Read for Later — “Faster access to news, information…everything’s been accelerated…there’s been a compression in our desire for nostalgia”

This week's opening line comes from an interesting article in LA Weekly about the rise in millennial’s nostalgia for music that came out just 10 years ago. For a brand that can sometimes be steeped in nostalgia, this seemed like a reminder that the windows for building lasting memories might be getting shorter. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. This week’s big news included some new product announcements from Google — and so there’s a special subject heading just for that to try and bring together some of the virtual reality, internet of things, and artificial intelligence trends that were bundled into the announcement.

Two notes:

  • Thanks to those who have completed our survey to gather your thoughts on this newsletter’s usefulness and opportunities for improvement. I'm probably closing it in the next few days and will look forward to sharing some of the results and incorporating your feedback in the next few weeks. 
  • 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. The deadline for proposals has been extended to October 18th!

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.

Books, Media, and Publishing

The nightlife calendar in Los Angeles reveals a growing nostalgia for the not-so-distant past of music — pop-rock, 90s hip-hop, and girl band/boy-band bubblegum pop — possibly the result of changing music consumption behaviors where the timeline between the music’s relevance and the moment it is replaced by new streaming options and newly discovered hits circulated on social media (LA Weekly “Why are millennials already nostalgic for music from 10 years ago?”).  

Amazon’s Prime membership program now includes access to more than 1,000 books, comics, magazines, and other reading content for Kindle devices and apps (Nieman Lab “Your Amazon Prime membership now includes magazines, the newest batch of content in the bundle”). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, Geekwire, Mashable, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.

Amazon announced two major partnerships with Indian movie productions studios, launching Prime Video in India with a multi-episode animated series based on a Bollywood hit and securing steaming rights for future films from T-series, one of India’s largest movie production and distribution studios (Mashable “Amazon courts Bollywood ahead of Prime Video launch in India”). 

Netflix has signed a deal with iPic Entertainment theater-chain to simultaneously screen its original movies in theaters the same day that they appear on the streaming service, expanding the streaming service’s theatrical ambitions (The Wall Street Journal “Netflix, iPic Entertainment agree to screen original movies in theaters, online simultaneously”). See also TechCrunch and The Verge.

Younger adults are far more likely than older ones to opt for reading their news (versus watching or listening) with most of that reading taking place online - and their news watching habits are also making the transition to computers rather than television (Pew Research Center “Younger adults more likely than their elders to prefer reading news”). See also Nieman Lab and TechCrunch.

Cities and Government

Barcelona’s superblocks, consisting of as many as nine contiguous blocks, turn large areas over to pedestrians, limiting vehicles as a way to reduce traffic and air pollution, use public space more efficiently, and make neighborhoods more pleasant (The New York Times “What New York can learn from Barcelona’s ‘superblocks’”). 

Connected Toys

Privacy and play advocates have their justifiable concerns about connected toys - the security of children's and families personal information and the preservation of imagination, respectively — but smart or connected toys may provide a unique educational opportunity for teaching kids digital literacy skills that will be important for a “smart” world (New Scientist “Are smart toys spying on kids and stealing their imagination?”). 

Demographics

The AI built into Google’s newest products avoids a gendered name (like Siri or Alexa), but still uses a woman’s voice for a bot named “Assistant,” continuing a trend of female robot subservience (Engadget “Google Assistant is gender-neutral(ish), but it's not feminist”). 

The publics’ opinion of which public restrooms transgender people should legally be allowed to enter varies widely based on religion, age, gender, and politics — and, as expected, people who say they personally know someone who is transgender are more likely than those who do not to say transgender people should be allowed to use public bathrooms that match their current gender identity (Pew Research Center “Americans are divided over which public bathrooms transgender people should use”). 

Google’s Code Next in Oakland is one of several community computer labs opening in the nation’s most diverse cities to introduce Black and Latino students to coding and help reverse the tech sector’s persistent lack of diversity (Wired “Google launched 'Code Next' to train a legion of Black and Latino coders”). See also Engadget and Fusion.

Rental-apartment occupancy in the US reached 96.5% in the third quarter of 2016, just under the all-time peak of 96.8% reached during the tech boom in 2000, creating an apartment shortage and rising rental costs at a time when individuals’ incomes aren't keeping up (Business Insider “America is running out of apartments”). 

Google

Google had a big product launch this week, announcing everything from the new line of Pixel phones, to the Daydream VR platform and equipment, and the Google Home voice assistant (Wired “Here's everything Google announced today, all in one place”). 

For more information about the Daydream virtual reality platform, including the Harry Potter experience tied into the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, see ArsTechnica, Engadget and again, Fast Company, Gizmodo, Mashable, and ReCode.

For information on Google Home, the smart home assistant, see ArsTechnica, Consumerist, Engadget, and Mashable

And for information on Assistant, the artificially intelligent digital helper that underlies much of the hardware announced this week, see ReCode, TechCrunch, The Verge, and Wired.

The Internet

Facebook has been in talks for U.S. government officials and wireless carriers to provide an American version of its Free Basics program, a controversial program which seeks to expand access to reliable, high-speed Internet at home or on smartphones but that creates a multitiered playing field that favors platforms and internet with the expertise and budgets to participate in such programs (The Washington Post “Facebook is talking to the White House about giving you ‘free’ Internet. Here’s why that may be controversial.”). See also CNET, The Daily Dot, Engadget, and Gizmodo.

The Facebook Events app allows users to browse and search for events in their area, bringing the popular events functionality to a stand alone app for the people really eager to discover the next big event (TechCrunch “Facebook launches standalone “Events” discovery and calendar app”). See also CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, and Mashable.

Privacy

Yahoo, complying with a classified U.S. government demand, secretly built a custom software program to search hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials, according to people familiar with the matter (Reuters “Exclusive: Yahoo secretly scanned customer emails for U.S. intelligence - sources”). See also CNET and again, Consumerist and again, Geekwire, Motherboard and again

“Strong anonymity” — a form of anonymity that conceals our personal details while letting us continue to operate online as a clearly defined individual - built by the mathematics and algorithms that power smart contracts, digital currencies, and much more, may help protect us from threats to our privacy (Venture Beat “How ‘strong anonymity’ will finally fix the privacy problem”). 

The Sharing Economy

Summit, New Jersey will subsidize Uber rides for residents traveling to and from the local train station — a move the town initiated to avoid the multimillion-dollar capital expenditure of building a new parking lot and saving commuters time lost finding parking spaces in a crowded lot (Buzzfeed “How Uber plans to conquer the suburbs”). See also CNET and Engadget.

Uber and Airbnb provided several responses in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, advertising free rooms in parts of Florida and South Carolina through Airbnb’s Disaster Response Tool and capping surge pricing during Hurricane Matthew for Uber riders (Motherboard “The sharing economy of disaster relief”). See also Mashable.

Facebook’s Marketplace wanted to advance user-to-user exchange for buying and selling goods across users in a given community, something that over 450 million people already use Facebook for every month, mainly through its groups feature (The Verge “Facebook launches Marketplace to let you buy and sell items with nearby users”). See also ArsTechnica, CNET, Consumerist, Engadget, Geekwire, Gizmodo, Mashable, ReCode, TechCrunch, and Vocativ.

Unfortunately, shortly after launch the space became a hotbed for the types of things Facebook specifically forbid - drugs, guns, sex - and so it stopped the feature’s continued rollout temporarily while it worked to better filter the content (The Daily Dot “Facebook Marketplace was a hotbed of drugs, guns, and trash—and now it may be over”). See also Vocativ.

Spaces, Retail, and Restaurants

Target is opening smaller stores in urban areas and college towns in an attempt to turn around declining traffic and sales in its mostly large urban stores, customizing inventory and stocking a limited assortment of products geared toward college students or younger city dwellers (The Wall Street Journal “Target goes after millennials with small, focused stores”). See also Consumerist

Unplugged

Lack of WiFi and cell service have become selling points at hotels and resorts promoting unplugged vacations (Motherboard “We’re so addicted to our gadgets that ‘unplugged’ tourism is booming”). 

Virtual Reality

Guardian News and Media has created an in-house virtual reality team, one of the first UK news publishers to invest in the emerging technology (The Press Gazette “Guardian creates in-house virtual reality team”). 

Facebook is developing “VR emoji” to help users convey emotion in virtual reality by linking hand motions to activate changes in an avatar’s eyes, eye brows, mouth, and other facial features to mimic how we exhibit body language in the real world (TechCrunch “Facebook invents “virtual reality emoji” gestures”). 

Oculus’ virtual reality avatars sidestep gender distinctions by having users move straight to face and hair selection and presenting clothes by theme and type, rather than having users select “male” or “female” and then categorize selections from that distinction (The Verge “Why it’s cool that there’s no gender option in Oculus Avatars”).