Read for Later - Mixed Reality, Grade Inflation, and the Power of Prime

A good mix this week, including some interesting news in education (grade inflation, digital textbooks in NYC schools, and the prospects for the Class of 2016), new access implications for Amazon Prime, and a fascinating look at Magic Leap and the future of mixed reality.

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.

Books, Publishing, and Media

The Supreme Court denied the Authors Guild’s request to review the Second Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision that Google Books doesn't infringe on authors' copyright protections (The Verge “The Supreme Court won't hear an appeal on Google Books case”). See also ArsTechnicaCNETConsumeristEngadgetFusionReutersSlate, and TechCrunch.

As Amazon moves forward with original TV and film, it has introduced options for individuals to subscribe to its Amazon Prime service month-by-month, including an $8.99 Prime Video membership plan (Wired “You can now get Amazon Prime by the month, with or without shipping”). See also ArsTechnicaBloombergCNETConsumeristThe Daily DotEngadgetGeekwireMashable and againTechCrunch and again, and The Verge

As Netflix’ growth in the US slows, its plan for the international market grows – the service reports having 81.5 million subscribers with 42% of those outside the US – developing programming like its Spanish-language Narcos and Club de Cuervos that appeal to American and international audiences (Wired “Netflix expects to add fewer US users, so it’s looking abroad”). See also The Verge

Social networks are quickly replacing publication websites as the primary place for content consumption, using search results and social feeds (Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, Apple News, Snapchat Discover) to keep audiences on the platforms and provide a faster, more uniform information gathering experience (Naytev Insights “Publishers must adapt to a 'distributed first' model or fall into obscurity”).

MTV will use Snapchat to revive its popular series “Cribs” as a short-form program, hoping to reach younger viewers more likely to access content on mobile devices and apps (Variety “MTV revives ‘Cribs’ for Snapchat”).

MTV also announced five new podcasts focused on film, politics, pop culture, and music that follow a similar strategy targeting young people more connected to their mobile devices than their televisions (Digiday “MTV News is launching five podcasts as part of comeback plan”).


Mexico City will engage in a digital democracy experiment as it drafts a new constitution for its change from a Federal District to a federal entity. Residents are invited to petition via for issues that they want included in the new constitution – issues receiving 5,00 supporters will receive responses from the official Workgroup; those with 10,000 will be invited to present their case in person in front of a few members of the committee; and those with 50,000 votes will meet in person with the entire team (PSFK “Mexico City is crowdsourcing its new constitution”). announced America's Top Boom Towns, based on new home construction, job creation, and household growth – Gilbert (Ariz.), Los Angeles, Dallas, and Miami topped the list (World Property Journal “America's Top 30 Boom Towns of 2016 revealed”).


The National Center for Health Statistics reports a 24% increase in suicide rates between 1999 and 2014, with particularly sharp increases from 2006 on and especially troubling shifts in suicide rates among girls under the age of 14 and middle-aged men between the ages of 45 and 64 (Vocativ “Suicide is surging in America, and nobody can figure out why”). See also Gizmodo and The New York Times

The New York Times’ analysis of data from the Luxembourg Income Study Database finds that across the lower- and middle-income tiers, citizens of other advanced nations have received considerably larger raises than Americans over the last three decades, suggesting that most Americans are experiencing the effects of rising income inequality (The New York Times “The American Middle Class Is No Longer the World’s Richest”).


According to a new study from the Pell Institute for the Study of Opportunity in Higher Education, while bachelor’s degree attainment rates have increased across family income levels, the distribution of that attainment has remained relatively constant since 1970 (the top two family income quartiles together accounted for 72% of total bachelor’s degrees attained in 1970 and 77% in 2014), asserting that family income remains the major indicator for college success (The Pell Institute “Release of Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States — 2016 Historical Trend Report shows family income is a major indicator in college entrance, selection, graduation”).

Amazon has received a $30 million contract from the New York City Department of Education to provide digital textbooks to its 1.1 million students through a private marketplace similar to what Amazon provides for higher ed institutions (Engadget “New York City schools tap Amazon for e-books”). See also CNET and The Wall Street Journal

Stuart Rojstaczer and Christopher Healy, academics whose research and website focus on grade inflation, have found that across 400 colleges and universities, not one institution has maintained level grades over the past fifty years, with the overall rise in grades including a tripling of the percentage of A grades (Foundation for Economic Education “Grade inflation eats away at the meaning of college").

Members of Generation Z, those born between the 1990s and 2000s, are believed to have a high level of comfort with all kinds of technology, a strong do-it-yourself spirit (having grown up with access to answers at their fingertips), and a solid belief in the value of a college education, face-to-face interaction, and collaboration with peers, according to the “Getting to Know Gen Z: Exploring a New Generation’s Expectations for Higher Education” report from Barnes & Noble College (Education Dive “Make way millennials, here comes Generation Z”).

LikedIn has introduced its swipe-oriented Students app, which helps soon-to-graduate college students swipe to discover jobs that fit their major and companies with a history of hiring from their schools (Geekwire “Swipe right to apply: LinkedIn courts college students with Tinder-like job hunting app”). See also Engadget and Re/Code.

The Economic Policy Institute’s paper "Class of 2016," considers employment, enrollment, and wage trends to conclude that this year’s graduating class has better job prospects than any other class since 2009, though they will still face challenges as wages, unemployment, and underemployment rates still haven’t reached pre-recession levels (Fast Company “The class of 2016 has better economic prospects than last year's grads”).


ACT | The App Association’s survey of 1,250 American voters reveals support for strong encryption and opposition to attempts to weaken encryption for law-enforcement purposes (The Daily Dot “Americans side with tech companies over government on risks and priorities in encryption debate”).

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

While spun as part of a strategy to “offer exclusive selection and pricing on select items for Prime members,” many industry experts expressed concern after non-Amazon produced items including video games and movies were listed on Amazon as Prime-exclusive items, raising issues of access for those who may not be interested in or able to subscribe to Prime and stifling sales for providers who could be forced into discounts or other terms of sale by the threat of having their products limited to only certain Amazon shoppers (Gizmodo “Amazon has begun labeling some items Prime-exclusive”). See also CNETGeekwire, and Videogamer

Amazon’s same-day delivery service coverage is based on data, most importantly ZIP codes where there’s a high concentration of Prime members, but in cities where most of those paying members are concentrated in predominantly white parts of town, predominantly African American neighborhoods are not served by same-day delivery, even if their immediate neighbors are (Bloomberg “Amazon doesn’t consider the race of its customers. Should it?”). See also Consumerist and Geekwire.

Virtual Reality

Wired’s story on Magic Leap reveals the potential for mixed reality (MR), virtual reality elements overlaid on the viewer’s real-world surroundings (Wired “The untold story of Magic Leap, the world’s most secretive startup”).