share Sponsored Content”). See also Geekwire.
Facebook usage statistics through the middle of 2015 show that the sharing of personal stories has declined by 21% year over year (overall sharing is down 5.5%) as users, and perhaps most importantly millennials, seek other platforms for sharing private information and use Facebook for sharing news stories, links, and events (Vocativ “Facebook Users Are Sharing Less Of Themselves”).
Responding to users that reported being interests in setting up their own site but stymied by the process of registering a domain, creating a site, maintaining it, and managing the inventory, Etsy will launch Pattern as a tool to allow sellers to register web domains from within Pattern, choose from site themes, and import content and inventory from the web store and Etsy sites (TechCrunch “Etsy Launches Pattern, a Website Builder for Its Sellers”). See also Gizmodo and CNET.
With over 1 billion users, WhatsApp will become the most widely used end-to-end encryption tool as it enables end-to-end encryption across all versions of its messaging and voice calling software (ArsTechnica “WhatsApp Is Now Most Widely Used End-to-End Crypto Tool on the Planet”). See also Engadget, New Scientist, Slate, and Wired.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
Shopping and delivery are getting easier. Amazon will expands its same-day delivery options for Prime members to eleven new cities (Charlotte, Cincinnati, Fresno, Louisville, Milwaukee, Nashville, Raleigh, Richmond, Sacramento, Stockton and Tucson), bringing the service to nearly 30 metro areas (Geekwire “Amazon Expands Free Same-day Delivery to 11 Mid-sized Cities, Increases Coverage in Existing Metro Markets”). See also Engadget.
Best Buy is also expanding its same-day service from its earlier San Francisco and New York pilot programs to now include Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. (Consumerist “Best Buy Moving Forward With Same-Day Delivery, Adds 11 Cities To Pilot”).
Data scientists, engineers, and scientists from Microsoft, the Rembrandt House Museum, and other institutions collaborated on a project to examine all of Rembrandt's known paintings to develop a data and algorithm-based (30 to 40-year-old Caucasian male with facial hair, wearing dark clothes with a collar and a hat on his head, facing to the right) 3D printed (printing oil paint in layers on canvas) portrait that feels like it was actually painted by a human that could be Rembrandt (Engadget “'The Next Rembrandt' Is a 3D-printed Take on the Painter's Style"). See also ArsTechnica, Mashable, and The Verge.
Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) sent a letter to Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe regarding the virtual reality company’s use and sharing of user data, likely in response to concern from users regarding language in Oculus’ Terms of Service (ToS), including collecting user movement data and the always-on gathering of user data (TechCrunch “Sen. Franken Wants to Know What Oculus Is Doing with Its Rift User Data”). See also Consumerist and Engadget.