This was one of those weeks where a few stories - The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, and a new tease for Amazon Prime Air - infiltrated almost every news source. In between, there were some interesting stories about ultra-fast internet from light bulbs, the importance of physical books, the future of higher ed, social media movements, and some insights into how organizations are sparking and sometimes stopping innovation.
It was a great week to read widely and really think how these disparate bits of news might influence the future of libraries and information.
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.
A pretty big birth announcement. In a letter to their new daughter, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan announced they will donate 99% of their Facebook shares — currently about $45 billion — over the course of their lives, focusing giving on personalizing learning, curing disease, connecting people, and building strong communities (Wired “Zuckerberg Baby's Birth Comes With a $45 Billion Surprise”). (See also ArsTechnica, GeekWire, The New York Times, TechCrunch, The Verge, The Washington Post)
The more interesting stories seemed to be everything around this one, documenting how philanthropy has changed. Structured as an LLC instead of a traditional foundation, The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative will be able to make private investments and participate in policy debates (The Verge “Mark Zuckerberg Explains Why He Didn't Give His Facebook Billions to Charity” and TechCrunch “Zuckerberg Responds To Critics, Explains How He’s Spending $45B"). The announcement drew comparisons to Bill Gates (Fast Company “Is Mark Zuckerberg The Next Bill Gates?”), reminded us of the incredible wealth and influence of tech CEOs (Wired “Another Reminder of Just How Rich Tech CEOs Really Are”), made us think about the relationship of philanthropy and capitalism (The New Yorker “Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism”), and maybe drove some competition in the charitable world (The Washington Post “Zuckerberg, Gates, Buffett and the Triumph of Competitive Philanthropy”).
Many of us are probably already thinking about foundations as we anticipate the further squeeze in federal, local, and state spending. An interesting analysis of data from the Urban Institute (Brookings “Generational war over the budget? Hard to See it in the Numbers”) looks at some of the imbalances in spending on the elderly and children. In 2011, federal spending per person over 65 amounted to almost $28,000 versus $4,900 spent per American under 19. That federal spending is countered by state and local spending that skews towards children, especially through support of public schools.
And light bulbs. They may be the future. But does that mean we’ve spent a lot of money lighting our institutions with the wrong kinds of bulbs? A new Wi-Fi alternative called Li-Fi transmits Internet through light waves (PSFK "Using Lightbulbs to Produce Cheaper, More Secure Wi-Fi That’s 100 Times Faster"). It’s still in development, but something to look forward to. (See also The Daily Dot)
Books, Publishing, and Media
Facebook’s Instant Articles and Snapchat’s Discover are just two examples of technologies that push fast, interactive content that may usher a new wave of “homeless” media produced by companies whose sole purpose is to syndicate content (Medium “The Rise of ‘Homeless’ Media — Thoughts on Media”) as opposed to driving viewers to a homepage or other website.
Our ideas of television will continue to change as YouTube prepares to stream TV shows and movies (The Wall Street Journal “YouTube Seeks Streaming Rights to TV Shows, Movies”), intensifying its rivalry with Netflix and Amazon. (See also ArsTechnica, CNET)
Research has documented the benefits of access to books in the home. As younger people grow up more familiar with streaming and digital access to books, music, movies, and more, research may need to consider if it’s the physical objects themselves or the parental scholarly culture that matters (The New York Times “Our (Bare) Shelves, Our Selves”)
Yes, it was only one story, but it seemed to be everywhere. Amazon shared a new teaser for its Prime Air delivery service (The Verge “Amazon Teases Prime Air Delivery and 'A Whole Family' of Drones in New Ad with Jeremy Clarkson”), showcasing a two propeller vehicle (not the only one the company is working on) that works with a landing zone set up by customers. (See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Fast Company, GeekWire, Gizmodo, Motherboard, TechCrunch)
The November-December issue of Academe crossed my desk with two articles that look ahead to big issues in higher education ("The Professoriate Reconsidered: What might the faculty look like in 2050?" and “Does Academic Freedom Have a Future?").
A shorter (and more opinionated) read, considers four changes for universities to manage costs - cap administrative spending; operate year-round, five days a week; more teaching, less (mediocre) research; cheaper, better general education (The Washington Post “Four Tough Things Universities Should Do To Rein in Costs”).
Edtech, though not mentioned above, is frequently included in conversations about improving education performance and affordability. Recent innovations have explored technology that learns from learners, adapts to student needs, and improves student assessment through less intrusive means (TechCrunch “How Education Will Be Smarter, Less Intrusive, And Able To Respond To How You Feel"). As focus shifts to teacher evaluation and accountability, Edtech may expand to improve professional training and assessments (TechCrunch “Edtech Should Focus On Teacher Evaluation And Accountability”).
Some of the biggest coverage of the week went to the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, launched at COP21. The partnership led by tech billionaires will invest in early stage clean energy companies (The Daily Dot “Bill Gates and His Rich Friends Want to Save the World”). (See also CNET, GeekWire, Grist, TechCrunch, The Verge, Wired)
A not so small commitment from some of the world’s mayors also made some headlines (NextCity “Mayors Make $5 Billion-Plus Resilience Promise”), committing 10% of their cities’ annual budgets to projects and planning that will make their cities more resilient.
Not every product or service can be a winner. The jury’s still out on this newsletter. But tech innovators know when to pull the plug – and it usually depends on money, time, vision alignment, and product/market fit (TechCrunch “How Tech Titans Know To Pull The Plug On Projects”).
To help find those new products and services, more and more companies, including those outside of the tech industry, are turning to the hackathon (The Economist “What the Hack?”) to help devise new ideas and product solutions.
Social Media and Movements
Social media helps connect and mobilize movements like the hashtags #disabodyposi and #mentalhealthposi, independent initiatives started by young women that found mutual connections on Twitter and encouraged users to spread both to celebrate the beauty of imperfect bodies and empower people with mental illness (Vocativ “These Selfie Trends Are Challenging Beauty Stereotypes”).
Social media can also turn negative. But a new campaign in Brazil is trying to shame some of that negativity by taking real online comments and posting them, using geolocation tools, on billboards in the posters’ neighborhoods (GeekWire “This Campaign Takes Racist Comments and Posts Them in the Trolls’ Neighborhoods”). Some privacy is preserved (names and photos are pixelated), but the threat is real – online activities can have real world consequences. (See also The Daily Dot, Fast Company)
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
I’ve liked the word “phygital” since I first heard Jake Barton (from the design firm Local Projects) use it in a talk. Just say it out loud, you’ll love it. And apparently beauty brand Sephora likes it too (PSFK “Sephora’s New Brick-And-Mortar Retail Model Is Very YouTube”), launching a new store plan that integrates digital concepts (streaming YouTube instruction videos, video boards with user-generated beauty trends, and a “People Like Me” search tool which filters content based on skin tones and hair textures) into their physical store.
While your shopping experience livens up to the point of distraction, your workplace will simplify. Facebook’s newest building is being touted as the office of the future (The Washington Post “What These Photos of Facebook’s New Headquarters Say About the Future of Work”) - open, fluid and informal in a way that encourages collaboration and almost completely eliminates any concept of individual office workspaces.
That togetherness might also bleed into your home life (Fast Company “These London High-Rises Are A Massive Experiment In Co-Living”). A new co-living space, this one in London, will provide private sleep, storage, and bathroom spaces, but integrate kitchens, living spaces, and amenities (library, spa, theater) to be shared with neighbors. This particular project, led by The Collective ties co-living into larger trends in the sharing economy (get more by sharing than owning individually) and urbanization (rising rents).
Virtual and Augmented Reality
Google continues a push to make virtual reality accessible to more people. A new Google Cardboard camera app will let users take their own photos for viewing in Cardboard (Wired “Google's Cardboard Camera App Makes Anyone a VR Photographer”). For those who are just happy to view someone else’s VR work, the Google Cultural Institute announced a new partnership with 60 global performing arts institutes to bring live, 360-degree performances to users around the world (The Verge “Google Will Show Live Orchestra, Opera, and Theater Performances in 360 Degrees”).