A big discussion point in some media circles is how to recruit and prepare the next generation of media executives. For New York City, this effort has been in place for several years in the form of the NYC Media Lab. Executive Director Steven Rosenbaum explains how the Lab is helping to harvest the best and brightest for our industry.
Charlene Weisler: What exactly is Media Lab, and what is its history?
Steven Rosenbaum: Back in 2010, New York City Economic Development commissioned a survey to plan for the future of media and technology in New York City. The report was exhaustive, and it’s available for reading here.
There were a myriad of conclusions, with one calling for the funding and creation of the NYC Media Lab, which was launched as a consortium of NYC universities. NYU, Columbia, Pratt, CUNY, The New School, the School of Visual Arts and Manhattan College all joined together.
The concept was that New York’s universities had at their disposal the best and the brightest students, faculty, and graduate students in the world — and that they together could provide the city’s largest media and technology companies with a powerful resource to invent the future of media.
There was of course a workforce development aspect as well. We wanted students who graduated from our leading universities to feel welcome to stay here, build companies, get great internships, and build career-long opportunities that would strengthen our infrastructure of innovation. I don’t think the drafters of that report could know just how successful those plans would turn out to be.
Weisler: How can you keep pace with all of the changes in the industry?
Rosenbaum: The changes may seem shocking and destabilizing to outsiders, but if you have the benefit of working with extraordinary students, as we do at the Media Lab, then you can see with some clarity what the road ahead looks like.
Just by way of example, artificial intelligence — which is sometimes called machine learning — is going to change everything about how information is created, sorted, shared, monetized, and validated. Already our students are working with media partners to create content that is produced in conjunction with AI, and that results in an increasingly massive firehose of information. Then, AI steps in to help platforms find and filter information.
Of the thousand pieces of content that fight for screen time in your feed, it’s an AI algorithm that is choosing what makes it to your feed.
And finally, AI is increasingly reading content to help humans filter what is relevant. So machines are making media, and machines are reading media. These changes will only move faster as more devices capture information, and sift passive consumers into media producers.
Weisler: What are the major trends that you can identify for the Lab?
Rosenbaum: Well, certainly machine learning and AI. But that’s the tip of the iceberg.
Our students are working with The New York Times on a practice known as photogrammetry, capturing news stories in full 3D so that readers/viewers can walk inside of stories and locations.
Another team is working with Consumer Reports to explore how consumers control their data, and what companies ask for and should be shared with the click of button.
In education, we’re deep in the world of 5G, working the public schools and the folks at Verizon 5G labs to develop software and teaching environments to expand education into virtual worlds.
And with ASCAP Labs, we’re exploring the future of music and entertainment: Just how will the future of performance change as machines become part of the creation and performance experience?
And finally, with our friends at Bloomberg, the future of how machines engage in media is core to our ongoing investigations. And let’s not forget virtual reality and augmented reality — those worlds are going to be core to how stories are told to new immersive audiences.
Weisler: Where are the job openings?
Rosenbaum: New York’s tech community is growing quickly. We’re seeing huge footprints and headcount for Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Google, and in the media space, Netflix and Amazon are growing their production footprint.
I think you’re going to see a growing demand for developers, designers, writers, creators in 3D and VR, and people who have a creative mix of stories to tell, and new visual ways to tell them.
Will you be acting on stage, or acting in a virtual reality world — or performing as an avatar? It’s too early to tell, but the nature of storytelling is about exploring ideas in front of an audience, and then learning from that experience — so New York is positioned to lead the future of innovation and ideas.