Earlier this week, in a soon-to-be released episode of the Tao of WAO podcast, we were talking about the benefits and pitfalls of NGOs like Greenpeace partnering with influencers. The upside? Engaging with communities that would otherwise be hard-to-reach. The downside? Influencers can be unpredictable.
It’s somewhat inevitable, therefore, that “brand-safe” fictional influencers would emerge. As detailed in this article, not only are teams of writers creating metaverses in which several characters exist, but they’re using machine learning to allow fans/followers to “interact”.
The boundary between the real and fictional is only going to get more blurred.
FourFront is part of a larger wave of tech startups devoted to, as aspiring Zuckerbergs like to say, building the metaverse, which can loosely be defined as “the internet” but is more specifically the interconnected, augmented reality virtual space that real people share. It’s an undoubtedly intriguing concept for people with a stake in the future of technology and entertainment, which is to say, the entirety of culture. It’s also a bit of an ethical minefield: Isn’t the internet already full of enough real-seeming content that is a) not real and b) ultimately an effort to make money? Are the characters exploiting the sympathies of well-meaning or media illiterate audiences? Maybe!
On the other hand, there’s something sort of darkly refreshing about an influencer “openly” being created by a room of professional writers whose job is to create the most likable and interesting social media users possible. Influencers already have to walk the delicate line between aspirational and inauthentic, to attract new followers without alienating existing fans, to use their voice for change while remaining “brand-safe.” The job has always been a performance; it’s just that now that performance can be convincingly replicated by a team of writers and a willing actor.
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