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Bull Session

How Will SoundCloud Survive?

July 21, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week, we discuss SoundCloud’s cashflow woes, the difficulties of making money with online audio, and the ongoing problem of finding business models for digitized content. Last week, SoundCloud announced layoffs of 173 employees — about half of its staff — as well as the closing of its offices in San Francisco and London, leading to speculation that the service would soon shut down. However, in a blog post entitled “SoundCloud is here to stay,” the company’s CEO stated, “we did this to ensure SoundCloud remains a strong, independent company.”

As a premiere online music and podcast streaming service that enables users to share tracks, SoundCloud gives unsigned artists and podcasters an easy to reach listeners. However, the streaming audio category is getting increasingly competitive: Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and Pandora vie with SoundCloud for listeners’ ears. How will SoundCloud survive? Is there a new business model in the company’s future? Join us as we discuss.

Resources:
Music streamer SoundCloud has cash until fourth quarter after layoffs
SoundCloud says it’s ‘here to stay’ amid rumors it’s running out of cash

Bull Session

Storytelling and AI

April 20, 2017          

Episode Summary

On The Digital Life this week we explore storytelling, creativity, and artificial intelligence. Our cultural evolution is reflected in our ability to communicate through stories, creating shared experiences and meaning. Recent research from the University of Vermont and the University of Adelaide used an AI to classify the emotional arcs for 1,327 stories from Project Gutenberg’s fiction collection, identifying six types of narratives. Could these reverse-engineered storytelling components be used to build automated software tools for authors, or even to train machines to generate original works? Online streaming service Netflix already uses data generated from users’ movie and television preferences to help choose its next shows. What might happen when computers not only pick the shows, but also write the scripts for them?

Resources:
The Six Main Arcs in Storytelling, as Identified by an A.I.
The strange world of computer-generated novels
A Japanese AI program just wrote a short novel, and it almost won a literary prize

Bull Session

AI Goes to Art School

April 14, 2016          

Episode Summary

Can an AI create art? This week on The Digital Life we chat about the brand new “Rembrandt”, which was 3D-printed by an artificial intelligence algorithm, trained by analyzing the artist’s catalog of 346 paintings. The Next Rembrandt project, recently unveiled in Amsterdam, is, of course, not exactly the work of the Dutch painter Rembrandt van Rijn, but rather a portrait that replicates both the subject matter and the style of the artist with eerie accuracy. If art is an expression of humanity, a reaction to the world and the events around us, what does this latest AI advancement mean? We discuss all this and more.

Resources
The Next Rembrandt
A New Rembrandt: Can a machine capture an artist’s essential style?