Friday Faves – What We’re Reading This Week

Friday Faves is our weekly blog series highlighting a few select pieces from the REG team’s reading lists. You can catch up on past Friday Faves on the archive

The Future, This Week

Anne says: This week I found myself exploring topics from last week’s Friday Faves and have uncovered more debates on Amazon and their arrival on the local Australian scene. Some of the associated implications of Amazon’s set-up are addressed (and challenged) in this podcast from Sydney Business Insights – a unit within the University of Sydney Business School. It’s going to be really interesting to watch how Amazon reproduce what they’re really good at – the logistics of delivery!

In an extension to last week’s podcast with Sam Harris & Tristan Harris, Beth Kanter – author and one of the most influential names in technology in the non-profit sector (read her blog: Beth’s Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media) – outlines some pragmatic implications that are associated with the design of technologies. In particular, you may like to consider the 5 tips at the bottom of the article that provide some ways you can resist becoming controlled by the design.

There’s also some useful resources and further links to topics raised during the interview with Sam and Tristan.

Readhttps://medium.com/@kanter/how-to-avoid-becoming-addicted-to-your-mobile-phone-92190c2fcf8b

Stop Trying to Find Yourself

Nat says: The question of identity has reared its head since mankind started a journey of introspection. I’ve always been fascinated with the Western ideal of identity and the Eastern philosophies that call it out as a fallacy. I get even more excited by the Western researchers who attempt to bridge the cultural philosophical divide by drawing on Eastern advice that is thousands of years old. This article explores some of the ideas contained within a new book by Harvard Professor, Michael Puett, called ‘The Path’. I am yet to read the book, but have for many years been interested in the philosophies that underpin its advice, such as the Tao Te Ching.

The article explores a somewhat obsession millennials have with finding their unique selves, along with the dilemma of constantly having to make difficult life choices. There is also a discussion about the role of technology and how millennial usage of social media, as an example, locks them into an idea of self which is not who they are at all. When I find the time, I’d love to read this book – not only for the mention and discussion of technology, but because Eastern philosophies, unlike Western philosophies, have to be somewhat experienced and internalised in order to be understood. Identity from an Eastern lens is very much a spiritual journey within, so I do not anticipate that anyone who reads this book will come out the other side ‘knowing themselves’, but the book might just help to plant a seed to get people to see themselves a little bit differently.

Linkhttp://www.refinery29.uk/2017/03/147566/the-path-book-professor-michael-puett-harvard

Why Instagram is Becoming Facebook’s Next Facebook

“….social networks are sometimes held hostage by their most loyal users, who tend to hate change.”

Emilio says: When a company achieves a sizeable new business milestone, it would call on its Corporate Communications and PR mavens to harp about it. On the surface, this article seems a bit like that – an arranged feature on Instagram, making a big deal about the platform recently chalking up an impressive 700 million active monthly users, up by 100 million from last year. The growth of Instagram looks unstoppable – but so is its ability to change, improve and evolve quickly in order to attract infinitely more users. On the flipside of this growth, it has been criticised for cloning, and thereby attempting to kill the soaring popularity of the ephemeral messaging platform that is Snapchat. Of course, Instagram’s head honchos were quick to defend their moves in response to the criticisms.

Copycat allegations aside, what this article does achieve for Instagram is shine a light on its clever strategies, and what businesses need to be doing to stay on top of their game. Put simply, any business that wants to remain profitable will need to: 1) keep its current customers happy by improving processes and listening to user feedback; and 2) continuously reinvent itself by offering new and related services in order to cater for a wider customer base. And be able to do it as quickly as possible. Yep, Instagram is following the way of its parent company Facebook and the social network’s relentless pursuit of getting all of us engaged, glued and all-consumed. Indeed, Instagram (and Facebook) is a business success case study every entrepreneur must learn from.

Readhttps://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/26/technology/why-instagram-is-becoming-facebooks-next-facebook.html

How Online Shopping Makes Suckers of Us All

Jakkii says: Are you a comparison shopper? Do you look at goods in store only to buy them somewhere else online for a cheaper price? Did you know this common practice is called ‘showrooming?’ It’s so ubiquitous it even has its own name, so if you are a ‘showroomer,’ you’re not alone.

I found this piece really interesting, exploring the uneasy truce between consumers and retailers in a fixed price world, and how the advent and growth of online shopping has shifted the goal posts considerably. Initially, the transparency of and access to prices from many retailers at any given time to comparison shop gave consumers an enhanced ability to get the most bang for their proverbial buck. Now, the piece argues, retailers are finding ways to retake the upper hand, and in doing so are putting the foundations of the ‘fixed-price’ marketplace truce at risk.

It might not surprise you to learn that online retail is now comparison shopping us, using an array of ‘big data’ both knowingly and – sometimes – unwittingly given over as we browse, search and shop. Behavioural economics is, after all, not a new field. However the sheer volume of data available on any given individual in the current internet age is a goldmine for retailers, and a potential minefield for consumers. Combined with machine learning, there are any number of algorithms being used to analyse consumers, competitors and the current market in order to determine price – the price for today, for this hour, for this minute.

It all makes you wonder: are you really getting the best deal, or do you just believe you did?

Readhttps://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/05/how-online-shopping-makes-suckers-of-us-all/521448/

Behind the Tech That Built Pixar’s ‘Cars 3’

Joel says: As someone who loves insights into ‘behind the scenes’ of how things are made and being someone that grew up in the 90’s with an attachment to Disney-Pixar films, I found this article quite interesting.

The article discusses some of the challenges the team had to overcome while creating their latest animated film ‘Cars 3’ and details some of the tech they are using to create these animated masterpieces, which were revealed by members of the ‘effects and character design teams’ on the film during a press event earlier this month.

Pixar uses a very powerful 3D animation application called Houdini (https://www.sidefx.com/) as the backbone for their effects & simulations and had a particularly troublesome time during the development of Cars 3 trying to simulate mud.

Pixar described it as “chunky oatmeal in soup,” and it takes center stage in one of the film’s most memorable scenes.

“It’s not really a liquid, it’s not really a solid,” said Effects Supervisor Jon Reisch, “its kinda somewhere in between, and that in between state is something that’s really hard to capture on the computer and simulate correctly.”

The article goes on to discuss some of the tech used during production of previous films “Finding Dory” and “The Good Dinosaur” before bringing things back to Cars to talk about how things have changed between the release of the original Cars film in 2006 to the third in the series now in 2017.

Definitely a good read for anyone interested in animation and a behind the scenes peek at how the Pixar animation team works.

Readhttps://www.cnet.com/au/news/cars-3-behind-the-scenes-of-pixars-newest-ride/