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My Favorite Readings in June: Tough Academic World, Corporate Tweeting & Wikipedia Across Cultures

30 June 2014

The very first IKEA catalog. One of my favorite reads this month is about IKEA (image via ikea.com)

This month, many things caught my eye and attention. Here’s a selection of news, events and articles that I enjoyed this month. A couple of them deal with academia, again, including people who complain about the toughness of the job. Others relate to social media, the internet of objects, consumer creativity or American politics. Just browse through it and see what catches your eyes.

Also – self-promotion is your friend – make sure to read my latest blog post which I published on Medium. Medium is a sleek-looking new publishing platform, very easy to use, and highly aesthetic.

This thing, the Scio scanner, is quite an impressive device. As Wired explains, “there’s no way to Google physical objects,” and the Scio scanner allows you to determine the molecular makeup of objects (food, medication, plastic…) simply by pointing at it. It emits a beam of light, which you can shine on any object, and the device will connect to a smartphone app that reveals the nutritional breakdown of that object. Watch the video in which Dror Sharon, the co-founder and CEO of the Tel Aviv based startup Consumer Physics which developed Scio, demonstrates it. Very cool.

Since the French crowdsourced agency Creads has published a blog post about the visit of Axelle Lemaire, the French Secretary of State for Digital Affairs, the oponents of crowdsourcing have voiced up their concerns about free work again (the website of French national radio Europe 1 titled “The visit of Axelle Lemaire at Creads causes trouble in the design field”). Creatives think that a Secretary of State should not be encouraging crowdsourcing it, as it equates endorsing unethical work practices (one blog post titled “Axelle Lemaire encourages free work at Creads”). I think it’s a bit unfair to bash the company, especially because Axelle Lemaire visited Creads for its thriving business and innovative model – not to endorse free work. But I think the French like to complain when they have a chence to do so :-).

That’s a really great post. In “Why I left my academic job,” Lada Adamic (PhD at Stanford, now Computational Social Scientist at Facebook) shares her thoughts about academia, and why she stopped working in the field full-time. She has many interesting observations like this one about having week-ends and hobbies: “When I worked at HP Labs I had hobbies. […] I went sailing, kayaking, and wind surfing. Many weekends I’d go on hikes. I gardened. Now at Facebook I’ve gotten into woodworking, and many weekends I go camping with family. When I started my faculty job, I did nothing but work (except for some gardening in the summer).” A must read for anyone who is curious about academia, about corporate, and about the possibility to concile both.

Speaking about corporate being a (potentially) attractive field, here’s a funny article. At least the title is. Aaron Taube spent a morning at Huge, a digital design and advertising firm that runs the social-media accounts for eight brands, including TD Ameritrade and Audi, and shares his observations about managing social media accounts for brands. “What I found is that while the act of pushing out a tweet or posting something on Facebook takes a relatively short time, social-media managers spend countless hours monitoring the internet in search of trends to chat about and customer comments in need of response.” The tweet which is mentioned in the title was for French cheese, by the way.

This article, posted in The Guardian’s Higher Education Network by an anonymous academic, has a rather pessimistic angle to it. “Academics Anonymous: so many PhD students, so few jobs,” the title says, and the subtitle adds “Unis need to stop merely training academics and instead start providing some of the jobs they have trained them for.” The article argues that universities often recruit PhD students in arts and humanities without preparing them for the real world after the thesis, in which few jobs are available. I remember reading an almost identical post in French recently (not live anymore), and I would believe this frustration is higher than in business schools and universities. The academic job market is tough, yes, but I’m not quite sure it’s tougher than the corporate one at the moment.

Do you know IKEAHackers? It’s a site where people publish hacked IKEA products, combinations of IKEA products in creative ways to create everything from desks to cat trees. The site is an example of consumer creativity peacefully coexisting with the original brand. IKEA was indeed OK with the site running, even if it used its trademarks (name, logo etc.)… until recently. IKEA’s attorneys have sent the site a Cease & Desist to the site’s webmaster. Why? Because he started to run ads on the site, hence turning the whole initiative into a for-profit site (which wasn’t the case before). Some people think it’s a bad idea (“the website has been in operation for eight years, and has done nothing to defame or hurt the IKEA brand. If anything, it has promoted the company and its products. […] IKEAhackers.net has shown no indication that it’s a threat to either“) and I pretty much agree.

That’s a creative piece of research! A team of researchers, led by Young-Ho Eom of the University of Toulouse’s Theoretical Physics Lab, used two popular page-ranking algorithms to determine the most important or famous historical figures on Wikipedia in different languages. The results demonstrate not only the existence of skewness with local figures, mainly recognized only in their own culture, but also the existence of global historical figures, mostly white, Western males. “Across 24 language editions of Wikipedia, a page-ranking algorithm finds that the top historical figures were mostly post-17th-century white guys,” Fast CoExist reported, like many other sites, about this work in progress.

An interesting piece of research by Pew Research revelas that Republicans and Democrats are more divided ideologically than at any point in the last two decades, and partisan antipathy is also deeper and more extensive. The results of a survey of 10,000 adults nationwide finds that these divisions are greatest among those who are the most engaged and active in the political process. Its worrying, and I think it’s not different in France, to see that the consensual middle ground is getting smaller and smaller. Will a politician ever be able to gather a nation around a common vision?

It’s not only the great music, nor the beautiful animations, but the overall message of this digital campaign by fast-food chain Chipotle that touched me. Along with “24 Hours of Happy” (Pharrell Williams) and “Live Tests” (Volvo), Chipotle’s “Scarecrow” campaign was the big winner in digital at the Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this month. Juror Joe Alexander, chief creative officer of The Martin Agency, said about the campaign: “We were knocked out by this [animation, in which] the craft was at the industry standard for animation. It was incredibly well done.” Alexander also noted that the accompanying game (the campaign was based on a game for mobile devices) brought the project to the next level: “To be able to play and share a game that reinforced their message was phenomenal.” he said. I just love the video.

How cool is this ad? I bought the FT Weekend this… weekend, and it had a special issue about boats. Not that I am into yachts and stuff, but I just thought this ad was visually very appealing. Probably because I love to goof around like this. One day I’ll have one of those (Lady Britt, between $445,000 and 470,000), today I am happy with just a retweet from the brand, Emiston.

When academics argue, that is what comes out of it. This month, Harvard’s Jill Lepore (historian) published an article in the New Yorker titled “The Disruption Machine. What the gospel of innovation gets wrong” which basically is an attack of one of the most widely cited and celebrated ideas in modern business, Disruptive Innovation, coined by another Harvard professor, Clayton Christensen. The link I share here is not Jill’s New Yorker article, but Christensen’s response to it, transcribed from a telephone conversation with Bloomberg’s Drake Bennett. The best part? “Do you know her?” Bennett asks Christensen. “I’ve never met her in my life,” he replies.

Some promotion for eYeka: on Wednesday July 23rd at 6PM CEST (6PM in Paris) I will be organizing a “Creative Crowdsourcing From a Legal Perspective” webinar with Eric Favreau, eYeka’s Head of Legal. Based on his experience as Head of eYeka’s legal department, Eric will share some insights about questions like: Do creators who participate give up the IP rights on their entries? How can the crowdsourcing platform help brands and creators handle the transfer of IP rights? Do creators get paid for transferring their IP rights? How does the crowdsourcing platform manage participation by underage creators? You can ask questions via Twitter using #eYekaLegal, and of course register here.

This is just a beautiful view isn’t it? We had gorgeous weather all week long!

This is an interesting article, in French, about the Paris School of Economics, a conglomerate of leading French universities offering masters, PhDs and post-graduate research fellowships in economics. It’s a very recent institution (founded in 2006!) meant to compete with globally leading powerhouses (LSE, NYU, Oxford etc.) and a heavy focus on research. Part of the recent wave of awareness about the PSE brand spilled over from the newly aquired fame of Thomas Piketty, who is still very engaged in the PSE.

That’s it for June. I’m off to holidays!

 

 

 

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