Thursday, August 28, 2014

Navigating the Social Media Morass

What do Jelly, Nextt, Spayce, Pheed, Sulia, Sharebloc, Bubblews and have in common? They’re all new social media sites, most having launched within the last year. It seems like every week a new service (or two, or three) bursts onto the cultural consciousness. Just last week the social media buzz was about LACMA being the first museum to join Snapchat (an app designed for ephemeral messaging. Sort of like digital disappearing ink.)

With all these newbies on the block, it may seem positively antediluvian that Guzel and I just set up a CFM Facebook page. Facebook launched way back in 2004, four years before CFM’s public debut. It took ‘til now for me to decide that Facebook occupies a niche left vacant by the sites & services CFM already uses.

It’s difficult to parse the nuanced differences between proliferating social media options-the strengths and weaknesses of each platform, demographics of its coreaudience, the likelihood it will reach a critical mass of users. Perhaps you are also picking your way through the process of choosing where you/your museum will establish digital outposts. So, in case it helps you with your decisions, I'm sharing the inventory of CFM’s current digital platforms (how I use them, and who they seem to reach) that I prepared in reaching the decision to add Facebook to the mix. This might also help you assess which CFM feeds best suit your preferences for consuming news.

Dispatches from the Future of Museums, I use CFM’s weekly e-newsletter  to share synopsis and links to recent news articles that fall into the categories of Trends, Projections, Museum Innovations and Tools for the Future. Strengths: timely, topical, widely read. Weaknesses: many interesting articles I find fall outside the weekly time frame or the topic headings.

The CFM Blog provides scope for medium length commentary and original essays by me and by guest bloggers. Strengths: flexible format, accommodates embedded pictures, video, even sound. Gives people various options for subscription (including RSS feed, Google “membership”—which makes new posts show up in their Google+ profile page, and email subscription. Weaknesses: there is a high bar to getting people to comment on the blog, which can be frustrating, especially for guest bloggers who want to engage with CFM readers.

Twitter is great for sharing links to articles and resources, and providing context (within the 140 character limit) for why I think a given story is important. Strengths: easy to post to Twitter from a variety of news sites and aggregators (like Flipboard). I don’t put time boundaries on the material I share on Twitter—so if I stumble across a story that falls outside Dispatches’ weekly timeframe, it may go out via Tweet. Weaknesses: some things just don’t fit in 140 characters. There are some stories that might seem baffling, or inappropriate, without accompanying (longer) explanation.

Pinterest is a place to park compelling inspiring and amusing images related to trends CFM follows, and the future in general. Strengths: provides a visual counterweight to CFM’s usually text-heavy exposition. Provides links to the photo sources, so people can follow the image back to the related stories. Serves as an idea board and illustration source for planning publications. Weaknesses: Not much interaction with other users/followers (other than seeing who “repins” my pictures).

YouTube was very important when we launched CFM, as one of our first project was video interviewing a wide range of museum folk about their hopes, dreams and fears about the future. It also gave us a place to share video recordings of CFM lectures and symposia (which gave us a broader reach than the original live event could ever have.) Strengths: if you find things that really work better on video (like demonstrating Google Glass) it’s great. Weaknesses: it turned out to be really hard to persuade people to video themselves and send us the recording. Which surprised me, given how many people post videos of practically anything on YouTube, but maybe folks feel a little more inhibited about putting themselves out there in their professional personas.

Where does Facebook add to this mix?
  • It accommodates commentary that falls, in length, between Twitter and even the briefest essay on the Blog.
  • It isn’t constrained to the Dispatches categories—giving me, for example, a place to share news about disruptive events (which are, along with trends, significant drivers of change shaping the future)
  • I hope it will be more interactive than CFM’s existing platforms. Even widely read posts on the Blog rarely generate comments. (And people pretty much ignore the Blogger “Reactions” check boxes. I’m thinking of just removing that widget.) On Facebook, people seem to be uninhibited about about “liking” posts, commenting and building on the comments of others. We will see!

Whew. Reading the list of the social media platforms CFM does use makes me feel a bit out of date—not very futuristic at all. Maybe I should sign CFM up for Snapchat? Or Sulia? Or Pheed? Or…dang. So many choices.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Face Lift

#3Dprinting #personalization 

Follow the link in the photo caption to find out more. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links to associated articles) on CFM's Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Won’t you be my neighbor?

By the time this post goes up, session submission for AAM 2015 will have closed. I’ve had a hard time keeping up with all the great proposals streaming into the site and look forward to seeing how many match topics on my wish list. You don’t have to wait until Atlanta for inspirational stories of museums working for social justice—CFM will continue to feature related stories leading up to the meeting. This week, Melissa Prycer, President and Executive Director of Dallas Heritage Village shares the story of how her organization became a valued neighbor for homeless children.

Summer 2012: Dallas Independent School District closes the historic City Park Elementary school. Located directly across the street from Dallas Heritage Village at Old City Park’s entrance, staff were incredibly saddened that this hub of neighborhood activity was closing.

Summer 2013: Vogel Alcove, a non-profit that provides childcare for homeless children ages 6 weeks to 5 years, announces that they will be renovating City Park Elementary and moving their entire operation into the building by Spring 2014.

Summer 2014: Children from Vogel Alcove are visiting Dallas Heritage Village (DHV) a few times a month for specially designed field trip experiences

How did we become a go-to destination for homeless children? Dallas Heritage Village is located in the Cedars, a neighborhood just south of downtown that has been struggling for a long time. Over 90% of the students that attended City Park Elementary were homeless. There are many social service agencies near us, including the city operated homeless facility. For years, we’ve worked with these fellow non-profits in various ways, including providing free field trips, hosting special events, and providing job skills training through various building restoration projects. But these non-profit friends have never been located within walking distance of DHV.

Photo by Vogel Alcove
Shortly after Vogel Alcove’s big announcement, I sent their executive director, Karen Hughes, an email welcoming them to the neighborhood and asking her to lunch. My goals were pretty simple for that first visit: I wanted to find out more about their plans, and I wanted to make sure they knew what we had to offer. We’ve continued our lunch meetings, meeting about every other month. Through those conversations, our two organizations have begun working together in big and little ways, long before they moved into the building in March 2014.

Some examples:
  • Their kids made ornaments for one of the trees at our annual Candlelight event. Vogel Alcove staff and volunteers came to help us with activities, as well as share information about Vogel Alcove with our visitors.
  • Two of our staff members are now regular volunteers at Vogel Alcove.
  • If either of us have big events, we borrow parking from each other.
  • They’ve taken some of our excess mulch for their raised garden beds. 
  • We’re in each other’s disaster plans.
My favorite part of our growing partnership began earlier this summer when I got an email from an old friend. Katie’s daughter had been an important part of our Junior Historian program until she left for college. And now, Katie was working at Vogel Alcove! Through our blog posts, she had learned about the organization, applied for a job and now coordinates all of the enrichment activities for the children—from a garden program to field trips. We met in May to discuss regular field trips at DHV. Because Katie already knew us so well, we didn’t have to waste any time explaining all that we have to offer to young learners. Education staff assist with the planning of each day, but the main ideas are coming from Katie and her team. A big bonus is that this began during the summer, so we’ve been able to utilize our Junior Historians to help out with each field trip.

I asked Katie to share her perspective on our partnership:
This summer, Dallas Heritage Village has opened its doors to provide a "home away from home" for the young children of Vogel Alcove who are experiencing homelessness. Walking back in time to picnic under the towering pecans and play yard games in the picket fenced backyards of the historic homes has provided our young children a connection to the past as well as a respite from the speed of urban life.

Working in close partnership with the museum staff, we have created customized experiences that accommodate the specialized needs of trauma-informed care while providing developmentally appropriate cognitive, physical, social, and emotional learning opportunities for our infants, toddlers, and preschoolers.
Photo by Vogel Alcove

Hearing stories told by grandparents; feeling soft, raw wool as it is spun into yarn; smelling fragrant herbs grown for made-from-scratch cooking; tasting sweet, juicy watermelon under a tree at a holiday picnic; and watching the chickens, donkeys, and sheep, the children have received authentic sensory-based learning experiences that develop emerging social, reasoning, and language skills in a historic context that is both supportive and calming. They will be able to continue to draw from these positive experiences as they transition to their next settings.

It may be unlikely that a social service non-profit will move in across the street from your museum. But all museums have neighbors, and it’s crucial that museum staff get to know them. When I first met with Karen a year ago, I had no idea where things would lead. Though this partnership has definitely made our summer busier than anticipated, we have all learned so much from each other. Stay tuned—we’re just getting started!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Update on Philanthropy

One of the topics we examined in TrendsWatch 2013 was the “Changing Face of Giving.” Though the economy, and giving overall, continues to rebound, there’s wide agreement that we aren’t going to return to the world that existed pre-2008. We are seeing a fundamental shift in who has money to give, the criteria used to select who to give to, and what causes actually get support. Here are a few recent reads exploring the shape of the new philanthropic economy as it takes form.

Callahan takes a look at out one trend transforming philanthropy: “the way that relatively young people are making great knowledge economy wealth in a very short time and then cashing out, leaving them with both the resources and time to be large-scale philanthropists -- living mega donors -- for many years to come.”

Starting in the 1990s the tech boom spawned huge fortunes, but the people catapulted into the 1% by technological-generated wealth have backgrounds and mindsets strikingly different from the Carnegies, Fords and MacArthurs. For one thing, people like Pierre Omidyar and Jeff Skoll (eBay) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) made their fortunes at a younger age, so they will exert hands-on control of their foundations for a far longer period than their 20th century predecessors. Citing Jan Koum and Brian Acton, who sold their startup, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $19 billion this year, the article suggests “let's just ponder the weird reality that either of these guys, who nobody had ever heard of before last week, could now create foundations bigger than Rockefeller, Carnegie, or MacArthur if that's what they chose to do -- and instantly be major philanthropy power players.”

Callahan suggests that some of the practical effects of the entry of relatively young tech billionaires into philanthropy are:

Increased expectations for outcomes-based measurement of the effects of their giving
More focus on spending down a foundations wealth in return for quick, tangible results
A desire to influence policy through political giving

Also on my short list of good reads  on this topic, an article in The New Yorker by Russ Juskalian askingWas Carnegie Right About Philanthropy?” Juskalian presents a brief, cogent overview of the effects of soaring wealthy inequality on giving. As he points out, rich donors are less like to support causes that directly address poverty, and more likely to give to established foundations as well as colleges, universities and hospitals. While this charity may trickle down, indirectly, to the poor, Peter Buffett, a young philanthropist bucking the prevailing tide, is quoted as saying “as long as most folks are patting themselves on the back for charitable acts, we’ve got a perpetual poverty machine.” Many of the top 50 US philanthropists, Juskalian observes, use their wealth in ways that “keep current power structures in place—for instance, by supporting political candidates who prefer lower taxes for the rich and smaller government spending on social programs—which ultimately hurt the poor.”

I also recommend the Giving USA report that came out this spring, reporting the figures for 2013. The good news is that giving to Cultural, Arts and Humanities (which included museums), increased over 7% last year. That is twice the average increase for giving overall. So not only are museums rebounding, rebounding, we are rebounding faster than others in the nonprofit sector. Indeed, The Alliance’s annual “Conditions of Museums and the Economy” report confirms the continued improvement in the field's vital signs (attendance, financial stress) since 2008, and most museums reported an increase in philanthropic funding. However, more than one director noted “fundraising continues to be very difficult." As the 2013 report says “even those [museums] that experienced notable increases in donations last year argued that philanthropic support has become less predictable.” Museums need to understand and adapt to the new shape of giving, and/or place less reliance on philanthropy and more on other income streams. 

Museums can also take an active role in shaping the expectations of donors. Last year GuideStar, Charity Navigator and BBB Wise Giving Alliance published an open letter to the "donors of America" combating what they dubbed "the Overhead Myth"--the undue importance granted to the ratio of administration and fundraising expenses to program delivery. As the Myth campaign pointed out, too much focus on this one ratio devalues other critical measures of performance. And in fact many nonprofits spend too little on overhead--underpaying staff and failing to invest in critical infrastructure. Obsessing on their overhead ratio is as counterproductive as asking someone with anorexia about their weight. Now the Overhead Myth coalition is preparing to launch a second letter, this time directed at nonprofit organizations, calling on them to be "more proactive about communicating the story of their programmatic work, their governance structures, and the real costs of achieving results...[and] to recruit nonprofits to help us retrain donors to pay attention to what matters: results." When this letter is released, I hope the director of your museum will share it with your board of trustees, and lending your support to the campaign.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Woodn't it be Loverly?

Coming Soon to a Billboard near You?#Pop-Up #Blippar 
Follow the link in the photo caption to find out more. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links to associated articles) on CFM's Pinterest Boards.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Update on the 2014 Trends: Robots!!!!

Previous mid-year updates on social entrepreneurship, big data and the sharing economy were pretty text heavy. As a bit of relief from all that reading, I’m going to go with very short text this week, and give the bulk of the update via video. 

(Remember you can download a free PDF copy of TrendsWatch 2014 from the web, a free app version (with embedded videos) from the iTunes store, and purchase print copies from the AAM Bookstore.)


Notable developments
  • A recent poll of experts by the Pew Research Internet Project showed that nearly half expect a future in which robots and digital agents (such as the artificial intelligence Watson created by IBM) displace significant numbers of blue- and white-collar workers.
  • Ethicists and judicial scholars are speculating whether robots, like corporations, should have rights and obligations, while the United Nations debates what boundaries need to be placed on robotic warfare
  • The past few months have seen articles on robot security guards; on the effect of increasingly sophisticated robots and AI on professions like lawyer, doctor and architects; and on robots that can assemble themselves.
  • The debate rages about how to regulate and legalize commercial drone use in the US. (Here are some arguments for free and open access to this technology, as well as arguments against.)  but meanwhile
  • Police departments in Seattle and LA are using drones equipped with night vision video cameras for surveillance (maybe I should have saved that article for the Privacy update)
  • Aloft Hotels just announced that their first "cyber associate" has reported fro training in Cupertino, California. The Botlr, as it is known, will deliver amenities to guest. rooms and port linens and towels around the hotel.  (Cute detail: instead of tips, Botlr asks for tweets.)
  • On the museum front, Robot Linda debuted at London’s Natural History Museum, demonstrating its ability to map its environment and operate autonomously. Last week the Tate Britain invited members of the public to queue up online and take turns controlling four video-equipped, flashlight-wielding robots that roamed the museum in the project After Dark

Recommended reading

An interview with accessibility advocate Henry Evans, who joined attendees at the Alliance’s annual meeting in Seattle last spring via telepresence robot. Henry, a non-verbal quadriplegic, relates how he has been using remotely controlled robots to visit museums like the de Young Museum in San Francisco, the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California and the National Museum of Australia in Canberra. The article includes some discussion of whether telepresence robots could become a universally required accommodation for the disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act or other legislation.

And now, to the videos!

How can museums use drones in their operations and research? All sorts of ways: advocacy, PR, emergency response, and field research to name but a few. Here are some illustrations.

First, cool drone footage of Cincinnati Museum Center.  Includes incredible images, inside and out, of the main rotunda, which is the largest free standing half dome in the Western hemisphere. I believe they are using this as part of the local “Save our Icons” campaign. What better way to muster taxpayer support for renovations than to remind folks how drop dead gorgeous your building is?

Want to give people a drone’s eye view of your museum construction site? The Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science did just that

Worried about risking drone flights around collections? The Air and Space Museum of Paris (appropriately enough) felt confident of their piloting skills

Remember the sinkhole that opened up at the National Corvette Museum, swallowing eight vintage cars? The museum recruited a drone from the University of Western Kentucky to check out the extent of the damage.

On the conservation front, researchers from the South Australian Museum worked with to use drones for surveying bat biodiversity . What better to track nocturnal flying organisms than robotic nocturnal flying organism?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Thursday Update: When does the Crowd become a Mob?

I've been posting  midyear updates on the 2014 trends, which got me thinking about the previous issues of our forecast. The trends CFM wrote about in TrendsWatch 2012 and 2013 are still important forces of change--If any had petered out already, they would have proved themselves to be fads, not trends! So I decided to use some Thursday posts for the rest of the summer to share recent articles illustrating trends we started following in previous years. (Note that the 2012 and 2013 editions of TrendsWatch are still available as free PDF downloads.)

First up, from TrendsWatch 2012, Crowdsourcing.

Every new technology has its potential dark side. As I mentioned in a recent post, peer-to-peer sharing services may be facilitating racial discrimination and eroding accessibility. Drones surveillance may help save elephants and rhinos, but it also nudges us towards an Orwellian future in which we are continually surveyed by a digital panopticon. 

Turns out even crowdsourcing--soliciting content, solutions and suggestions from an undefined set of participants via the internet--can take a nasty turn under the right circumstances. Case in point: crowdsourcing initiatives that recruit the public to identify safety issues and concerns in their neighborhoods. When New York City introduced a interactive map of traffic hazards this year, inviting citizens to map pedestrian hazards and traffic violations, it was designed to be very civil and civic minded. Even if you ratted out a red light runner, it was the cumulative implication of such reports that mattered ("people tend to run red lights here")--your report didn't result in a ticket to the violator. 

But can such efforts reflect and amplify people's fears, whether or not they are justified? An article in the Washington post yesterday aired concerns that  SketchFactor, a crowdsourced safety mapping app that launched this month, promotes racism and profiling. App users file geo-tagged reports on anything from the presence of homeless people to police incidents to noisy construction, categorizing each report (e.g. "weird," "dangerous") and assigning a "sketchy" rating of 1-5. Karen McGuire, the sociologist who co-founded SketchFactor, says she did so because she believed an app could "pool everyone’s street smarts, for everyone’s good." 

But the app only runs on iPhones, so critics point out that right there, the "digital divide" means that relatively more affluent people are being invited to critique city streets. Now people are worrying that the app could be used to "blacklist" communities, with some describing it as a tool for yuppies to air biases and stigmatize people and places that make them uncomfortable. Also, some people are pranking the app, entering fake incidents or humorous reports.  The Washington Post article also points out that the apps mapping doesn't accurately reflect police reports of crime. 

I can see the potential for this app as a instrument of empowerment, though. The fact the app doesn't reflect police stats, for example, means it can let users express concern about safety issues the police largely do not address. For example, the WP story says that McGuire intended the app to empower women to report things like cat-calling and street harassment, "invisible" crimes that don't show up on police blotters. Conceivably, users could report incidents of police harassment or other "sketchy" behavior by authorities, converting it into a tool for the oppressed. (At least, that segment of the oppressed who own iPhones). 

So, food for thought--as you devise ways to harness the power of the crowd, be aware of the potential dark side of our collective human nature. 

An ironic postscript: while a  DC television news crew was doing a story on SketchFactor, their van was broken into and thieves took phones, computers, cameras.  This story doesn't report whether the crew logged the incident on SketchFactor...

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Teetering on the Brink

#Apocalypse #DesignFiction

Follow the link in the photo caption to find out more. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links to associated articles) on CFM's Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Keeping Up with the 2014 Trends: What’s Mine is Yours

This is the third summer update on TrendsWatch 2014: you can catch up recent developments in Social Entrepreneurship and Big Data in previous posts.

Overall Arc of the Trend
Up, rapidly, with notable speed bumps.

Image from Center for Popular Economics
A quick reminder about why museums should care: the rise of an economy based on peer-to-peer transactions, facilitated by internet-based services that help match providers with consumers, and verify trust, could profoundly disrupt museums’ operating environment in a number of ways. This isn’t just about whether museums find ways to “share” their resources in this new economy. Collaborative consumption is beginning to reshape travel and tourism (how people get places, where they stay) and could transfer wealth from traditional industries to new companies that might become museum partners, donors and supporters. It creates new work opportunities, perhaps making it easier for young people to supplement low-wage work in nonprofits with flexible “gigs.” More profoundly, it may shift cultural attitudes towards ownership, consumption and (by extension) collecting.

Here is one measure of the impact of the sharing economy: AirBnB, the peer-to-peer short term home rental site, was recently valued at $10 billion. A report due out this week projects that the "top five sharing economy sectors to generate around $335bn in global revenues by 2025, up from $15bn today." But the hotel and taxi industries are beginning to push back, arguing that the sharing economy companies are competitive in part because they are not subject to the same regulations and fees as traditional service providers. This, in turn, has sparked debate over whether we in the US have over-regulated some areas of the economy. Are some constraints, like taxi medallions, more about trade protectionism than about public safety? Would a light regulatory touch help the emerging economy of sharing fuel economic growth? 

The conversations playing out in academic journals, the press and the blogosphere are about more than just whether cities should regulate companies based on collaborative consumption, and levy fees comparable to those paid by their competitors. They explore how the rise of services based on “sharing”—using the internet to create efficient matches between sellers and markets—may reshape our economy, our politics, even our cultural norms. Some questions raised in these debates in recent months:

What are the long term economic implications of collaborative consumption? Will it be a boon to people struggling to find work and “save the least advantaged from the ravages of capitalism” as the CEO of Airbnb contends? Could the sharing economy evolve to the point where it effectively cuts out the middle man (even companies like Airbnb), making sure that workers gets to keep the full value of the services they provide?

Or is collaborative consumption turning into a new form of union-busting and labor exploitation, making an end run around worker protection laws? Is it a way of making “poverty palatable” by creating businesses on the backs of people just trying to scrape by? Will it, by creating a hyper-efficient marketplace, depress prices and make just a few large companies rich?

Will collaborative consumption woo a younger generation to a Libertarian world view by aligning nimble, tech-savvy startups with proponents of small government, while the Democratic establishment supports legislation that favors unions? Or will it create a new pool of workers who will revitalize the unions when they decide to organize?

Could “sharing” help save the planet by enabling us to make more efficient use of what we have? While the original business model of services like Lyft won’t reduce the overall number of cars on the road (since the same number of people are driving), ubiquitous car-sharing could reduce the number of cars manufactured and sold. And now both major car-sharing services—Lyft and Uber—are folding carpooling into their model as well, by offering discount pricing to people willing to share their rides. If this kind of ride-share takes hold, these services would begin to reduce the number of cars on the road (and gas usage, and emissions) as well.

On the other hand, people have raised concerns that companies like Lyft, Uber and Airbnb may reduce the access of people with disabilities to transportation and short-term housing, to the extent that they undermine traditional services that are subject to ADA or government services such as public transportation.  Harvard Business School released research showing that online marketplaces such as Airbnb can uninentionally foster racial discrimination. I can't find any data on the demographics of people who drive for alternative transportation companies as compared to taxi services, but most of my Lyft drivers have been young and well-educated, often white and female. That may make me feel comfortable as a rider, but I wonder how it impacts the job prospects for the people who typically drive taxis in the US—who are predominantly male, on average middle-aged, and often first generation immigrants.

When I wrote TrendsWatch last fall, I strained to find examples of museums adapting collaborative consumption to their operations, and frankly I’m still not seeing a lot of pick-up in our field. The Dorset County Museum in the UK is incorporating co-storage space into their £13.3 million expansion--building more storage than they immediately need with the intent of offering to other museums. I’ve heard from one museum planning to incorporate co-working space into a renovation (more on that when it goes public). Do you have any examples to share of museums incorporating resource-sharing into their facilities, income models or programming?

Recommended Read

Nonprofits should lead the sharing economy
Stanford Social Innovation Review
The sharing economy is creating new business models, forcing traditional for-profit businesses to adapt or fall behind. The same will hold true for the social sector. Driven by the recession and evolving values, the sharing economy has become a movement heralding access over ownership and trust through transactions. The list of companies engaged in the sharing economy is long, growing and global. It touches all sectors, and utilizes network-enabled sharing to connect users and reduce friction and costs. The sharing economy's "triple bottom line" (financial, environmental and social) aligns well with the social sector, and there are a handful of nonprofit success stories. These sharing economy nonprofits create new online marketplaces that extend networks, and connect people and resources. Includes recommendations on how nonprofits can begin to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the rise of this economy, including increased shared use of independent skilled workers.

To Add to Your Scanning Feed

Collaborative Lab is a for-profit company offering consulting advice on the collaborative economy. It was founded by Rachel Botsman, whose 2010 book “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption” and TED talk that same year focused attention on the growth of "sharing." The Collaborative Labs website features stories about the sharing economy pulled from around the world, and you can subscribe to updates via a free e-newsletter.

Related Articles

[NPR asked listeners about their] experience with the peer economy in our weekly Twitter chat. Guest Denise Cheng (@hiDenise), an independent researcher affiliated with the MIT Center for Civic Media who specializes in the peer economy, provided an academic perspective. Transcript of the Twitter chat includes interesting (140 character) perspectives on the social dynamics of “trust” in the sharing economy.

LA Times
What troubles me most about the sharing economy is that we’re celebrating a system that, at its core, is a reflection of our desperate times. While it’s true I know people Uber’ing for fun, I also know people who are Uber’ing after work because they’re underpaid at their full-time career jobs — no doubt exhausting endeavors that leave them pretty burnt out as it is. (That’s another consequence of the technological revolution coinciding with the economic downturn.)

The Guardian
Anyone would think the sharing economy was promoting sex trafficking. In recent weeks, this socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resources (yes that's the actual definition for those who are confused) has come under unwarranted attack. The sharing economy is a hybrid economy where there are a whole range of currencies. Sometimes goods are exchanged for other goods, sometimes alternative currencies are used, sometimes people pay (yes, with real cash) sometimes people choose just to freely share what they have.

Popular Economics

The greatest problem with the sharing economy is not that it is unregulated, but that it is undemocratic.  There is certainly a role for government regulation.  But governments cannot and will not regulate many important, details that govern how these platforms operate.  To improve these internal policies, we should recognize that people who use online platforms are not just “users” but rather active participants in a new movement that may radically improve how we consume goods.  Members of online platforms should be given some power to determine the structure of their interactions.  The success of the corporate sharing economy suggests that a democratic sharing economy could be truly transformative.  Instead of merely regulating corporate platforms, popular economists should address how we can build democratic platforms for sharing goods, reducing waste, and building community. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Musing: Data Epiphanies

Today's musing is sparked by an article in Forbes about a taxi company in Stockholm that devised a brilliant way to link the data generated by all its rides with other geospatial data to create "Taxi Trails": an app that lets riders see the "hot spots" of the city. 

As the article comments, Taxi Trails turns the idea of a taxi ride from "going somewhere" to "doing something." All by linking here-to-for unused data (the GPS logs from the taxi fleet) to map data about attractions in the city (including museums, I hope) and translating it to a heat map of who is hanging out where. The article observes that "Without the idea, the taxi "data," if you can even call it data since wasn't noticed or captured, is useless. Suddenly, the data that the product creates augments the product itself."

As more museums implement indoor positioning systems to deliver location-specific interpretive text, we too are generating data that could "augment the product." Visitors' digital footprints, whether left on our websites or in our galleries, are raw material waiting to be transformed by what the article's author, Will Burns, calls a "data epiphany." He recommends steps organizations can take to encourage these epiphanies:

  1. Auditing the data the organization currently captures
  2. Assembling teams to play with this information, with the goal of uncovering useful data, and 
  3. Brainstorming ideas for how the data streams could interact in ways that produce additional insight and value  

 I bet that many museums would find that such an audit will uncover that they are capturing, or could capture, a lot more data than they knew they had. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Futurist Friday: The Internet of Infants

Sproutling is offering new parents some peace of mind in trade for their baby's personal data. Welcome to the Internet of Infants. 

This hits so many trend buttons, including how:

  • The Internet of Things is enabling us to amass Big Data (e.g., your baby's sleep cycle, body temperature, mood)
  • Advanced analytic algorithms enable us to crunch that data and make sense of it (what's a normal heart rate for an infant at a particular age? What light levels promote napping?) 
  • Companies can convert what they've learned from data analytics into personalized services (what environmental conditions help your baby sleep well? What triggers a bad mood?)
  • Data is turning into a medium of exchange ("can we use your baby's data to train and improve our data models?")
  • The "quantified self" movement is expanding its reach
Your Futurist Friday assignment: watch the Sproutling video and read the associated (brief) article and ask yourself, what next? 
  • Is technology changing the culture of parenting, and if so, how? 
  • Will obsessive checking of baby's biometric feed on your smart phone replace obsessive checking on the crib?
  • Will the ability to track baby's temperature and heart beat in real time alleviate or feed parental angst?

I'd particularly like to hear from you if you yourself are a new parent, reading this post with sleep-bleared eyes. Would you use the Sproutling Baby tracker? Why or why not? Or if you are a parent looking back on the days of midnight bottles, do you wish you had the tracker back then?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Keeping up with the 2014 Trends: Big Data

This is the second midyear update on the CFM report TrendsWatch 2014. Last week I week I reviewed recent developments related to “For-profit For Good”—the rise of social entrepreneurs. This week I take a look at the last six months of news related to the “Geyser of Information”—how people are tapping the big data boom.

Overall Arc of the Trend
Up up up, and rapidly. On May 1 the White House issued its report on big data, concluding that “the explosion of data in today's world can be an unprecedented driver of social progress, but it also has the potential to eclipse basic civil rights and privacy protections.”  It’s clear that big data has the potential to create wealth for existing businesses as well as fueling the development of new companies, products and services. One tension quickly coming to the fore is the role government should play in regulating data collection to address those privacy concerns, as those actions could also interfere with productivity and job growth.

One way to track the potential business applications of big data is to follow the career of Watson, IBM’s cognitive computing software. I reported in TrendsWatch that after becoming the winningest Jeopardy champion of all time, Watson tackled medical diagnosis and stock market analysis. In the past few months, he (it? Her? Dang, we need a system of pronouns for genderless Artificial Intelligences) has donned a chef’s hat to generate “cognitive cooking,” creating new dishes by analyzing ~35,000 recipes and 1000 chemical flavor compounds. (You can apply to be a Beta tester for the resulting app.)

If cooking seems like a frivolous use of big data analytics, perhaps you will prefer Watson’s latest assignment: advising US military veterans on a range of decisions as they transition to civilian life. One of the key capabilities of programs like Watson is their ability to understand natural language questions and to improve their performance based on experience.  That’s a good thing, because when IBM and its corporate partner for the veterans project, USAA, tested “IBM Watson Engagement Advisor” they found that “The kind of questions that [veterans a]re asking Watson are the kind of questions they would ask their friend or the sergeant at the separation office…things like, 'where's the best place to live for a veteran,' or 'how do I translate my service history into a resume,' or 'how can I pay for college.'" And the news keeps rolling in: just yesterday I read that Watson is trying on the role of business consultant, acting as a personal confident to CEOs.

For my speculations on how Watson’s capabilities could be harnessed by museums see the CFM Futurist Friday post “Meet Watson, Your Personal Museum Learning Agent.” How could natural language search capabilities, machine learning and data analytics help match users with museum resources? 

Recommended Read
The Sharing Economy Goes Behind the Counter, from StreetFight Magazine. I know it sounds like this should be tagged under another of our 2014 trends, about collaborative consumption, but bear with me. The article examines the impact of cloud computing (sharing data servers—hence the title) on small businesses. The major point of the essay is that cloud-based software enables small businesses to compete with bigger companies by giving them access to flexible, affordable, powerful web-based tools and services.

What intrigued me was the commentary on benchmarking and customer profiles. It mentions one company, Shopkeep (a maker of tablet point-of-sale systems) that wants to aggregate the data from its users to give small businesses access to the kind of benchmarking data that used to be the sole province of big companies. It also mentions the aspiration of Fivestars, a customer loyalty program gearing up to compete with services like Belly, Mogl and Perka, to mine the data of program members in order to create individual user profiles about behavior and preferences. This information would enable the merchants using Fivestars to create responsive, personalized services.

I’ve had many people ask how small museums could tap into the “big data” boom. Maybe the examples presented by Shopkeep and Fivestars offer one approach. Are there cloud-based point-of-sale programs, or interpretive apps, that contain and could potentially merge, crunch and analyze the data of many small museum clients? Could we create a “universal museum user profile” the public can use to share data with the museums they frequent, so that museums can use their history of preferences and behavior to personalize the user experience?

To Add to Your Scanning Feed
@IBMWatson on Twitter, where you can keep up with the rapidly accelerating career of the digital face of cognitive computing.

Related Articles (most previously featured in CFM’s free weekly e-newsletter, Dispatches from the Future of Museums):

Is Big Data Spreading Inequality?
The New York Times

Social media companies depend on selling information about their users’ clicks and purchases to data brokers who match ads to the most receptive individuals. But the Federal Trade Commission and the White House have called for legislation that would inform consumers about the data collected and sold to companies, warning of analytics that have “the potential to eclipse longstanding civil rights protections.” Does the collection of data by companies threaten consumers’ civil rights?    This edition of the NYT's excellent "Room for Debate" forum includes essays by thought leaders from the Future of Privacy Forum, the Open Technology Institute and Princeton among others.

White House big data report earns praise, skepticism
Information Week
A White House report on big data released May 1 concludes that the explosion of data in today's world can be an unprecedented driver of social progress, but it also has the potential to eclipse basic civil rights and privacy protections. The report drew praise from business and technology groups for its grasp of how big data analytics could improve education and health care, uncover wasteful government spending and help with the nation's continuing economic recovery. But those same groups cautioned that government attempts to regulate data collection could interfere with productivity and job growth. 

Measuring the world's emotions using Twitter and Amazon's cloud
There are some things that just weren’t possible before the world wide web and cloud computing, and a recently launched emotion-quantification project called “We Feel” is one of them. The project, which is a partnership between Australia’s Black Dog Institute and its Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is analyzing every English-language Twitter post around the world in order to determine how people are feeling. Using data from Gnip, the social-media data feed that Twitter recently acquired, We Feel gauges where tweets range on a spectrum from “joy” to “fear” (as well as “surprise”) and then breaks them down at a more-granular level (e.g., from “joy” to “zest” to “invigorated”). It also captures metadata on the countries from which tweets are coming, the sex of the person doing the tweeting and the timestamp of the tweet.

These smart umbrellas measure rainfall data
Fast CoExist
Even in a wired world, some simple data is still surprisingly hard to get — like how much it rains. The basic rain gauge has been around for hundreds of years, and it's still a standard tool used by agencies like the National Weather Service to help predict flooding and monitor droughts. But gauges are expensive to maintain, and there are only a few thousand in the entire world that can actually report data in real time. That's not enough for an accurate picture of the weather. A team of Dutch scientists wants to use the crowd instead, by turning umbrellas into mini weather-monitoring stations. Every time it rains, smart umbrellas would use sensors to detect falling drops, and then use Bluetooth to send a report to a smartphone app. As people walk around with umbrellas throughout a city during a storm, each app would send in data to a central system where meteorologists could use it to come up with better predictions.

How consumers can use big data
The Wall Street Journal
A new wave of consumer applications is putting big data at everyone's fingertips. Large organizations have harnessed the power of data analytics for some time. But consumer services are finding more ways to use business intelligence to benefit individuals. One thing that makes this all possible is the growing availability of large public and private information sources. Government agencies and companies like Facebook Inc., Google Inc. and Twitter Inc. offer APIs — application programming interfaces — that allow other software makers to access and use their data. Even as consumers worry about the effect on their privacy of all the personal information that is widely shared, many are finding ways to benefit from new, readily accessible, data-rich services.

Big data goes to school
Public schools nationwide are taking a cue from business, harnessing big data to improve student outcomes, help school districts make better hiring decisions and help governments use their education dollars more effectively. The results may be more successful students, better teacher retention and more finely tuned administration policies.

The IBM Food Truck: Powered by the SoftLayer cloud
Thoughts On Cloud
Among the sea of booths and demos on the expo floor at IBM Pulse 2014, a culinary revolution is happening — and the cloud is its catalyst. It's called the Cognitive Kitchen, and the fruit of its labor, the IBM Food Truck, is delighting palates while hinting to a world of possibilities. Chef James Briscione and his Institute of Culinary Education team are working with IBM to tap into cognitive computing, and in the process inventing some eyebrow-raising recipes. The flavor combinations are often bold and unprecedented. ♦ "Cognitive computing" is being brought to bear on many areas of endeavor here-to-fore regarded as the preserve of creative intelligence. Today it's food — what next?

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Benthic Art

#publicart? #DistributedMuseum
Follow the link in the photo caption to find out more. You can find more glimpses of the future (and links to associated articles) on CFM's Pinterest Boards

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Looking Through the (Google) Glass

So, you may have seen me looking like this, lately.

Yup, that’s Google Glass. And that’s me trying not to be a Glasshole.

Neil Stimler, Digital Asset Specialist at the Met, has been sporting Glass for over a year and sharing his observations hashtagged #metthroughglass. Barry Joseph, Associate Director for Digital Learning at the American Museum of Natural History, recently blogged about his experience visiting DC museums with a borrowed set of Glass. I’ve been playing around with Glass for about six months now, porting it with me to conferences and speaking gigs, trying it out in various settings and thinking about what Glass could be good for in museums. This is my first stab at sharing these thoughts on the Blog.

If you haven’t had the chance to play around with Glass, this very brief intro demo gets across the basics:

It's kind of the love child of an iPhone and Geordi La Forge's VISOR from StarTrek TNG.

Here is the challenge: playing around with this tech for tech sake tends to yield experiments that could be done equally well (and less expensively) with other equipment. Artists and teachers, for example, have tried using Glass as a way of recording and sharing a “first person” view of what they are doing. But you could do the same thing, less expensively, with a GoPro camera. What can Glass do better than a head-mounted video camera, or even a hand-held internet connected devices? My smart phone can already connect to the internet, accept voice command and access location-specific information.

What distinguishes Glass from my phone is that it provides heads-up and (mostly) hands free access to these functions. These capabilities make Glass potentially valuable in an operating room for example, where immediate hands-free access to information could save a life. (Imagine a surgeon pulling up pre-op MRI images to guide her hand.) Less critically, but still fun, this teacher used Glass to not only share video but conduct a real time Google Hangout with students while he visited the Large Hadron Collider. What are the equivalent (fun or critical) applications in museums?

I recently enlisted staff of the Phillips Collection here in Washington to join my investigations. In the following video shorts Margaret Collerd Sternbergh (Manager of Digital and In-gallery Interpretation), Meagan Estep (Manager of K-12 Digital and Educator Initiatives) and Brooke Rosenblatt (Head of Public Engagement) help me explore Glass and help Glass explore the museum.

I kicked off our adventure by demonstrating my first wish for Glass functionality in the museum: the abolition of the “label dance”—that little back and forth and in and out that happens as I cast about for the corresponding copy, waltz over to read it then sashay back to an appropriate viewing distance.

Margaret, Meagan, Brooke and I discussed the commonly voiced concern that Glass might be used as a covert way to take pictures or videos (which has led some theaters and cafes to ban Glass from their premises).

I turned the headset over to Margaret, Megan and Brooke to try out. Here they share their impressions and mull over how Glass might be used at the Phillips.

Honestly using Glass in the museum is still a little rocky at the moment, as I demonstrate here:

Despite the glitches, don’t underestimate how fast this technology could be refined and widely adopted. (Did early mobile phone users lugging around brick-sized devices in 1995 imagine the iPhone?) Juniper Research, for one, predicts “AR users worldwide will increase from 60 million to 200 million over the next five years” due in part to adoption of Google Glass and the proliferation of apps that hone its capabilities.

However fast Glass per se evolves. I think the trends behind this particular invention—the rise of wearable technology, location-aware services and personalized content—are going to shape visitor expectations of the museum experience. As we play around with Glass, discovering what it can or might do in the near future, we need to think about the broader implications. Will museums’ BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies need to accommodate “devices” that include a visitor’s prescription eye-wear, or even their shirt or shoes? Will people wandering about, talking to their "glasses," prove to be even more distracting to other visitors than obsessive phone-screen-checkers? As the technology become more stealthy, and therefor less intrusive, will it prompt even higher concern about privacy or intellectual control?

That all lies in the future. Here in the present are some experiments museums are doing with Glass:
  • The Manchester Metropolitan University is working on the Google Glass Augmented Reality Project. They have already programmed a Glass app to recognize George Stubbs’ "Cheetah and Stag with Two Indians" and provide associated text and audio. Museum staff are planning to create content for six more paintings and continue to test with visitors, as they investigate how about Glass could supplement (or replace?) guidebooks and audio guides.
  • David Datuna created an interactive installation that was recently shown at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, designed specifically to be viewed with Glass.
GuidiGO, a company that has been certified by Google’s Glass at Work program, has created a Glass app that seems to do pretty much what I discussed with the Phillips staff: providing museum tours that use image recognition to trigger interpretive content. (Rumored to have been tested in the U.S. at an “art museum and a science center on the West Coast.” If that’s your museum, I’d love to hear from you.)

Whew, that was a long post. As a reward for those of you who stuck through it to the end, here is the outtake reel from the Phillips. Ok Glass, Roll Film.

(Addendum: the original post listed Neal Stimler's title as "Associate Digital Asset Specialist.")