Tag: TikTok (page 1 of 2)

Brand-safe influencers and the blurring of reality

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.

Source: What’s the deal with fictional influencers? | Vox

Main-Character Energy

Before starting therapy, my wife said that she was concerned that I might “lose my superpowers”. One of the ways of thinking about this is as the Main-Character Energy discussed in this New Yorker article. It’s a vitality you bring to each day because you see yourself in a starring role.

Therapy did strip me of that, but in a good way. Instead of some Hollywood actor, I now see myself in a much more realistic light, rather in the way that social media can distort and mediate the view I have of myself. It means that I see myself a part of a whole, rather than set apart from it.

The impulse to see oneself as the focal point of the action is all the more powerful as we emerge from the dull isolation of the pandemic, when activities were limited to the likes of re-growing scallions and feeding bulbous sourdough starters. Post-covid, we want to reclaim control of our stories, exert ourselves upon the world, take our places as protagonists once more—and then post about it. During quarantine, the Internet was one of the few tethers to public connection. But publishing evidence of any social engagements, even C.D.C.-compliant ones, came with the risk of being shamed as reckless or self-indulgent. Now, suddenly, much of that fear of critique is gone. The “return of fomo,” as a recent New York cover described it, means the return of jealousy-inducing Instagram stories and glamorous TikToks.

Source: We All Have “Main-Character Energy” Now | The New Yorker

Professor goes to ‘TikTok University’

This is a fun, yet slightly disturbing, look at mansion houses for influencers where people create TikTok videos. The author is a university professor, which makes his insights all the more interesting in terms of the contrast with where some of these young people would otherwise be – i.e. university.

For the past thirteen years, I’ve taught a course called Living in the Digital Age, which mobilizes the techniques of the humanities—critical thinking, moral contemplation, and information literacy—to interrogate the version of personhood that is being propagated by these social networks. Occasionally, there have been flashes of student insight that rivaled moments from Dead Poets Society—one time a student exclaimed, “Wait, so on social media, it’s almost like I’m the product”—but it increasingly feels like a Sisyphean task, given that I have them for three hours a week and the rest of the time they are marinating in the jacuzzi of personalized algorithms.

Source: [Letter from Los Angeles] The Anxiety of Influencers, By Barrett Swanson | Harper’s Magazine