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This Week’s Techonomic 5

Welcome to the first installment of our Techonomic 5, a brand-new series spotlighting techonomic happenings from around the Web and beyond. Every week, our editorial team shares its picks of the top people, companies, and trends that exemplify tech’s ever-growing role in business and society. Here’s what’s grabbing our attention.

1. President Touts Skills Training for the New Economy

(Photo via Whitehouse.gov)

(Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In his State of the Union address, President Obama praised changes in education that shift curriculums to focus more on tech. “Teachers and principals in schools from Tennessee to Washington, D.C., are making big strides in preparing students with skills for the new economy—problem solving, critical thinking, science, technology, engineering, and math,” said Mr. Obama. He acknowledged that there is still much work to be done to prepare students for a technologized job market.

2. Post-PRISM, Our Neighbor to the North Is Seeing Green

In the wake of the NSA spying scandal, Canadian data storage companies have reported a surge in interest from international clients, particularly those in Europe and Asia. Though it’s hard to say whether the Great White North does indeed offer superior privacy protections, Canadian tel-com company Rogers says it’s received more data storage inquiries in the past year alone than in the previous 10 years combined, and expects Canadian data storage sales to rise 20 percent in 2014.

3. Tech Overload: There’s an App for That

Are you a Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (the list goes on) addict? Do you find yourself checking your iPhone before you get out of bed in the morning? Mental focus feels increasingly elusive as we tap into an incessant stream of information, and distraction, from our devices. How can we use tech more mindfully? Workshops on how to manage tech’s encroachment on our lives have started to pop up, and there’s a slew of new apps aimed at getting users to focus their attention.

4. How Netflix Sealed Blockbuster’s Doom

Blockbuster, the former giant of the video rental industry, announced in 2013 that it would shutter its remaining 300 stores across the country. The rise of Netflix and streaming video provide a cautionary tale about how industry leaders cannot afford even momentary complacency in an age of disruptive technology. In 2000, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings offered to sell a 49-percent stake of his company to Blockbuster and forfeit his brand. Blockbuster dismissed the deal, and the rest is history, told here by Ken Auletta in The New Yorker. Netflix has surfed tech-enabled product delivery, data-driven sentiment analysis, and, most recently, top-notch programming (see “House of Cards”) to Wall Street success and critical acclaim.

5. “Visitors” director Reggio: Tech is the New “Host of Life”

A still from "Koyaanisqatsi."

A still from “Koyaanisqatsi.”

Director Godfrey Reggio first collaborated with Philip Glass on his groundbreaking wordless film “Kayaanisquatsi” (1982), the first of what is known as the qatsi trilogy. Reggio and Glass recently released “Visitors,” another wordless film that offers subtle commentary on the impact of tech and media on society. “Technology for me is one of the most misunderstood subjects in the world,” said Reggio in a recent interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. “We think that we use it, that it’s the use or misuse we make of it that determines its value. For me it’s as ubiquitous as the air we breathe. Everything is situated in it, its truth become the truth. And, since we’re human beings, we become the environment we live in, technology is the new and comprehensive host of life.”

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