DataDownload: A new post-pandemic office

DataDownload: A new post-pandemic office A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

Hey, wanna buy some GameStop stock? [Ok, sorry — but it is the story that ate the media this week.]

Meanwhile brands around the world make a great map — and Digg has the story. And, love them or hate them — PDF’s have withstood the test of time. The New Yorker says COVID has transformed the office — with the potential to upend commercial real estate for the foreseeable future. Signal the messaging app is facing a battle over encrypted free speech. So, be prepared to take sides. Magic Leap’s former founder is building new things — really. We did one GameStop story, just in case you were trapped in a cave for the last two weeks. And Reply All has a solid podcast on deplatforming. Lots more of that story in the coming weeks.

And — Joe Bidden has signed 42 executive actions, with science, medicine, human rights, and climate change all the beneficiaries. So, can’t help but think that humans and the planet will benefit.

In 2021 the Media Lab doubles down on our mission — Advocates for Innovation. Lots more ahead.


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read The Most Popular Brand in Every Country, Mapped UK finance info site BusinessFinancing used Google Keyword Planner to dig through a year’s worth of search volume data to figure out the most-searched-for brands per country. The combination of a business financing site and Google’s ad campaign tool might conjure images of spreadsheets or bulleted lists of percentages… instead, BusinessFinancing produced five awesome maps listing the world’s most popular consumer, smartphone, gaming, fashion, and fast food brands.

Digg / 2 min read Read More The Inside Story of How the Lowly PDF Played the Longest Game in Tech

Here’s an eerie statistic: there are likely at least 2.5 trillion PDFs around today, according to Adobe. Equally frustrating and ubiquitous, the Portable Document Format has been around since the early 90s. The PDF started as project Camelot, an attempt by Adobe co-founder John Warnock to create a file format that worked across operating systems and would print exactly what you’d see on the screen (this was when “a document created in MS-DOS or Unix might look like gobbledygook on a Mac, and vice versa”). In simpler terms: digital paper. Thirty years later, the pandemic has only increased PDF usage. Read the in-between history in the full piece.

Marker / 7 min read

Read more Tech+Media Has the Pandemic Transformed the Office Forever?

Some 27% of workers will be remote this year, according to an Upwork survey. Twenty million workers either moved or are planning to. And physical offices only become more vacant. The pandemic changed the office setup forever — it didn’t eliminate them, but now the question is, what’s next for the physical workspace? Through several surveys, R/GA learned what employees loved, hated, and yearned for in the new WFH paradigm. They eventually took their 5.5k comments and worked with architects and designers on post-pandemic plans.

“R/GA’s remaining floor at 450 West Thirty-third Street would become a hybrid workspace, where some employees would be physically present some of the time, working at reservable desks, but on any given day the bulk of employees would be remote. Sean Lyons, the C.E.O., envisaged people being in the office for three days a week and home for two, on average. ‘In the Singapore office, they want people in the office Monday and Friday, so they can begin and end the week together,’ he said.”

The New Yorker / 34 min read Read More The Battle Inside Signal

Signal is the number one messaging app in 70 countries, despite Facebook delaying its contested WhatsApp policy till May due to the furor. Signal, according to an employee, now sports some 40M accounts. A relatively trifling amount compared to the 1B WeChat users and 2B WhatsApp users, but a win for a company that has taken a polar-opposite funding approach, compared to the typical Silicon Valley company (the app is supported by the Signal Foundation, a nonprofit started and funded by WhatsApp co-founder Brian Acton).

As much as Signal is a bastion of encrypted free speech, an internal push towards 100M users and willful distancing from policies and enforcement mechanisms have led to strife and tension. Employees argue that Signal is “developing multiple tools simultaneously that could be ripe for abuse” and could lead to negative attention on encryption technologies from regulators.

The Verge / 14 min read Read More Magic Leap Founder Rony Abovitz Creates Startup Sun and Thunder to Build Synthetic Beings

Where is former Magic Leap CEO Rony Abovitz now? Luckily, that’s not the title of a tragic Netflix documentary (for a sad but brilliant faded founder story, check out We Live in Public). Abovitz has moved on to found Sun and Thunder, which will focus on developing AI characters and interactive storytelling.

“The first AI character is Jako Vega (also known as Yellow Dove). Abovitz said he is like Woody Guthrie, a vagabond singer who moves across space and time. The first film is in production. ‘Yellow Dove is a member of the Sun and Thunder team, a co-creator, and traveler through a number of interconnected Sun and Thunder storyworlds,’ Abovitz said.”

VentureBeat / 5 min read

Read More What We’re Watching What Is Going on with GameStop Stock?

The GameStop stock situation has been covered ad nauseam but it’s also impossible to overlook. IGN’s explanation of events is as clear as any.

IGN (YouTube) / 6 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: Account Suspended

“The President is no longer allowed to Tweet. PJ and Alex sit down with their boss to explain what that means, how it happened, and what might happen next. Plus — an upset listener berates our climate reporter.”

Spotify / 40 min listen

Listen Now Virtual Events

Paid Event: Secret Garden by Artist Stephanie Dinkins
Date: January 30th — February 3rd
Secret Garden is a new work by Stephanie Dinkins that illuminates the power and resilience in Black women’s stories with interactive audio vignettes generating a multi-generational narrative that collapses past, present, and future. The work can be experienced in two ways: as an immersive web experience (no headset required) and as a physical installation. Register Here.

Free Event: Bodies in Space
Date: February 2nd, 11AM-12PM EST
“Bodies in Space: Storytelling and the Moving Image in Extended Reality” features moderator Loren Hammonds, Senior Programmer at Tribeca Film Festival, in conversation with two artists — Stephanie Dinkins and Loukia Alavanou. Register Here. A Deeper Look We Need to Think Broader About Human-Centered Design

According to Mitchell Weiss, former chief of staff to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, human-centered design goes beyond “streamlining a process or building an easier-to-use form or app.” Reading an excerpt from Weiss’s book, We the Possibility, human-centered design feels closer to Humans of New York than Lean Startup. To illustrate his point, Weiss tells the story of how Silicon Valley engineer Jimmy Chen started Propel, which builds software to help low-income individuals apply for benefits. Instead of starting off with focus groups or online questionnaires, Chen stood in lines at Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) offices and followed low-income families as they used their SNAP benefits at stores.

This Gonzo-style canvassing of ideas is also happening in the public sector, where citizen opinions are driving change: “The UK’s Policy Lab was established in 2014 and has worked to bring ‘people-centered design approaches to policy making.’ Andrea Siodmok is the deputy director there. Siodmok and Policy Lab’s head, Vasant Chari, told me their job was to ‘bring the outside into government’ in order to ‘bridge the gap between evidence and the art of possible.’ I spoke with them after they’d undertaken an effort to help the United Kingdom’s housing minister address social-housing issues, on the heels of the Grenfell Tower tragedy that had killed seventy-two people. The lab engaged a thousand citizens around the country in conversations about their fears and frustrations and needs.”

Next City / 10 min read

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