Read for Later - Paris and Technology, Journalism's Future, and Children's Privacy

A full week of news. The tragedy in Paris illustrated the role technology plays in humans' response and reaction to disasters and terrorism. In the midst of this dominant news story, several other pieces explored the future of journalism and its relationship to social media platforms, virtual reality, and privacy.   
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  • As attacks unfolded around Paris on Friday evening, Facebook users in Paris used the network to notify friends and family that they were alright - posting statuses and marking themselves as “safe” through Facebook’s Safety Check service
  • Facebook’s Safety Check is deployed after considering the scale, scope, and impact of a disaster, activating the tool five times in 2015 (after earthquakes in Nepal, Afghanistan and Chile, and in the aftermath of Typhoon Ruby in the Philippines and Tropical Cyclone Pam in the South Pacific)
  • After some criticism, Facebook clarified that the current version of Safety Check may not be as useful for wars or epidemics, such as the ongoing Syria conflict or the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, because "there isn't a clear start or end point and, unfortunately, it's impossible to know when someone is truly 'safe.'"
  • Parisians seeking and offering shelter quickly utilized social media sites like Twitter using the hashtag #PorteOuverte or #OpenDoor to indicate the need for or availability of shelter

Assorted Interests

  • Microsoft introduces software that will take any photograph, identify the faces, and then give each one a score on a series of different emotions along a range of anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise
  • A Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data found that 36.4% of women age 18 to 34 lived with parents or relatives in 2014, the most since at least 1940, when 36.2% lived with family
  • Could indicate that more millennial women are putting off marriage, attending college and incurring student debt, and/or facing high living expenses and weak job markets
  • The UK Economic and Social Research Council’s (ESRC) writing competition invited ESRC-funded PhD students to write a prediction of impact the social sciences and current research will have in 2065 – with three winners selected and excerpted.

Books, Publishing, and Media

  • New research indicates that news-related websites may expose viewers to over twice as much tracking as other web sites, exposing browsing history and personal information to numerous advertisers and data brokers 
  • Open journalism, which utilizes user-generated, networked, crowd sourced, or social media content, may challenge future journalists’ fact-checking and verification skills   
  • Web companies are leveraging their millions or billions of users to lure media companies and publishers into providing their news and content for free in exchange for access to audiences, faster-loading or better looking articles, and shares of advertising revenue
  • At Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism's Fall Conference, “Journalism and Silicon Valley,” experts warned of the threat of giant social networks forcing editorial decisions, algorithms driving news, and partnerships that don't align with the pursuits of journalism
  • The Wall Street Journal will join Snapchat’s Discover program, providing WSJ with access to a new demographic of younger readers and Snapchat with potential appeal to an older demographic 
  • A look at the complicated battle of electronic vs. print in the publishing industry, including the impact of rising ebook prices on readers’ move to print and the challenge of distribution rights for ebook services like Oyster 
  • A new report from Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism explores virtual reality’s history; provides a case study of one of the first documentaries produced for the medium; outlines the opportunities and challenges for VR in journalism; and offers recommendations for journalists working in VR
  • YouTube, the world’s largest and most popular online collection of videos, the second largest search engine (trailing parent company, Google), and the largest streaming music service, launched their new YouTube Music app, available in free ad-supported mode or as part of the payable YouTube Red subscription, helping to curate and push content to users
  • Disney will follow the lead of other media companies in providing on-demand subscription apps that can take products directly to consumers


  • New York City will launch its first micro apartment building, consisting of 55 prefab units well below the city’s regulated minimum apartment size of 400 square feet
  • New York City Council member Mark Levine has proposed giving trees a specific email address, making it easier for citizens to report problems (blight or dangling branches) and to help improve the public’s relationship with trees
  • As cities contend with climate change, the Compact of Mayors, an international coalition of city officials dedicated to combating climate change, has grown to include 87 U.S. mayors – and President Obama is pushing to have at least 100 U.S. civic leaders join before December’s international climate summit
  • According to the National League of Cities, just 6% of the nation’s biggest cities are planning for or thinking about autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars in their long-range transportation plans
  • Also covered in Gizmodo
  • Over the next two decades, researchers see cities becoming safer spaces for pedestrians and cyclists, public transit becoming more efficient, and cars becoming smaller, electric, and driverless – hurdles to this future could include investment in infrastructure, insurance considerations for automated services, and conflicting interests around the future of jobs


  • Parc, a new drone developed by drone maker CyPhy Works, can perform aerial surveillance indefinitely, using a “microfilament” that transmits power and data, allowing them to be used for reconnaissance or as a communications relay
  • Aerial drones may be the future of delivery, but autonomous ground-based vehicles are making strides, including Carry, a small vehicle that can navigate streets and sidewalks to deliver goods right to recipients’ doors
  • Also covered in PSFK


  • Reports from the The Wall Street Journal indicate that Apple is looking to expand Apple Pay to include person-to-person payment options, competing with services like PayPal’s Venmo or Google’s person-to-person payments through Google Wallet
  • Also covered in CNET, Fast Company, and Gizmodo
  • Universal basic income could give people a baseline standard of living in an economy facing increasing income inequality and concerns about job loss to automation
  • Changes in the banking and investing industries will likely create the Uberization of finance, which will bring multiple new opportunities but also a range of new risks


  • Using nonproprietary software open to the public, open source voting systems could offer increased transparency and help safeguard against election tampering.
  • An interesting look at the political influence of internet startup founders – generally opposed to labor unions, sovereignty, regulation, smaller government, and militarism; interested in competitive and direct funding for non-government agencies to solve social problems; and arguably Democrats’ biggest cheerleaders
  • A new report from Yahoo and Harris Poll surveyed 5,188 registered voters of all backgrounds to better understand how technology has changed Americans’ participation in the political process as well as Americans’ views on tech issues such as cybersecurity and privacy – results showed minority voters have a more favorable view of the potential for tech to improve political inclusion
  • Also covered in The Daily Dot


  • Interactive toys, including Mattel’s Hello Barbie, an Internet-connected doll that can have a conversation, and CogniToys Dino, which uses IBM's Watson to improve interactions and conversations with children, may change the way that children relate to toys, while also raising parents' concerns for privacy
  • Activist groups like Anonymous, and increasing anonymity online, create an opportunity for society to consider the workings, benefits, contradictions, and limitations of applied anonymity-in-action
  • Concerns for student privacy have been growing over the past several years, as an increasing number of teachers, schools, school districts, and states leverage technology to improve teaching and to collect detailed information on students
  • Student data is collected through children’s online activities or from information provided by parents, teachers, or school staff, including demographic information; discipline records, grades and test scores; disabilities, medical history, and counseling records; and much more

3D Printing

  • Encore, a 3D printing system developed at Carnegie Mellon University, takes advantage of a new technique of 3D printing to augment and repair things we already own, scanning the object to be modified and analyzing the surface geometry and texture to see where additions can be printed, and printing the desired extra piece on or around the object
  • Researchers from Wake Forest University, Columbia University, and University of North Carolina, presented prototype 3D printer software that could create customized pills, leveraging an algorithm that adjusts dosages based on factors like weight, race, organ functions, helping to improve the effectiveness of drugs and minimize detrimental side effects

Virtual and Augmented Reality

  • The technology would project virtual objects onto a person's real-life field of vision, much like Google Glass or Microsoft's HoloLens
  • Impacto combines haptic feedback with electrical muscle stimulation to simulate the effects of impact force by thrusting the user’s arm in a direction that’s convincing
  • Also covered in The Daily Dot and MIT Technology Review
  • 2016 will be the year of VR with headsets, hardware, and software becoming readily available to the public throughout the year – and new partnerships between VR vendors and movie studios and news organizations expanding the tech’s reach