April 18, 2019

Coworking spaces have positively shaped our professional identities

The Harvard Business Review conducted research with WeWork to find how coworking spaces have positive impacts on the workers that use them.

Coworking spaces then and now

Over 14,000 coworking spaces have opened worldwide since the first one appeared in 2005. They provided an environment with the amenities that most dedicated hospitality spaces couldn’t or didn’t provide such as at least power sockets and fast internet.

The concept caught on to the point that other types of businesses, ones that especially need to pay rent and deal with slow periods during the day, began converting to coworking spaces in some aspect. Today, these spaces support the needs of larger organizations, and not necessarily those launching coworking spaces as a retail estate play by providing a more economical location for their remote teams to meet, work and network.

Harvard’s research

Over the past several years, Harvard studied how amenities, branding, aesthetics, and unique cultures created from diverse people and companies working together under one roof impacted individual workers. They found workers benefit coworking spaces more than traditional offices, experiencing greater levels of flexibility and thriving (defined as vitality and learning at work), better networking, and a stronger sense of community.

Their latest study attempts to understand how highly curated coworking cultures impact the professional identities of members and their organizations and to what extent members of these more exclusive coworking spaces identified with the culture of their space and whether this changed how they identified with their company or employer. Here are some quick facts about that study:

  • Conducted with WeWork between 2017-2018 with 1,000 of their new individual members based in the United States
  • 71% worked full-time for companies either located in a WeWork office or used WeWork for remote teams and individuals
  • 29% were business owners, contractors, sole proprietors and part-time workers
  • The surveyed asked members to show their level of agreement with statements like “I have a lot in common with others at WeWork,” and “I have a lot in common with others in my organization.”

The findings

Overall, the study found that members still strongly identify with their work organizations and that the WeWork brand identity doesn’t dilute the identity of the organizations housed in their space. Instead, it suggested that workers are positively impacted when their work environment aligns with their company’s values and brand.

Further, coworking spaces gave some members a sense of community and legitimacy they might not have gotten from working at home or from a coffee shop. What’s more is those with company-subsidized memberships felt that their employers took their needs seriously and valued them as much as non-remote workers.

Devil’s advocate: could coworking spaces become the CrossFit boxes of productivity?

Like the open office layout heralded for breaking down the barriers cubicles built in the Yuppie era, we wonder if coworking spaces could eventually resemble little slices of the heaven we’d associate with massive millennial-friendly corporate HQs like the Googleplex: replete with amenities, an inspirational work culture, interior design from the future but also a potential honey trap in terms of work-life balance.

Like the CrossFit gyms that became popular for their supportive, if addictive fitness cultures, there could be similar consequences to coworking spaces that like gyms, are also membership-based spaces where cultures can begin. Where CrossFit “boxes” whipped tons of people in amazing shape, they also broke a lot of them due to overtraining and improper to downright unsafe exercise practices. Similarly, we know the obvious implications of an office that looks and feels much better than our favorite coffee shop or home.

April 16, 2019

AI is improving, not taking journalists' jobs

While the fear of AI replacing human jobs in certain sectors might be warranted, those in the journalism field can breathe a sigh of relief and even rejoice, according to journalists from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, WIRED, Dogtown Media and Graphika.

Earlier in March, five journalists from those publications met with and spoke to over 1,000 students across the Missouri School of Journalism, the Trulaske College of Business, the College of Engineering and the College of Arts and Science on March 18-19 as part of the Reynolds Journalism Institute’s Innovation Series.

The overall message was that AI is bringing positive change to the news field such as through customized content, improved user relationships, moderating comment sections, and creating more efficient workflows.

Some key takeaways

  • Artificial intelligence is a tool to allow journalists to better understand readers. “Can we make a story more personally relevant to a user, to the reader, watcher or listener? If we can do that, that’s what makes people establish trust. Not just that the information is believable, but the information is believable AND it matters to ME.” (Jeremy Gilbert, Director of Strategic Initiatives, Washington Post)
  • We must recognize what AI is and is not capable of in order to make it work for us. It is certainly an imperfect tool, but has allowed Conde Naste publications to make more strategic spending decisions with advertising thanks to data that provides a better understanding of its users. (Jahna Berry, Head of Content Operations, WIRED)
  • AI offers a means for journalists to re-imagine and better leverage their skill sets. The issue that has always existed for journalists that “there’s always been more data than (journalists) can sift through, You just have to know how to ask the right questions (of) the data, the records, to get (to the) relevant story.” (Nick Monaco, Disinformation Analyst, Graphicka)
  • Journalists need to know who writes the algorithms behind AI, understand their intentions and ultimately hold them accountable. (Steve Rosenbush, Enterprise Technology Editor, The Wallstreet Journal)
  • AI is useful to journalists in allowing them to work smarter, faster and more efficiently. This will then free up more time for journalists and other knowledge workers to think creatively on problem solving and apply themselves to what they do best. (March Fischer, CEO and Co-founder, Dogtown Media)

We’ve been here before

In an episode of MAEKAN It Up, we discussed the potential impact of AI on the creative industries and the workers in them. As with journalism, the importance of human intuition will remain a key factor that prevents the complete replacement of human creative jobs, but it will at least replace a number of human tasks—hopefully the least desirable ones.

Regardless of the job nature, there will always be tasks that are important but time-consuming and that require significantly less creative thinking. And it’s these tasks that we would be happy to allow AI to “have” so that it frees us up to do other things that utilize more of our skill set. Or even better, it can do several rough but usable first passes or concepts that we can then tweak or re-iterate from.

Overall, like Monaco and Fischer above, we remain confident that for now, AI has a welcome role to play by doing our tasks, but they won’t be taking our entire jobs.

April 9, 2019

VSCO is suing PicsArt over reverse-engineered photo filters. Is preset armageddon approaching?

VSCO is suing PicsArt, a photo-sharing platform and editing app, for allegedly ripping off the company’s presets.

VSCO’s business of presets

While VSCO isn’t the only company to offer presets for sale (as well as free ones), they’re undoubtedly the best example of a company that has married community and photo editing. Early in VSCO’s existence, they offered a series of presets based off of classic film emulations that worked in tandem with Lightroom and Photoshop. Since then, VSCO has turned the corner to focus primarily on mobile and with it, a subscription service called VSCO X. VSCO X offers exclusive presets, transformative editing tools, and educational opportunities. To that point, VSCO’s presets are what draw in followers, but they stay for the community. To date, there are 187.5m #vsco and 197.6m #vscocam hashtags on Instagram.

What’s the VSCO and PicsArt beef?

  • VSCO alleges that 17 or more PicsArt employees made accounts on VSCO
  • PicsArt then reverse engineered 19 of VSCO’s presets, and then integrated them into their own platform as PicsArt exclusives under their Gold subscription plan
  • This is in direct violation of VSCO’s terms where users “agree not to sell, license, rent, modify, distribute, copy, reproduce, transmit, publicly display, publicly perform, publish, adapt, edit or create derivative works from any VSCO Content.”

Is there actual merit or do they just look really similar?

Actually, there are cold, hard numbers that suggest they’re direct rips:

“VSCO’s color scientists have determined that at least nineteen presets published by PicsArt are effectively identical to VSCO presets that are only available through a VSCO account. Specifically, VSCO determined that those PicsArt filters have a Mean Color Difference (“MCD”) of less than two CIEDE2000 units (in some cases, far less than two units) compared to their VSCO counterparts. An MCD of less than two CIEDE2000 units between filters is imperceptible to the human eye and cannot have been achieved by coincidence or visual or manual approximation. On information and belief, PicsArt could have only achieved this degree of similarity between its filters and those of VSCO by using its employees’ VSCO user accounts to access the VSCO app and reverse engineer VSCO’s presets.”

Why is it a big deal?

The photography influencer community has relied upon alternative revenue streams outside of their actual craft which includes workshops and presets. Some personalities like James Popsys are adamant against presets based on creative principle, but the general sentiment is that many photographers are using preset bases such as VSCO to which they make small tweaks, repackage, and sell them to their followers.

Notable court cases like VSCO bring to light that the gig might be up for repackaged VSCO sellers who are moving the highlight slider ever so slightly and desaturating a photo.

March 23, 2019

What It Takes is a book by MAEKAN Community's Dillion S. Phiri and focuses on Africa's young creatives

Creative Nestlings Whatever It Takes Book Dillion S. Phiri

What It Takes is a book that documents the emerging creative class in Africa. The book published by Dillion S. Phiri, founder of Creative Nestlings, serves as a tool to connect Africa and beyond. The multi-faceted Creative Nestlings platform focuses on “nurturing a curious, creative, innovative and entrepreneurial mindset” across Africa. For the book, Whatever It Takes, Dillion and his team captured the story of 60 young African creatives and outlined their processes and challenges in an emerging world. It’s an exciting time for the continent of Africa and its diaspora. The intersection of global network and connective tools are resulting in some exciting opportunities ahead.

What It Takes is available now via hardcover for USD 48.63.

March 20, 2019

Fragrances are about to play a new role in your wellbeing

smell fragrance olfactory onotes

Fragrances play a big part in our lives, although we might fail to actively recognise that. In a world where high definition TVs can capture every single colour and audio systems that can make your skin shiver (even kill you!), we hardly experience smell beyond traditional frameworks. However, all this is about to change thanks to new scientific findings and initiatives.

Scent and human evolution

Our modern times have relegated scent to the back burner. Instead, we’ve primarily focused on the senses around hearing and seeing. Dr. Jenny Tillotson, explains how the origins of humans and scent were crucial for survival. “In prehistoric times, the sensory appreciation of our ancestors could detect danger, ripe food, diseases, when females were ovulating, but today we rely on data to inform us of all of these things. Going back to that could have benefits ranging from allergies to sleep to mental health.”

Fragrances and olfactory research are still nascent

We are still slowly learning how smell and subsequently fragrances impact the human mind. Just as light played an important role in improving productivity, so can smell according to David A. Edwards of oNotes. oNotes is known as the “iTunes of smell” and allows users to make playlists of preferred smells and override olfactory fatigue. Programs like oNotes are redefining the importance of smell in improving our wellbeing.

Technology to drive innovation

Whether its inefficient perfume bottles or smell emitting fitness trackers, technology will play a pivotal in bringing smells to the mainstream. Multiple companies including IBM are entering and looking to integrate smell into our lives. Ultimately, fragrances and smells will play a central role in our wellness as we continue to understand human biology. The future is bright as intelligent systems will help us strive to be the best versions of ourselves, no matter what the field.

February 4, 2019

Huawei releases AI app that translates emotions into sounds for the visually impaired

Chinese smartphone company Huawei has released an AI-powered app that translates emotions into sounds for the blind and visually impaired, called Facing Emotions.

A worthy partnership

Facing Emotions was developed in collaboration with the Polish Blind Association and a key group of the blind community, and uses the back cameras to scan the face of the person with whom the blind person is talking. AI then processes the identified emotion and transmits the sound through the phone’s speaker or an earpiece if the person is using one. This is all done in real-time and offline mode.

How it works

The app uses the Huawei Mate 20 Pro’s powerful camera and AI to translate seven universal human emotions into seven short and unique sounds created by blind composer Tomasz Bilecki.  Sound samples tested by a team of blind consultants were rated as easy to remember and understand while being non-invasive for the user and their environment. Huawei also released a neck-worn holder designed to make using the app more intuitive.

December 31, 2018

The WeTransfer Ideas Report 2018 offers some tips for creativity

WeTransfer asked 10,128 of their users, spread over 143 countries, about what makes them creativeThe study came to several conclusions that you probably already know.

Idea generation
When asked where they were most likely to get ideas from, creatives answered that real-life experiences like talking with friends, travel, nature, books, magazines, and galleries are more likely to generate good ideas than social media. Neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf explains that when something enters our mind, it does so through a multitude of sensory experiences: taste, smell, and spatial information to name a few. By experiencing things in real life, we think much more profoundly about them, whereas a screen presents lots of content to skim.

Eureka moments

  • 47% of people said their best ideas came at work.
  • 29% on my commute.
  • 23% in bed.
  • 17% in the bathroom.
  • 15% doing exercise.
  • 13% in cafés.

Lu Chen, a professor at Stanford University, agrees that the best ideas will come at work, saying that we need to engage our minds at a high intensity to have any meaningful thought. This said, the results also show that too much intense thought can leave us locked up, cornered by our thinking. In this case, doing exercise or taking a bath or shower can help free up enough space in our minds for original ideas again.

Pen versus phone
40% of respondents like to record their thoughts on paper, while ‘on a computer’, ‘in my head’, and ‘on my phone’ each got around 20%. Pam Mueller, a social psychologist, says what we have all been told at some point: recording thoughts on a computer often winds up being a mindless transcription-like task, while writing our thoughts down on paper requires more care and concentration.

The question, “What inspires your best ideas?” lead to results showing 47% of people see film as their main source of inspiration. Books, friends, and travel also ranked above websites as sources of creative inspiration. This may partially be because 18% of people said that getting distracted online obstructs good ideas.

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