Doing Old Thing in New Ways

The ‘Smart’ Trend in Hotelshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/23/business/electronic-smarts-at-hotels-attract-guests.html

New Publisher Authors Trust: Themselveshttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/17/business/media/david-mamet-and-other-big-authors-choose-to-self-publish.html

E-Commerce Companies Bypass the Middlemanhttp://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/01/business/e-commerce-companies-bypass-middlemen-to-build-premium-brand.html

Google opens Shopping Express pilot with free same-day deliveries in San Franciscohttp://www.engadget.com/2013/03/28/google-shopping-express/

Scientific Articles Accepted (Personal Checks, Too)http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-academia.html

Each of the articles talks about a new system which is using technology, especially social technology, to create both negative and positive information and product sharing in new mediums. The first article speaks of the way hotels are doing this, by focusing on providing guests with tech advantages, such as access to magazines and newspapers on their smartphones and tablets, or even providing such tablets with information. Other such systems used by hotels include responding to guest posts on Facebook or Twitter, providing rewards for using such services as FourSquare and providing wifi access cards for guests to use anywhere on their trips. An especially interesting perk provided by the Triton Hotel in San Francisco is customized rubber ducks.

The second article speaks of how many authors are now opting to self-publish books rather than use publishing houses because the new medium to publish, that is, digitally (e-books and online distribution), allows for greater revenue for the author, at 70% of sales rather than the mere 8-12% that publishing houses provide.

The third article speaks of a new company, Warby Parker, which is using the access technology has granted them to manufacturing opportunities to eliminate the middleman in the manufacturing and distribution of various products, particularly glasses, and, in doing so, vastly reduce their price to consumers.

The fourth article briefly describes a new service that Google has debuted called Shopping Express, which delivers orders to consumers on the same day when they order them.

The final article explains the growing prominence of pseudo-academic open-access scientific journals, which, rather than providing a high quality, selective medium for scientists to publish their work, charges people to publish virtually anything, without considering the validity of their information.

The key term in the first article is “smart,” which, in this situation, refers to the use of well-organized technology to better the experience of guests in hotels. In the second article, the key term is “distribution.” This refers to the ways in which books are not only sold to consumers, but also how they are marketed and how related ideas or services can be used to generate revenue. In the context of self-publishing, distribution is primarily digital. In the third article, the key term is “brand recognition.” The greatest problem for start-ups that, like Warby Parker, seek to eliminate middlemen, is generating recognition among consumers that is similar to the large brands that charge much more for the same products. While these established brands use this recognition to boost prices and, in doing so, boost profit, start-ups use this to become established, and provide the most effective service and product for the consumer at the lowest price. I believe that the key term in the penultimate article is “express.” Google’s new service is called Shopping Express, which entails that it provides products at faster than normal time, that is, on the same day they are ordered. The express represents the growing trend in today’s markets of instantaneous, or quick (express) access to products of information. While the Internet has already begun to provide this for information, there is a growing market for this sort of access to material possessions, exemplified not only by Google’s new service, but more importantly by the many services that compete with it. The key term in the final article is “open-access”. This refers to the quality among modern scientific journals of being openly accessible online, rather than only to print subscribers.

Doing old things in new ways means using modern technology to change the way people do things that they have done for a long time. For hotels, this means using technology rather than people to provide information and entertainment to people, since this is more intuitive to travelers today. For authors, this means self-publishing on a digital medium, using services that have only recently become available, rather than seeking contracts with large publishing houses. For start-ups like Warby Parker, this means taking advantage of the direct access to consumers that the Internet provides to create a sales process of various products without middlemen that handle various processes, such as manufacturing, distribution and sales. For Google, this means allowing consumers to interact with the existing infrastructure that stores have set up online, yet improving their access to these products by significantly shortening the delivery time, taking advantage of both increased bandwidth (speed at which they can receive this information) and processing speed (speed at which they can process this information and provide the product to the consumer. For some publishers of scientific journals, this means using the lack of confirmation of trust on the Internet to create a system in which pseudo-academics can have prominence and recognition. Similarly, for scientists, this means having to be more selective and careful when publishing work in journals.

The primary change in human behavior that is being caused by all of these innovations is that people are using the Internet much more as both a place to find bit (information) and atoms (physical products). Hotels are taking advantage of this by providing a system that accommodates this to consumers who find it preferable, while consumers are similarly changing in that they are better able to use this system compared to a human-interaction-based system. Similarly, people are going online to find books and scientific journals, while these book publishers and scientific journals are focusing on improving the access people have to this information on this medium. Furthermore, people are going online to buy more often than going to physical stores, prompting Warby Parker’s initiative to take advantage of this by eliminating the middlemen in the manufacturing and distribution process, and Google by attracting business by providing a quicker service than other companies. I believe that the greatest cultural shift that all of these is working on creating is a bigger gap between people in the real world. As they continuously do more and more things online, in the world of bits, even if these things involve interactions with products that are made of atoms, they grow further and further away from their fellow humans. This is quite unfortunate, because it means that, while our infrastructure for working together is growing, our capacity to do so may be shrinking. It will be interesting to see how the launch of these specific products will impact that.

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