This week’s subject line is excerpted from a letter sent to University of Chicago students by Dean of Students Jay Ellison, a letter whose blunt assertion of existing university policies refocused attention on the debate over trigger warnings, safe spaces, and campus speech. Libraries matter in that debate and a host of other news items featured this week, from subscription service exclusives like Frank Ocean’s much anticipated album Blond to the blurring line between brick and mortar and online services exemplified by Walmart, Home Depot, and YouTube’s new Creator Store.
Another reminder: The Center for the Future of Libraries is happy to be working with San Jose State University’s School of Information and The Learning Revolution on this year’s Library 2.016 Mini-Conferences, including the October 6th Library 2.016: Libraries of the Future. A call for proposals and free registration are now available.
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, Media, and Publishing
Frank Ocean’s much-anticipated album Blond was released as an Apple Music and iTunes exclusive - joining Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Drake in releasing albums exclusively to select platforms – raising tensions between record labels and streaming services and locking out non-subscribing portions of their audiences (The Verge “Frank Ocean's release of Blond marks the start of a major fight in the music industry”). See also Fast Company.
Universal Music Group, which owns Def Jam Recordings where Ocean was previously under contract, will ban future exclusive streaming deals as it works to solidify its business model for the future (Vocativ “Universal Music reportedly bans exclusive streaming deals”).
And just to show that it’s not a clear-cut war between labels and streaming services, Spotify was accused of retaliating against musicians who introduced new material on rival streaming services, reportedly making their songs harder to find, removing tracks from featured playlists, or burying songs in search rankings (Bloomberg “Spotify is burying musicians for their Apple deals”). See also Gizmodo and The Verge. Spotify representatives claim that report is “unequivocally false” (ReCode “Spotify says it isn’t punishing artists who cut exclusive deals with Apple and Tidal”).
Amazon’s Kindle Reading Fund will help make digital books more easily available worldwide, donating Kindle e-readers, Fire tablets, and e-books to communities around the world, working with the Parent Teach Association, schools, libraries, hospitals, and nonprofits (TechCrunch “Amazon launches the Kindle Reading Fund to expand digital reading around the world”). See also Engadget.
Podcasts have become a popular format for news, commentary, and narrative nonfiction, but podcast creators are also exploring the format as a tool for fiction storytelling (Wired “Fiction podcasts are finally a thing! Thank you, Sci-Fi and Horror”).
Some insight on why people watch other people play videogames online – part instruction and insight, part connection across what is an otherwise solitary activity, and part tool for conversation (Wired “Why I watch people play videogames on the internet”).
The “Young Adult” brand has expanded beyond books, film, and television to video games, where new games build on themes of transformation and leverage youthful protagonists experiencing the world for the first time (Engadget "Why young-adult video games are thriving").
We see a lot of news from megacities, so this megacity spillover story might be particularly interesting for the rest of us. Faced with high salaries and housing costs, many San Francisco tech companies are expanding to lower-cost cities like Phoenix, Boise, or Salt Lake City, allowing companies to grow faster and make jobs more accessible and helping drive more urban economies (The New York Times "Bay Area start-ups find low-cost outposts in Arizona").
New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority will work with Mastercard and ticketing company Masabi to bring an e-ticketing app to Metro North and Long Island Rail Road passengers who buy their tickets online using the MTA’s eTix app and transfer to the city's subway system – a significant step in replacing the MetroCard with a more integrated mobile payment system (The Verge “The NYC subway may have limited mobile ticketing as soon as next year”).
A look at an often overlooked category of data – “exhaust” data generated as a by-product of some other process includes data sets like foot traffic data, consumer spending data, satellite imaging data, biometrics, technology usage data, or employee satisfaction data – increasingly being re-purposed by machine-learning algorithms to provide new insights (Fast Company "Your garbage data is a gold mine").
Always useful: first-hand insight on the social media habits of teens and the delicate navigation between high school socialization and oversharing (Wired "Like. Flirt. Ghost: A journey into the social media lives of teens").
A letter to the incoming class at the University of Chicago has brought attention to trigger warnings and safe spaces on college campuses as Dean of Students Jay Ellison asserts “Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called trigger warnings, we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own” (The New York Times “University of Chicago strikes back against campus political correctness”). See also The Chicago Tribune, The Daily Dot, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post.
Southern states have been disproportionately cutting spending on public higher education – three of the five states that have most reduced their funding per public college and university student from 2008 to 2016 are in the south; seven of the twenty states with the deepest cuts in higher-education spending are in the south; four of the five states where a community college costs the most for the poorest students are in the south; and all five of the costliest four-year public university degrees for low-income families are in the south (The Hechinger Report “The new North-South divide: public higher education”).
The continued online harassment of Leslie Jones reminds us that the internet can be a particularly hostile space for women and people of color. The actress was forced to take down her website after hackers took control of it, posted racist content, personal information, and personal photos stolen from Jones’ iCloud account (Ars Technica “Hackers attack site of Ghostbusters star Leslie Jones, post racist abuse”). See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Gizmodo, Mashable, Slate, and The Verge.
Facebook will replace human editors with algorithms to generate story descriptions for its trending topics sidebar, pulling excerpts directly from the stories and simply showing the topic and the number of people talking about the topic on Facebook (The Daily Dot “Facebook is removing humans from writing trending topics descriptions”). See also Engadget, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.
WhatsApp, the messaging service that has promoted privacy as a central feature, issued a new user agreement indicating that it will share some of its users’ information including phone numbers with Facebook, which acquired the app in 2014 (Wired “WhatsApp’s privacy cred just took a big hit”). See also Mashable, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Vocativ.
The Sharing Economy
After the disruption, the regulation. Massachusetts is introducing a $0.20 per-trip fee for ride-hailing companies like Uber and Lyft, half of which will go toward local city and town transportation funds and the other half split between the state's Department of Public Utilities and a subsidy for Massachusetts' taxis – and service providers will have to pay the tax directly, without passing the fee on to riders or drivers (Mashable “Massachusetts is taxing Uber and giving the money to taxis”). See also Consumerist, Engadget, Slate, and Reuters.
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
The line between online and brick and mortar shopping experiences continues to blend – Walmart uses 80 of its 4,500 stores to pack and ship online orders and 42% of Home Depot’s online orders are picked up in stores (Business Insider "Home Depot and Walmart are using one huge advantage to go after Amazon").
Google and YouTube have opened a London retail outlet called the Creator Store where YouTube celebrities can sell merchandise like T-shirts, books, mugs, and other paraphernalia to help expand the reach of online stardom and increase fan interaction (PSFK "London is getting the first YouTube store").
Amazon announced plans to open its fourth physical store in Chicago in 2017, joining an existing location in Seattle and planned locations in San Diego and Portland (CNET “Amazon reveals plans for new bookstore in Chicago”). See also Engadget, Geekwire, Mashable, The Verge, and Vocativ.
Timed with the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service, the virtual reality film Through the Ages is a 10-minute video tour through Yosemite narrated by President Obama and available on Gear VR and Facebook’s 360-degree video platform (The Verge “Tour Yosemite in virtual reality with Barack Obama”). See also Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Washington Post.