I’ll admit that it’s hard to think about the future when we are confronted by very difficult realities in our present. The tragedy in Orlando has made me think of many things, but, from a futures perspective, it reminds me that we will achieve nothing if we cannot find ways to constructively include, celebrate, and respect our collective diversity. It’s the only way we will construct positive futures.
A little feedback to last week’s post. Annie Norman, state librarian and director of the Delaware Division of Libraries (and a great person to talk library futures with) shared some feedback on The Atlantic’s “How reading logs can ruin kids' pleasure for books” that we shared last week. Dr. Norman noted that this article may have failed to acknowledge the value that voluntary tracking brings, something that the Delaware State Library is helping to do with their Unleash Inner Genius site that encourages voluntary tracking for patrons to be able to build upon and articulate the benefits and outcomes that they receive from libraries along their personal learning journeys.
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
Sunspring, a short film created for an annual fest called Sci-Fi London, features a screenplay written entirely by an artificial intelligence program that called itself Benjamin that produced a screenplay complete with almost impossible stage directions and an original song (Ars Technica "Movie written by AI algorithm turns out to be hilarious and intense"). See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, Mashable, Singularity Hub, Slate, and Vocativ.
AuRoSS is an autonomous robotic shelf-scanning platform in development by the Institute for Infocomm Research of Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research, that uses laser mapping and RFID tags to navigate and scan bookshelves to locate lost and missing books (CNET "Robotic librarian finds lost books, won't tell you to shush").
An interesting look at how the threats posed by algorithms that limit the news and information we all see – forfeiting human discovery and independent thought by reading only what the machine allows us to see and siloing ourselves based on ideology and identity – are not new problems, but have existed for many years in the forms of partisan news channels and publications and the decisions of editorial staffs (Digiday "In defense of Facebook algorithms and programmable news").
Books, Media, and Publishing
Amazon will reportedly launch a standalone subsection music streaming service in competition with Apple Music and Spotify, offering a competitive catalog of songs (Reuters "Exclusive: Amazon is preparing to launch streaming music service - sources"). See also CNET, Engadget, and Geekwire.
With a reach among 18-to-49-year olds that exceeds the top ten TV shows combined and advertisements that can be 56% more successful among that age group, YouTube and its stars are driving important discussions and leading shifts in the cultural landscape (The Daily Dot "YouTube stars are influencing social change like never before").
By studying the global viewing habits for more than 100 serialized TV shows, Netflix has created a Binge Scale, which ranks shows from "savor" (defined as shows users view for less than two hours per day) to "devour" (defined as shows watched for more than two hours per day) (Mashable "We binge 'Orange is the New Black' faster than 'House of Cards,' data says"). See also The New York Times.
The binge model of consumption may translate into the book industry, as Farrar Straus and Giroux revives and modifies serialized fiction with the fantasy tetralogy Tale of Shikanoko, written as one long novel with a four-part structure that can be released incrementally to drive readers’ interest (Wired "You may soon binge books just like you binge Netflix").
Snapchat continues to appeal to publishers, enhancing their Discover section to allow users to subscribe to content providers, placing content on Snapchat's Stories page, and redesigning the Discover section to include magazine-style images and headlines (Re/Code "Snapchat redesigned its publisher section and now lets you subscribe to your favorite channels").
A new article from the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour finds that the number of Americans who view sexual activity between two adults of the same sex as being “not wrong at all” has increased from 13% in 1990 to 49% in 2014, with even greater shifts among those under age 30, with the proportion rising from 15% to 63% (The Guardian "US survey shows dramatic rise in acceptance of same-sex relationships").
The U.S. Department of Education released the 2013-2014 Civil Rights Data Collection survey results collected from more than 95,000 schools and 50 million students and showing that 49.7% of public school students are students of color (NPR "The civil rights problem in U.S. schools: 10 new numbers").
Udacity will branch out from its core technology training market to provide training for workers in banking and the car industry, recognizing opportunities for advance technology training in those sectors (Reuters "Online education firm Udacity looks beyond tech sector").
Minecraft will be available for schools beginning in September at a cost between $1 and $5 per student and including a camera that allows students to create portfolios, chalkboards for instructions, starter worlds, and teacher lessons for how to get the most out of Minecraft’s teaching opportunities (Vocativ "Minecraft is heading to the classroom").
Facebook has launched a video comments feature, asserting the continuing rise and growth of online video creation and consumption (TechCrunch "Facebook now lets users comment with a video"). See also CNET, Consumerist, and The Daily Dot.
At the Internet Archive’s Decentralized Web Summit, Sir Tim Berners-Lee expressed concern over the internet’s evolution toward the "world's largest surveillance network," dominated by a single search engine, social network, and micro-blogging platform (The Register "Berners-Lee: WWW is spy net"). See also The New York Times.
This one is especially for the Michigan Library Association’s Executive Summit attendees, where we discussed the trend of watching video games be played online. Blizzard Entertainment will integrate Facebook’s livestreaming API into its video games so that people can broadcast their gaming sessions directly to Facebook, helping to build Facebook as a destination for gaming enthusiasts and helping gamers reach Facebook's 1.65 billion user audience (ReCode "You'll soon be able to watch people play video games from your Facebook News Feed").
The internet of things might compel companies and organizations to create new high-level positions like a Chief Internet of Things Officer, responsible for driving IoT strategy, products, or initiatives, or an IoT Business Designer, responsible for identifying business opportunities that can be addressed through IoT (TechCrunch "The future of the IoT job market").
Facebook activated the Safety Check tool to help people involved in and near the Orlando shooting (CNET "Facebook activates Safety Check after Orlando massacre").
An interesting (and quick) interview with David Byttow, one of the founders and the former chief executive of Secret, the social messaging start-up that let people post messages anonymously, revealing some of his continued concerns for our technological and social ability to manage anonymity online in a way that doesn’t hurt people (The New York Times "Q. and A.: Secret’s founder on the problems with anonymity").
And speaking on anonymity, the app ‘We The People’ lets neighbors anonymously discuss politics, shows voters which candidates are winning support in their districts, and displays regular election updates (PSFK "Anonymously discuss politics with people in your local area").
Armarium is an app that connects users with ready-to-wear fashion and accessories without the commitment of a high price tag and lending periods of up to four days, following a trend of ephemeral purchasing, where consumers give up ownership to loan out items for only as long as necessary (PSFK "Why rental could be the future of fashion").
In a move that will likely increase its competitive position against taxis and limo services, Uber will allow users with a business account in certain markets (Seattle will be the first to test the service) to book rides up to 30 days in advance (Vocativ "Uber will now let you book a car weeks in advance"). See also Consumerist and Engdaget.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
This may have been the most interesting article of the week. McDonald’s as de-facto community centers, providing spaces for lower-income Americans and retired people, drawn in by inexpensive coffee, clean facilities, and open spaces, to discuss politics, study the Bible, socialize, and to address technological needs like wi-fi and device charging (The Guardian "McDonald's: You can sneer, but it's the glue that holds communities together"). See also Consumerist and Foundation for Economic Education.
With a mandate to "inform, educate and entertain," the BBC takes it role as innovator seriously, with the BBC R&D unit increasingly exploring immersive "true VR" experiences, including "Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel" and "We Wait" created for the Oculus Rift, "The Turning Forest" that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival and uses 3D audio to compelling effect, and "Home - A VR Spacewalk" that uses HTC Vive and motion controllers to put viewers to work on the International Space Station (Engadget "The BBC takes its first steps into 'true VR'").
Virtual reality will support education as a tool for training and simulation and advance the development of empathy in students, creating opportunities to experience new perspectives, while augmented reality will add layers of context and depth where typical classroom materials might fall short (Mind/Shift "3 Free Virtual and Augmented Reality Apps for the Classroom").
The Minnesota Twins will give away 5,000 Cardboard virtual reality viewers to fans to check in to the game on the the MLB.com Ballpark mobile app and access virtual reality videos (Geekwire "Why the Minnesota Twins are giving fans virtual reality cardboard headsets").