Charlene Weisler: Give me a short history of the NYC Media Lab.
Steven Rosenbaum: The NYC Media Lab was created by a consortium of New York universities, NYC Economic Development, and the Mayor’s office of media and entertainment back in 2010. In that time, we’ve grown our community of corporate partners to include Hearst, the Associated Press, The New York Times and Consumer Reports, among others. We work to act as a bridge between the extraordinary talent of New York’s academia and students, and media and technology companies looking to partner with academic resources to see where technology is taking us.
Weisler: How is the NYC Media Lab playing a role in NYC's tech development?
Rosenbaum: We’re both an innovator and a matchmaker. While New York’s universities are very much part of the fabric of the city, the sheer scope of the programs and labs can make it hard for industry to find the right research partner or student startup that fits their needs. Often we are able to cut through the noise, and answer industry questions about where they can find resources without having to hunt through the sometimes impenetrable sea of university programs.Weisler: What were the takeaways of the recent NYC Media Lab Summit 2021?
Rosenbaum: The red-hot topic was certainly artificial intelligence. AI is fueling innovation across many of our industry partners. The AI and Local News panel that I moderated was both exciting and a bit daunting. As the panelist pointed out, the local news business is under economic stress. So AI is being looked at both to streamline costs, and to give journalists new tools to do their jobs better.
One exciting surprise, was from Audrey Cooper, the editor in chief of WNYC. She shared with the audience that she plans to double the size of her newsroom over the next year, including both developers and journalists. This was a very positive sign.
Weisler: What are industry priorities?
Rosenbaum: The priorities are clearly to serve users, but also to be aware that this is growing concern about data privacy, and user control of data. And with the growing criticism of Facebook, after the cascading issues first in the Wall Street Journal, and then on "60 Minutes" and in Congress, the summit’s keynote conversation with NYU’s Laura Edelson was gripping and relevant. She is the co-founder of the Ad Observer, a research project focused on Facebook. Edelson had her account shut down, and says Facebook is fighting to keep legitimate researchers from reviewing the platform.
Weisler: What are the current challenges in the industry?
Rosenbaum: Certainly the challenges raised by COVID are far from over. As companies found their employees working remotely, there are real questions about the long-term productivity of hybrid work. For New York startups, the high cost of living makes remote work, in lower costs regions, appealing. So keeping the value of being in New York front and center in the startup community will remain important.
Weisler: Where do you see NYC in the tech sector in the next two years?
Rosenbaum: The next two years will be extraordinarily strong. New York has the wind to its back, with tech, media, and life sciences all advancing. And federal dollars flowing into New York’s research community have only grown under President Biden. So the next two years, we’re in good shape. The longer term horizon is more complex and fraught with some risk.