Read For Later - Forget Your Ex, Nanodegrees, and Livability in Cities

We're trying a different format this week - less bullet points, more sentences. The news is still there, though, including exciting perspectives on nanodegrees, affordability in urbanization, and the sharing economy.
Don't forget that we're still experimenting with TinyLetter to get this update sent out via email to subscribers. You can subscribe at and await your email next Monday.  
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.

Assorted Interests

Facebook’s Safety Check (High Scalability “How Facebook's Safety Check Works”) played a significant role after the Paris attacks last week – and caused some controversy over its use in Paris, but not in other situations. New violence, this time in Nigeria, prompted the activation of Safety Check this week (TechCrunch “Facebook Activates Safety Check In Nigeria Bombings”) and Facebook demonstrated a responsiveness to concerns, noting that it would use Safety Check for tragic events like bombings and shootings and would develop criteria for how the service can be used moving forward. 
Another interesting Facebook (and Google) development provides new tools that would make it possible to see less of a former partner without blocking or un-friending that person (Motherboard “Facebook and Google Now Let You Erase Your Ex, Just Like in Black Mirror”). The Facebook tools would limit appearances in news feeds and remove the person’s name from suggestions when tagging photos; Google’s tools work in the Google Photos app and let you hide a person from appearing. (See also The Daily DotFast CompanyFusionGizmodoThe New York TimesSlate, and Wired)
Some interesting predictions on the next five years of technology (TechCrunch “What Technology Will Look Like In Five Years”) including the further expansion of sharing; mind-controlled technology; a simplified Internet of Things; glocal (my new favorite word, replacing "bleisure"), the localization of global trends; and the further advancement of virtual reality in discreet devices.
The aging population means big business, including technology (Fast Company “Silicon Valley Goes Gray: Inside The Booming Age Tech Industry” ) where there's potential in seven key areas - end of life, chronic care, accommodation, mobility, financial security, and social engagement.
An interesting survey from Pew (“40% of Millennials OK With Limiting Speech Offensive to Minorities") asked people if citizens should be able to make public statements that are offensive to minority groups and if the government should be able to prevent people from saying these things. 40% of Millennials said the government should be able to prevent people publicly making such statements, significantly higher than other generations including Gen Xers (27%) and Boomers (24%) and roughly one-in-ten Silents (12%).


Urbanization is testing affordability in cities like New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, which has proposed a new Affordable Housing Bonus Program (AHBP) (Hoodline “City Pushes Plan For More Density, Affordability, Across SF Neighborhoods”) that would allow developers to increase the size of their developments if they set aside a percentage of the units for middle- or low-income residents. While this proposal would be a boon for affordability, it may be at odds with preservation and livability. 
Speaking of livability, several new projects are putting ugly, unused spaces to good use (Gizmodo “These Parks Are Reclaiming Ugly Urban Underpasses as Public Space”), including Under Gardiner in Toronto, Wabash Lights in Chicago, and the Underline in Miami. 


The federal government has teased plans for a drone registry and further drone regulations, but the Chicago City Council approved an actual ordinance setting restrictions on drones (Slate "Chicago Becomes the First Big City to Enact Drone Regulations, Nails Them") that is getting praise for its comprehensiveness and its sensible approach – cannot fly higher than 400 feet, beyond the operator’s line of sight, between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., and additional rules for use around airports and other properties. 


Nanodegrees (Fast Company “Could "Nanodegrees" Be The Solution To The Student Debt Crisis?”) could help learners develop skills and find jobs in a more flexible and affordable format versus traditional higher education. Current nanodegrees are tech-focused and project-based, with video instruction and specialized assessments, and the support of corporate partners like AT&T, Google, and Facebook, who helped develop them.
The past several weeks have seen several stories of student activism and central to many of them was the use of social media (The Los Angeles Times “What's Different About the Latest Wave of College Activism”) to quickly transform grievance into movement.
A new report from EducationSuperHighway (Wired “It Won’t Be Long Now Until Every School Has Internet Access”) analyzed FCC data on school broadband access and found that while 20 million kids have been connected, more than 21 million students and 23 percent of school districts still lack the minimum level of connectivity – and those districts spend an average of 2.4 times less on connectivity than districts that meet connectivity standards.


The Paris attacks have renewed discussions of government surveillance powers (The Daily Dot "Paris Attacks Spark Renewed Fight Against Encryption"), with a particular focus on governments’ abilities to bypass encryption of electronic communications. (See also The Guardian

Sharing Economy

I was recently sent an interesting op-ed (TruthOut “The 'Sharing Economy' Is the Problem") that helped bring together some of the growing concerns about the sharing economy. So it was especially interesting to run across news (Fusion "Meet the Apptivists: The Volunteer Lobbyists Helping Keep Airbnb, Uber, and Other Startups Alive") of users standing up for sharing economy companies like AirBnB and Uber as they contend in elections and legislatures. Could one of the big take-aways from the Sharing Economy be that an app is a great way to motivate users to action? 

Virtual and Augmented Reality

There’s been much focus on virtual reality and journalism; now it’s virtual reality and the arts. VR slips into the theater (Wired “The Lion King Musical In VR Is An Incredible Experience") and the museum (TechCrunch “Museum Collections Enter VR With The Launch Of The Woofbert VR App For Samsung Gear”) to preview what might be the future of accessing performance and fine art.
Even as VR has taken much of the attention of late, augmented reality still has great potential. Word this week (The Verge "Google Glass Team Is Working on a Wearable That Isn't Glasses") was that the team behind Google Glass, now called Project Aura, is working on as many as three devices that could advance hands-free computing. (See also Gizmodo)