This week’s subject line is excerpted from Steven Pearlstein’s article “Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature” in The Washington Post. In it, Pearlstein states, “The idea was that after a period of broad intellectual exploration, a major was supposed to give students the experience of mastering one subject, in the process developing skills such as discipline, persistence, and how to research, analyze, communicate clearly, and think logically.” This week provided no shortage of content for broad exploration, including some great news about books and reading (Pew Research Center, New York City’s Subway Reads program), a fascinating (and over my head) look at DNA’s potential as a medium for long-term data storage, and some insights into how we are changing the ways that we present ourselves to the public (clothing, makeup, and gender).
A reminder: The Center for the Future of Libraries is happy to be working with San Jose State University’s School of Information and The Learning Revolution on this year’s Library 2.016 Mini-Conferences, including the October 6th Library 2.016: Libraries of the Future. A call for proposals and free registration are now available.
And another piece of news - the Center is working on a Symposium on the Future of Libraries as part of the 2017 ALA Midwinter Meeting. We've opened a call for proposals and provided additional information about the schedule at the 2017 Midwinter Meeting web site.
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.
Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence, and Learning Machines
Facebooks’ adjustments to the trending topics feature, which we shared last week, resulted in a fake news story being promoted, the result of an algorithm that relies on the number of articles and posts about a topic and some still limited conditions for review and acceptance as a trending topic (TechCrunch “Facebook’s Trending Topics algorithm already screwed up”). See also Ars Technica, The Daily Dot, Engadget, Fusion, Mashable, Nieman Lab, Quartz, Slate, The Verge, and Vocativ.
San Francisco Lowe's stores have deployed the LoweBot, an autonomous shopping assistant designed to listen to customers and help them find the item they're looking for – and, in its downtime, it scans and inventories the aisles for missing products (Engadget “San Francisco Lowe's stores to get robot workers this fall”).
IBM’s Watson is providing real-time scores and assessments and automated video captions and analyses for matches at the U.S. Open (Fast Company “At this year's U.S. Open, IBM wants to give you all the insta-commentary you need”).
Books, Media, and Publishing
A Pew Research Center survey finds that 73% of Americans have read a book in the last 12 months and that 65% of Americans have read a print book in the last year, more than double the 28% that have read an e-book (Pew Research Center “Book reading 2016”). See also Gizmodo, The New York Times, and The Verge.
The Oxford University Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism released its “Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2016”, revealing that 18- to 24-year-olds use social media as their primary source of news, overtaking television for the first time (AdWeek “Study: Social media overtakes TV as main source of news for 18-24”).
Even as more people turn to social platforms for news and content, Facebook’s CEO says it has no ambitions to become a content provider and is instead a tech company (Reuters “Facebook CEO says group will not become a media company”). See also ArsTechnica, Consumerist, Quartz, and ReCode.
A look at how publishers could replace traditional publishing (journalism created and placed in different channels for audiences to discover and pull into their view) with pushing (allowing audiences to opt-in to receive specific news that ‘just shows up’ in their digital lives) as a possible future for news distribution (MediaShift “Why the news business should stop publishing and start pushing”).
As part of a promotion for wi-fi service in 175 subway stations, New York City commuters will have access to Subway Reads, a program delivering novellas, short stories, and excerpts from full-length books to passengers’ cellphones or tablets (The New York Times “Now arriving on the New York subway: Free e-books, timed for your commute”). See also PSFK, TechCrunch, and Vocativ.
Podcasts continue to rise in popularity and Ad Week has devoted an entire week’s coverage to the trend, including the growing interest of celebrities and brands and tips for launching a podcast (AdWeek “Welcome to the New Golden Age of Audio”).
An in-depth look at the potential shifts for pay-cable channels – exemplified by ESPN and Fox News, both of which stake their fortunes on a narrow but devoted demographic of viewers (The Atlantic “The twilight of Fox News”).
CBS’s All Access digital TV service, will be available with limited ads for $9.99 a month – up from the $5.99 for the basic subscription (ReCode “Just like Netflix and Hulu, now CBS will let you watch its shows online without ads”). See also CNET, Engadget, and Gizmodo.
Camera maker GoPro sees its future in original content and entertainment, launching 32 short-form shows including travel, music, and family-themed programs (Variety “GoPro’s new strategic focus: The plan to expand into original content”).
Nickelodeon will launch NickMusic, a 24-hour music video channel programmed for kids (KidScreen “Nickelodeon unveils 24-hour kids music channel”).
YouTube is the top-ranked brand among children ages 6-to-12, according to research firm Smarty Pants’ latest poll, using its relatable and aspirational content to connect with young audiences (MediaPost “Kids Obsessed With YouTube”).
A fascinating look at the potential for DNA to serve as a medium for long-term data storage – if information could be packaged as densely as it is in the genes of the bacterium Escherichia coli, the world's storage needs could be met by about a kilogram of DNA – though such a solution faces a host of challenges, from reliably encoding information in DNA and retrieving only the information a user needs, to making nucleotide strings cheaply and quickly enough (Nature “How DNA could store all the world’s data”).
With nearly a third of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. still living at home, understanding their distribution across the country is important – 43.9% of 18- to 34-year-olds in New Jersey still live at home, followed by Connecticut with 38.8%, New York with 37.4%, Florida with 37.2%, and California with 36.7%, while states with more land and smaller populations fare better (Curbed “Mapping where U.S. millennials live at home”).
A new study from the University of Lausanne finds that the Internet helps break down some of the social barriers that prevent people from marrying those who are different from them, exposing us to people of different races, religions, and educational backgrounds that we might not normally encounter at work, school, church, or through friends (The Washington Post “The Internet is systematically changing who we date”).
Children’s style preferences continue toward comfort – casual and stretchy tights, sweat pants, track pants, and “athleisure” – a challenge for parents getting their children ready for the more formal environment of school and a longer-term trend toward loosening dress codes (Quartz “The first rule of shopping for kids: If it doesn’t stretch, they’re probably not going to wear it”).
Young Thug’s latest mixtape, “Jeffery,” features the rapper wearing an ornate purple dress on the cover, a move that has many wondering what the artist is saying about gender, sexuality, and the future of masculinity (The Daily Dot “Why Young Thug's gender-bending style matters”).
Alicia Keys looked amazing at MTV’s Video Music Awards – and didn't wear a bit of makeup, part of a #nomakeup commitment she announced earlier in the year (The Daily Dot “Alicia Keys makes a statement by going bare-faced at the VMAs”).
Amazon.com will launch a program experimenting with a 30-hour workweek for salaried employees, including managers, receiving the same benefits as traditional 40-hour workers, but receiving only 75% of the pay full-time workers earn (The Washington Post “Amazon is piloting teams with a 30-hour workweek”).
Parents’ involvement in their children’s lives can extend well into their college years, where they may exert pressure to select majors that lead directly to a first job and perhaps steer them away from liberal arts degrees whose career prospects may seem more muddled (The Washington Post “Meet the parents who won’t let their children study literature”).
Closing a loop from a previously shared story – Amazon.com and Wells Fargo ended their partnership to offer college students a discount on private student loans, a program that was criticized by consumer advocates for the potential high costs and inflexible repayment terms that students might be left with (Bloomberg “Amazon and Wells Fargo Terminate Student Loan Partnership”). See also Engadget.
A new report from George Washington University’s Program on Extremism notes that even as Twitter cracks down on Islamic extremists, accounts for white nationalists and Nazis continue to grow (Gizmodo “White supremacists are out of control on Twitter and no one will stop them”). See also Engadget.
Facebook is testing a new feature, “What friends are talking about," that collects posts from friends in a special section of the News Feed, part of the platform’s efforts to create more intimate social connections (Mashable “Facebook is testing a new feature to encourage conversations”).
The Sharing Economy
Google will test a ride-sharing service helping San Francisco commuters join carpools (The Wall Street Journal “Google Takes on Uber With New Ride-Share Service”). See also ArsTechnica, CityLab, Consumerist, Gizmodo, ReCode, and TechCrunch.
Uber and benefits provider WageWorks announced a new pre-tax program that could save commuters up to 40% on UberPool rides (The Verge “You can now use pretax dollars to pay for UberPool, which is huge”).
Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants
7-Elevens in Indonesia are working with the government to address a tech-skills shortage by training mothers as coders, another step in the transformation of the country’s mini-marts into community hubs (The Wall Street Journal “In Indonesia, 7-Eleven Tries Selling Another Type of Java”).
More news about the importance of “experience” – this time in the food industry, and pizza restaurants specifically, where younger customers are seeking healthier, build-your-own options (CNBC “How millennials are building the next iconic pizza chain”).
Hospitals have engaged a diverse team of experts – healthcare providers, electronic musicians, acousticians, and researchers – to help reimagine the sound experience in their spaces, creating environments that are less noisy, more efficient, and more beneficial for patients (Quartz “This is what the hospital of the future sounds like”).
UK supermarket Sainsbury's is launching a “slow shopping” service for elderly customers and people with disabilities, partnering shoppers with an employee to help them with their shopping and making chairs available at the ends of aisles for those who need to sit during their shopping trip (Mashable “Store launches 'slow shopping' for elderly customers and people with disabilities”).
Virtual reality, as a tool to document a variety of experiences from the Ebola epidemic to what it’s like to live in Gaza, might become a tool for inspiring empathy in viewers (Wired “Can VR really make you more empathetic?”).