Read for Later - “A distortion of our perception…shrink[ing] our expanse of information”

This week’s headline comes from a speech from German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressing her concern for the big internet platforms’ algorithms and their ability to limit the information provided to users and the resulting public discourse.

We're continuing with a slightly new format for the articles below. Thanks for your patience and understanding as we test things out.

I heard from a couple of readers last week - and will share their insights in the coming week - but if you have a chance, could you drop me a line to let me know if any of the articles we’ve featured in this newsletter have really grabbed your attention, made you think, or inspired a great conversation at work. 

And 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.


Mashable “New Apple accessibility videos showcase real people using life-changing assistive tech”
Apple launched a new accessibility web site, promoting several disability-friendly features with a series of videos that show the assistive technology in action.

CNET “Tech Enabled”
This week’s multi-part series features several articles exploring tech’s potential to address cognitive disabilities, visual impairments, and features that benefit all users.    

Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines

Bloomberg “Uber self-driving truck packed with Budweiser makes first delivery in Colorado”
A self-driving tractor trailer drove more than 120 miles to deliver a supply of beer, part of a test by Uber Technologies Inc. and Anheuser-Busch to test he capabilities of self-driving delivery vehicles, a technology that could save companies like Anheuser-Busch over $50 million a year in reduced fuel costs and more frequent delivery schedules. See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Grist, Mashable, MIT Technology Review, NextBigFuture, ReCode, and The Verge.

The Guardian “Angela Merkel: internet search engines are 'distorting perception’”
German chancellor Angela Merkel called on major internet platforms to help users better understand the algorithms that serve them information and provide transparency for users to know how and on what basis the information they received via search engines was channeled to them.

KQED News “Hello humans! Robots help travelers navigate San Jose Airport”
Thanks to friend and colleague Carolyn Foote for sharing this story - San Jose International Airport has introduced three customer service experience robots that help passengers find dining, shopping and other services and dance, play music, and take photos that can be sent to visitors by email or even displayed on the robot’s face.

ArsTechnica “Microsoft releases open source toolkit used to build human-level speech recognition”
Microsoft’s Cognitive Toolkit, a transcription system that can match humans with a word error rate of 5.9% for conversational speech, has been released in beta to provide researchers with tools to develop their own machine learning systems.

Books and Publishing

GoodeReader “The hottest trend in digital publishing are serialized eBooks”
Another story about the trend in publishing toward short reading and serialized novels delivered via apps to mobile devices, helping users slowly read complete novels as they have time in their busy schedules.

Vocativ “One writer wants to turn the hyperlink into the future of literature”
The Seers Catalogue” is an interactive piece of narrative literature that uses hyperlinked text, illustrations, web forms, and audiovisual elements to take the reader through the story, part of a growing body of interactive fiction.   

Nieman Lab “Harvard Business Review, dropping print issues, is looking for the best new forms for the magazine online”
Harvard Business Review is pulling back its print publishing schedule from ten issues per year to six, but will introduce six new multi-day and multimedia online series called “The Big Idea” staggered with the publication of print issues.

The New Yorker “The Bronx Loses Its Only Bookstore”
ALA President-elect Jim Neal shared this story about the last bookstore in the Bronx, a Barnes & Noble that will close by the end of 2016, leaving the borough’s 1.5 million people without a single general-interest bookstore.

Cities and Government

NextCity “16 New Cities Join Bloomberg’s Open Data Initiative”
Albuquerque, Boulder, Des Moines, Nashville, Syracuse, Salt Lake City, Forth Worth, Hartford, and Knoxville are among sixteen cities that will join Bloomberg Philanthropies’ What Works Cities initiative that helps municipalities utilize data to improve city services and inform local decision-making.

ReCode “Obama is pledging more than $2 million to train coal miners to pilot drones”
The White House announced nearly $28 million in federal grants to fund 42 workforce and economic redevelopment projects in Appalachian states where coal industry jobs have slowly disappeared. See also Engadget.

TechCrunch “LinkNYC’s free WiFi and phone kiosks hit London as LinkUK, in partnership with BT”
British telecommunications provider BT will partner with Sidewalk Labs’ Intersection to bring New York’s LinkNYC kiosks to London and other parts of the United Kingdom, providing free WiFi, voice calls, and built in tablets, though taking some notes from NYC’s experience and limiting access to certain internet sites (it’s a complicated business, providing equitable access to the world’s information). See also Engadget, NextCity, and The Verge.

The Internet

NPR “A moment of silence for the black and brown talent that grew on Vine”
There was a lot of news about the shutdown of Vine, Twitter’s six-second video sharing platform, including some thoughtful consideration for the platform’s role in the lives of young people of color, who made up a significant portion of Vine’s user base and used it for sharing everything from creative videos to breaking news. See also BBC, BuzzFeed, Engadget, GeekWire, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, and The Verge.

ProPublica “Facebook lets advertisers exclude users by race”
A ProPublica investigation found that Facebook’s options for advertisers allows targeting by interests or background but also options to exclude specific groups, including what Facebook terms “Ethnic Affinities,” a practice that could violate federal laws. See also Consumerist, The Daily Dot, Fusion, Mashable, TechCrunch, and Vocativ.

The Telegraph “Internet is becoming unreadable because of a trend towards lighter, thinner fonts”
Where internet text used to be bold and dark contrasting well with predominantly white backgrounds, the growing availability of web design tools, mobile devices, and technologies have led to a growing trend toward lighter and thinner fonts, making it difficult for the elderly or visually-impaired to see words clearly.

The Daily Dot “Emoji are officially recognized as work of art”
Shigetaka Kurita’s original set of 176 emojis have been acquired by the Museum of Modern Art, further solidifying emojis’ influence on our mobile culture. See also CNET, Engadget, Mashable, The Verge, Vocativ, and Wired.  

Sharing Economy

MIT Technology Review “Uber wants to ferry us around in flying cars”
Uber is already looking at the next wave of on-demand transportation, publishing a white paper detailing what it’s calling Uber Elevate, a fleet of small electric aircraft that take off and land vertically (yes, that means flying cars). See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, and The Verge.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

Fast Company “The Wing: Manhattan's first all-female coworking space and social club”
The Wing is a new hybrid space in New York City, incorporating elements of a social club, coworking space, and beauty salon, designed exclusively for women members who pay a yearly fee of $1,950. See also Quartz.

Streaming Media

Engadget “MTV to add fan livestreams to music programming in 2017”
MTV Australia is planning a "truly innovative and immersive fan experience never seen on television" that will bring together a traditional television program enhanced with user-created livesteams.

Vocativ “Boiler Room will soon livestream its dance parties in VR”
Boiler Room, best known for livestreaming music events, will expand into virtual reality streams, providing a more immersive live concert experience.

Wired “You can watch a live NBA game on your phone, but it’s a terrible experience. That’s about to change”
The NBA will dedicate a separate camera to shoot entire games optimized for viewing on mobile devices for its NBA League Pass, Team Pass, and single-game streaming subscribers, providing a tighter zoom on the court and making it look better on phones and tablets. See also GeekWire and TechCrunch.