Will the blockchain be the end of Uber, Airbnb, and Spotify?; White House responds to petition; and more.

  • Today’s civic tech must-read: mySociety researcher Emily Shaw gives her take on the defining-civic-tech debate. Here’s the key graf, IMO:

    [I]n the field we are building a clear definition of civic tech. It has to do with the way we believe we improve democratic self-management. We want to improve everyone’s ability to transmit information about their preferences into government. We want to improve everyone’s ability to get the information they want out of government. And we want to see what happens as information is processed in the middle. Civic technology seeks to improve government input/output, while opening the process to full view.

  • Don’t miss Scott Rosenberg’s latest report on Medium’s Backchannel on the potential of blockchain technology to end centralized services like Uber, Spotify, and Airbnb.

  • The Stanford Social Innovation Review’s Corey Binns did a field report on Color of Change for its Winter 2016 issue that nicely encapsulates the online group’s growth and impact.

  • The White House “We the People” team has responded to a petition from, marking the first time that the administration has responded officially to a petition from an outside organization. The petition, which had nearly 400,000 signers, is calling on the president to pardon Steven Avery in the Teresa Halbach murder case, which is the focus of the “Making a Murderer” documentary.

  • The White House will be making video of President Obama’s final State of the Union speech available to Amazon users starting this Wednesday, Brian Stelter reports for CNN.

  • And as White House Jason Goldman explains, on Wednesday more than 500 administration officials including the First Lady and Vice President will be doing a daylong question and answer session via social media, on what the administration calls “#BigBlockOfCheeseDay.”

  • Connections: Bhavik Lathia of the Indian online activist group Jhatkaa explains why Facebook’s push for “Free Basics” in India (the rebranded version of its is anything but a public service.

  • If Governor Andrew Cuomo has his way, every New York City subway station will have free Wi-Fi by the end of 2016, along with USB charging stations and mobile payments for subway fares, Andrew Hawkins reports for The Verge.

  • Related: Maya Wiley, counsel to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, reports for The Nation on the city’s ongoing efforts to increase access to affordable broadband.

  • Are Technica’s Cyrus Farivar profiles Shari Steele, the new director of the Tor Project.

  • Media downs and ups: Upworthy announced the lay-off of 14 of its 97 employees on Friday, cutting people from its intel, product development and editorial departments, in order to focus resources on its growing original video department, Kelsey Sutton reports for Capital New York. “Upworthy’s original video views grew to 167 million in December, more than 33 times what the site was seeing 11 months prior, at the launch of Upworthy’s video operation,” Sutton reports. “In the first week of January alone, Upworthy video views hit 67 million.”

  • Meanwhile, the Huffington Post is ending HuffPost Live in order to focus more on shareable, video content and long-form documentaries, Alex Weprin, Joe Pompeo and Peter Sterne report for Capital New York.

  • Boston’s Metropolitan Area Planning Council is looking to hire a civic technology fellow.

  • Brave New Films is looking to hire a social media strategist.

  • Starman: RIP David Bowie, who was as much of a technological pioneer as he was a social one. Here he is in the New York Times in 2002, anticipating the future:

    The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it’s not going to happen. I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing. Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again. You’d better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that’s really the only unique situation that’s going to be left. It’s terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn’t matter if you think it’s exciting or not; it’s what’s going to happen.

  • In Quartz, Joon Ian Wong recalls Bowie’s history as a tech entrepreneur in the dot-com boom days, when he launched an Internet Service Provider called BowieNet.

  • Tonight in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, NYC, and San Francisco, people will be gathering to celebrate the life of Aaron Swartz and the publication of the new book of his writings, The Boy Who Could Change the World.