Read for Later – “Shift perspectives on a well-known public institution, encourage people to visit more often, and engage more deeply”

That opening line is taken from a proposal submitted by the Sydney Opera House to make its spaces available for slumber parties for a limited number of guests several times a year. It was one of several reminders this week – including news of a new civic commons initiative supported by four major foundations – that physical spaces are still important to our futures. This week also includes three stories showing how delivery is changing, several stories about the start of the academic year (including some very distressing news from Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus), and a very troubling example of a social platform's potential to censor content.

And a story that deserves some special attention, in case you have not seen – the Pew Research Center released their Libraries 2016 findings.   

Over the next several weeks we will be making a survey available to gather your thoughts on this newsletter’s usefulness and opportunities for improvement. So, if you have time this week, please consider completing this short survey – and thanks in advance for your feedback.   

Two reminders:

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.

One last note – there will not be an issue of this newsletter next week, but we will resume distribution on Monday September 26th.

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Facebook’s trending news algorithm continues to struggle, promoting an article from a British tabloid claiming the Twin Towers collapsed on Sept. 11 due to a "controlled demolition” (Mashable “First a Siri joke, now a 9/11 conspiracy? Facebook Trending is having a really bad week”).  See also The Daily Dot, Engadget, Gizmodo, Slate.

Lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) are weaponized robots that have the ability to independently select and engage targets – and they are among the concerns of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) at the United Nations, which works to restrict weapons that “are considered to cause unnecessary or unjustifiable suffering to combatants or to affect civilians indiscriminately” (Buzzfeed "Killer Robots Are Coming And These People Are Trying To Stop Them"). 

Books, Media, and Publishing

The Newspaper Association of America, the trade group for major newspaper publishers, will now be known as the News Media Alliance, an acknowledgement of the broadening options for reporting the news beyond the physical newspaper (The New York Times “Yes, the news can survive the newspaper”). 

Add Turner Broadcasting to the growing list of potential streaming subscription providers as it looks to market TNT, CNN, and Cartoon Planet directly to consumers (ReCode “Turner wants to build its own streaming service for channels like CNN and TNT”). 

Amazon’s pursuit of streaming rights is extending to sporting events with an international appeal, including the French Open tennis championship, professional rugby, golf, soccer, and auto racing (Mashable “Amazon is reportedly seeking sports streaming rights from tennis to rugby”). See also CNET, Consumerist, and Geekwire.

Everyone wants to be a media company. Starbucks will launch "Upstanders," a collection of written stories, videos, and podcasts meant to highlight positive and inspiring stories from across the country (Advertising Age “Starbucks unveils content series 'Upstanders'”).  See also Geekwire, TechCrunch, and The Washington Post.


The National Endowment for the Arts worked with the US Census to poll residents on their participation in the arts, finding that 45% of American adults said they personally performed or created artwork in 2014, but that states south of the 36°30' latitude line saw less participation than those north of that mark (The Washington Post "The stunning geographic divide in American creativity"). 

The JPB Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation will launch a $40 million “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative to help four cities focus on localized improvements to public spaces and encourage interaction among neighbors and across socio-economic categories (CityLab "Creating sustainable cities by 'Reimagining the Civic Commons'"). 

We previously shared news about the fleet of self-driving cars that Uber will introduce in Pittsburgh, but this story looks at the growing trend for cities and states to adopt a hands-off approach and ignore regulation in order to attract tech companies and be a “21st-century laboratory for technology” (The New York Times “No driver? Bring it on. How Pittsburgh became Uber’s testing ground”).  

Public-private partnerships continue to move ahead in cities, including new partnerships between public transit agencies and ride-hailing services meant to bolster cash-strapped transit services in low-density areas (Next City “Uber, bike-share and more are factors in tomorrow’s transit agency”).  


Pew Research Center’s latest demographic report looks at the U.S. Hispanic population, which has seen slowing growth rates nationally (Pew Research Center “U.S. Latino population growth and dispersion has slowed since the onset of the Great Recession”).  See also CityLab.

A first-hand account of how reverse mentorships – where younger employees help more senior employees adopt a range of skills and perspectives – can help get us all out of our comfort zones and learn more about ourselves and the diverse colleagues we work with (The New York Times "What could I possibly learn from a mentor half my age? Plenty").  

Open-plan offices, collaboration, and hyper-connectedness have advanced the notion that extroverts lead and drive innovation, but more and more observers note the importance of introverts in the workforce and are encouraging workplaces to plan for their needs (The Economist "Shhhh! - Companies would benefit from helping introverts to thrive"). 

With one in three people older than 65 and half of those over 85 living alone, loneliness and social isolation are increasingly viewed as a major issue connected to public health, functional and cognitive decline, and even early death (The New York Times “Researchers confront an epidemic of loneliness”).  


An awful situation at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus, where the administration officially locked out all 400 members of the Long Island University Faculty Federation (LIUFF), which represents full-time and adjunct faculty, a first for higher education faculty (The Nation "Classes start at LIU Brooklyn on September 7—but faculty are locked out"). See also The Atlantic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and The New York Times.   

For many students entering college, student orientation will include a focus on issues of diversity, sexual consent, and appropriate behavior (The New York Times “Campuses cautiously train freshmen against subtle insults”).  

It’s something that can be annoying when it happens to adults, but particularly damaging when it happens to children – pronouncing students’ names incorrectly could have negative effects on their confidence and academic progress (Quartz “The lasting impact of white teachers who mispronounce minority student names”). 

The National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future (NCTAF) issued a new report identifying several key conditions – new teaching dynamics, a commitment to collaboration and growth, and modernized roles and structures – that will be needed in order for great teaching to flourish (eSchool News "6 ways school leaders can transform teaching"). 

While the University of Illinois announced its largest freshman class in history, many regional public universities in Illinois are reporting enrollment numbers down as much as 25% from last year – a possible sign that students are watching the state’s budget uncertainty and planning accordingly (The Chicago Tribune "Illinois public universities have fluctuating enrollment after difficult year").  

A new spin on virtual reality in higher education, this time looking at its potential as a tool in admissions, marketing, and facilities and for alumni (eCampus News "5 ways to practically incorporate virtual reality"). 

The Internet

A new report from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in the United Kingdom finds that crimes which involve use of the internet, social media, and other forms of technology to "humiliate, control and threaten" women are on the rise, including cyber-stalking, the disclosure of private sexual images without consent, and controlling or coercive behavior (Mashable “Social media is a rapidly growing frontier of violence against women and girls”). 

A very clear demonstration of the power big technology platforms exert. Facebook, citing its Community Standards, deleted several posts featuring the Pulitzer Prize-winning photo, “The Terror of War,” and suspended one of the accounts posting the photo, prompting a front-page open letter from Norway’s largest newspaper Aftenposten criticizing the company’s decision to censor a historic photograph and calling on CEO Mark Zuckerberg to recognize and live up to his role as “the world’s most powerful editor” (The Guardian “Mark Zuckerberg accused of abusing power after Facebook deletes 'napalm girl' post”). See also The Daily Dot, Mashable, Motherboard, NPR, Poynter, ReCode, The Verge, Vocativ, and Wired.  

After a day of criticism, Facebook reversed its position, stating "Because of its status as an iconic image of historical importance, the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal, so we have decided to reinstate the image on Facebook where we are aware it has been removed" (ReCode “Facebook changes its mind, and says it’s okay to publish an iconic war photo, after all”). See also ArsTechnica, CNN, Fusion, Gizmodo, The Independent, Slate, TechCrunch, The Verge, and The Wall Street Journal.

The Sharing Economy

As outlined in a new report, Airbnb will require rental hosts to agree to a “community commitment” and new nondiscrimination policy as part of its response to accusations of discrimination and it will work to reduce the prominence of user photographs and accelerate the use of instant bookings in an effort to minimize the opportunities for hosts to discriminate based on renters' age or race (The New York Times “Airbnb adopts rules to fight discrimination by its hosts”). See also Engadget, Fusion, Gizmodo, Motherboard, and Wired.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

The Sydney Opera House hosted a mass sleepover during the live performance and telecast of composer Max Richter's eight-hour piece Sleep and a new proposal would open six locations in the Opera House to slumber parties, part of an effort to offer unique experiences to guests and "to shift perspectives on a well-known public institution, encourage people to visit more often, and engage more deeply," (Conde Nast Traveler "The Sydney Opera House will host slumber parties for grownups").  

Amazon will open dozens of pop-up stores in shopping malls over the next year as it works to build a strong connection with customers in retail storefronts, home delivery, and on its own devices (Business Insider “Amazon is doubling down on retail stores with plans to have up to 100 pop-up stores in US shopping malls”). See also Consumerist, Engadget, Geekwire, and The Verge.

Project Wing, a unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet, will partner with Chipotle Mexican Grill to deliver burritos via drone on the campus of Virginia Tech (Bloomberg “Alphabet and Chipotle are bringing burrito delivery drones to campus”). See also Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Geekwire, TechCrunch, and The Verge.  

Amazon and the San Francisco 49ers announced a partnership to provide tailgating Amazon Prime subscribers with one-hour Prime Now delivery for everything from beer to 49ers gear (Geekwire “Amazon partners with San Francisco 49ers to offer one hour Prime Now deliveries for tailgaters”). 

And in London, Amazon is launching restaurant delivery in an hour or less and free delivery on orders over £15 or $20 (The Verge “Amazon rides into London's restaurant delivery wars”).  See also Engadget, Mashable, PSFK, and TechCrunch.

Virtual Reality

Oculus Story Studio’s animated short film "Henry” received an Emmy award for Outstanding Original Interactive Program, helping highlight VR’s potential for storytelling (CNET  “Oculus VR animated short film 'Henry' wins an Emmy”). See also Engadget, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.