DataDownload: Nyan Cat sells for hundreds of thousands

DataDownload: Nyan Cat sells for hundreds of thousands A weekly summary of all things Media, Data, Emerging Tech View this email in your browser

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Have you ever thought about the future with unbridled optimism? In the early days of the internet the power of a connected planet was exhilarating. And, it may be again.

In today’s newsletter, we explore a massively valuable pop-tart cat. The use of data to make accurate COVID predictions. Buzzfeed’s investigation into Facebook’s organizational hierarchy, the explosion in gaming across industries, and most importantly the coming nexus of tech and storytelling.

Ok, that’s our big news. Our upcoming virtual event, Technology + Storytelling: Engaging the Immersive Future. On March 10th from 10AM to 3PM EST. You’re reading this newsletter… so — quick, sign up HERE. We’ll explore “BLM, Immersive Film & Activism”, The Head of LA Lab / Epic Games, a keynote on how to survive the Media Wars, and eight mind-blowing demos. And, we’ll unveil an amazing virtual conference experience, with networking, live Q&A, and 15 rooms to explore. Registration is free. What are you waiting for?

See you at the NYC Media Lab’s brand new exploratorium.


Steven Rosenbaum
Executive Director
The NYC Media Lab Must-Read Why an Animated Flying Cat With a Pop-Tart Body Sold for Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars

Last week Nyan Cat creator Chris Torres auctioned off a remastered version of the iconic GIF for the cat’s 10th anniversary. Torres fetched 300 ETH, or around $447k (at the time of this writing) for the digital artwork from an anonymous bidder. This isn’t the most expensive digital artwork sold by far — that will be Beeple’s EVERYDAYS: THE FIRST 5000 DAYS, when the auction wraps up in less than two weeks (it’s already at $2.6M). But the value isn’t just in the art or the artist’s name — it’s the non-fungible token, or NFT, behind the work.

An NFT is a type of cryptographic token that represents something unique and not interchangeable like fungible digital assets (ex. cryptocurrency). It doesn’t even have to represent sole ownership — as The NY Times puts it, buyers are purchasing “bragging rights and the knowledge that their copy is the ‘authentic’ one.” In a Clubhouse discussion this month, Marc Andreessen remarked that “a lot of people are cynical about this kind of thing,” but pointed out that “a $200 pair of sneakers is, like, $5 in plastic,” and people buy for aesthetics and design, not materials. And yes, bragging rights.

NY Times / 7 min read Read More Covid Pandemic: How Youyang Gu Used AI and Data to Make Most Accurate Prediction

Ashlee Vance (the author of Elon Musk’s popular biography) profiles Youyang Gu, the young data scientist who was able to create more accurate COVID-19 death prediction models than institutions with hundreds of millions in funding. Instead of using numerous data sources for his predictions, Gu used less: “I decided to rely on past deaths to predict future deaths.”

He used his experience writing high-frequency trading algorithms to train a fairly accurate ML model for COVID-19 deaths. Gu worked full-time, living off his savings, and eventually, people started to notice. “Traffic to Gu’s website exploded, with millions of people checking in daily to see what was happening in their states and the U.S. overall. More often than not, his predicted figures ended up hugging the line of actual death figures when they arrived a few weeks later.”

Bloomberg / 9 min read

Read more Tech+Media “Mark Changed the Rules”: How Facebook Went Easy on Alex Jones and Other Right-Wing Figures

Buzzfeed’s investigative dive explores Facebook’s peculiar organizational hierarchy, which has content policy and public policy teams reporting to a common root — VP of Global Public Policy Joel Kaplan. Formerly White House deputy chief of staff under President George W. Bush, Kaplan is a sort of Republican whisperer among Facebook’s predominantly liberal executive team. Having the same person heading content policy and moderation, while courting the Trump administration and trying not to step on conservative toes was a frustrating balancing act for employees, and many were pushed over the edge.

“Samidh Chakrabarti, head of Facebook’s civic integrity team, wrote in an internal note in June, bemoaning the difficulty of balancing such interests while delivering on the team’s mandate: stopping abuse and election interference on the platform. The civic integrity team was disbanded shortly after the election…. Throughout 2020, the ‘fear of antagonizing powerful political actors,’ as [a] former core data scientist put it in their memo, became a key public policy team rationalization for forgoing action on potentially violative content or rolling out product changes ahead of the US presidential election.”

BuzzFeed News / 22 min read Read More Here’s Why (And How) We’ll See Gaming’s Influence Span Across Industries, Regions, and More in 2021

From virtual weddings in animal crossing to movie showings in Fortnite, games — and game engines — during the pandemic have seen use cases well beyond their core offering. Chief architect for gaming at Google Cloud Rob Martin says we’ll only be seeing more non-gaming events — like Gary Whitta’s Animal Talking show — in virtual worlds this year. We’ll also be seeing game engines used more in filmmaking as virtual production techniques enable real-time digital backgrounds.

VentureBeat / 7 min read Read More Sim Daltonism, an Intuitive App That Simulates Color Blindness

Mac and iOS developer Michel Fortin came up with an elegant solution for developers checking if their apps are accessible to people with color blindness. Just drag the Sim Daltonis‪m‬ window over any part of the screen to “visualize colors as they are perceived with various types of color blindness.”

FlowingData / 1 min read

Read More What We’re Watching Technology+Storytelling: Engaging The Immersive Future (v2)

Storytelling has always been a magical elixir of tools and voices. From cave paintings and campfires to radio, film, and television, each new tool has given way to new kinds of stories. And now, we’re excited to explore the emerging worlds of immersive AR and VR during our upcoming virtual event, Technology + Storytelling: Engaging the Immersive Future. On March 10th from 10AM to 3PM EST, the NYC Media Lab team will bring together creators, technologists, and filmmakers to share their cutting-edge work and explore the ever-changing methods of storytelling in an immersive world. Check out the event trailer below and register for the event here.

nycmedialab (YouTube) / 1 min watch

Watch Now What We’re Listening To Podcast: Will Amazon Be Kinder After Jeff Bezos? A Conversation With Recode’s Jason Del Rey

“Jeff Bezos is headed for the door at Amazon, and because 2021 is the craziest news year on record, we mostly haven’t stopped to consider this seismic story and what it means for the business world. Joining us to discuss what Amazon looks like after Bezos is Jason Del Rey, a senior correspondent at Recode and author of a forthcoming book on Amazon’s battle with Walmart.”

Spotify / 25 min listen

Listen Now Virtual Events Free Event: Putting Patients at the Driver’s Seat
Date: March 3, 12PM EST
Patients need to be given the option of choosing where to store their private data. Vincent Keunen, a cancer survivor who started a social project called Andaman 7, will be speaking on personal health records. Register Here.

Free Event: From PhD to Startup CEO
Date: March 9, 12PM-1PM EST
Misti Ushio, CEO of TARA Biosystems, will share her journey from academia to startups, including some of the key decision points along the way. Register Here. A Deeper Look I’m an Ethical Hacker. Here’s How I Could Use Social Media to Scam You

Phishing scams are more sophisticated these days thanks to society’s proclivity to post their lives online. For example, when WFH workers post pictures of their home setups on social media, cybercriminals can see computer screens with emails, video call numbers, and names of co-workers. The hacker can then impersonate that co-worker over email. Names of children and pets, sports teams, and birthdays in posts can help hackers answer security questions to get passwords. Ethical hacker Katie Paxton-Fear breaks down why oversharing on social media is ill-advised:

If I’m trying to hack a company, the first place I go is LinkedIn. It’s easy to find the full names and job titles of employees with an affordable LinkedIn Premium account. I look for nontechnical staff such as sales or administrative workers who may be more susceptible and have access to a lot of company data. (A tip for companies: Train employees to be suspicious and make sure access permissions are regularly checked.) I might see on an employee’s LinkedIn or Twitter account that they’ve just started a new job, which tells me they may not know their executives’ personalities and are eager to please.”

I can use Google or social media to learn these execs’ names and spoof their email addresses, then send a fake email to this new employee. All it takes is an urgent email saying, ‘Hey, I’m in a long meeting and forgot my nephew’s birthday. I need you to go buy me an Amazon gift card. I’ll reimburse you.’ You’d be surprised how quickly someone will follow urgent directions from a superior at the office, especially in our new world of remote work, when visual cues are missing and you can’t quickly verify a request with a colleague.”

Fast Company / 5 min read

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NYC Media Lab connects university researchers and NYC’s media tech companies to create a new community of digital media & tech innovators in New York City.