The links in this week's newsletter were submitted and contextualized by a few of the students participating in our Fellows Edition of the Media Genius Master Class. Each example relates to a modern content canvas, the underlying theme of our third session. Learn more about the program here
Share Share
Tweet Tweet
Forward Forward
Share Share

A Living Canvas

When COVID-19 abruptly shut down campuses this year, a small cohort of seniors came together to save university life and graduation ceremonies. The approach was appropriately unorthodox for this moment — they built their campuses and staged graduation events within Minecraft. This idea started at schools like
UPenn and MIT and has since spread worldwide. Beyond college campuses, simulated experiences include the recreation of businesses and favorite TV shows inside Animal Crossing, art exhibitions in Fortnite, and birthday parties in Roblox. A massive social experience now takes place inside the metaverse, with people growing more comfortable living in a virtual world. 

We talked with students about this movement in our third Master Class session with Rahul Chopra, Head of Operations for Bitmoji at Snap Inc. He shared how platforms like Snapchat use AR filters and Bitmoji TV to immerse users into alternative worlds. The students' comfort level with these experimental forms of communication is indicative of their role as inhabitants in an alt-universe. For them, platforms are starting to serve less as a place to post, and more of a place to live. 

The condition of “living online” was considered a counterculture less than two decades ago. Individuals who spent the majority of their time online and built relationships there were perceived as geeks and socially inept. But now, like most counterculture movements, this idea of “
digitality” has been absorbed into the main fabric of society. As accelerated by COVID-19 and new tech affordances, we now carry an entire metaverse in the palm of our hands — allowing for unlimited expression. 

Brands are moving in too. Companies like Wendy’s and Nike have activated very successfully inside Fortnite. We recently worked with Chevy to drop a Corvette-themed download pack for Animal Crossing. And I’ve previously written about the surprising scale of engagement around the Marshmello concert in Fortnite. The most notable example of alt-experience design saw 27.7 million people attend the Travis Scott Fortnite concert almost 46 million times through a series of live events. More examples of the metaverse and other unique canvases from our students in the links below.

The metaverse is a new frontier for creative exploration and experience design. It's a canvas without limits, as Kevin Kelly likens to a 
mirrorworld that will be both strikingly similar and widely more expansive than our physical reality. We’re just now beginning to understand the potential to inhabit platforms in ways that will make posting and commenting culture seem quaint, maybe even silly. This alternative universe could very well be as significant as our physical one. As attention diverts to new platforms and experiences, a different type of universe is emerging that can no longer be overlooked.

Chris Perry

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable we would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Modern Content Canvas
The Games That Let Me Have an Imaginary Social Life
By Sarah Hagi, Vice

"The sense of escapism provided by video games is now being treated by many as an indispensable part of daily life, as people confront the global pandemic and spend an unprecedented amount of time alone. The solo journey in games also provides mental comfort through game design. That there are always world-saving quests to complete empowers players with a sense of fulfillment that is admittedly hard to find in real life right now, especially when the 24/7 combination of a grave public health crisis and dividing political news often leaves us feeling powerless."
Submitted by Zhifeng Wu, New York University

Modern Content Canvas
Pride Month: The Sims 4 is Hosting a Virtual Pride Parade on Twitch
By Shelby Brown, CNET

"For Pride Month, The Sims 4 celebrated the LGBTQ+ community with the first-ever virtual Sims Pride event. Players were encouraged to submit their best Sims Pride looks on social media and on the in-game gallery with the hashtag #SimsPride2020 for a chance to be featured in The Sims Pride Celebration Event and group photo. Sims YouTuber EnglishSimmer then hosted a Virtual Pride Parade live stream on The Sims Twitch channel According to The Sims, 'Celebrating Pride might feel complicated as people face the systemic oppression of the Black community head-on and brave the isolation of COVID-19. But none of us are alone."
Submitted by Isobel Helme, University College London

Modern Content Canvas
How I Made New Friends During the Pandemic
By Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

"Known by many as a workplace chatroom software, Slack demonstrates how Covid-19 has prompted the reimagination of how we use our apps. The author created an informal Slack channel that became a network of acquaintances joking and chatting on a platform not known for immediate responses and reactions. He found that his Slack chatroom was making him happier by connecting him to his 'weak ties'. Weak ties are not your best friends and family but 'the friendly bonds you form with people you may share a coffee or subway commute with, or see regularly at an exercise class.' The pandemic has severed these minor characters from our life that normally contribute to our well-being and broaden our knowledge base. While many of us may not have been in a random chatroom since the early 2000s, they may be a solution to restoring pre-pandemic life."
Submitted by Mary Brooks Perkey, Wake Forest University

Modern Content Canvas
Ridley Scott, Kevin Macdonald Reteam for YouTube’s ‘Life in a Day 2020’ Crowd-Sourced Documentary
By Todd Spangler and Naman Ramachandran, Variety

"A full-length documentary filmed by regular people? Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald did it in 2010 when they partnered with YouTube, and the group is teaming up again for 'Life in a Day 2020.' Participants are asked to film their normal day on July 25, 2020, and upload it to the Life in a Day YouTube website where it may then be used in the final documentary. The sheer magnitude of this project, the global collaborative aspect, and the fact that this takes place in an era where vlogs are more commonplace than they were in 2010 makes me wonder just how different this year's documentary will be compared to the first. This, along with the fact that so many people are unemployed, displaced, and/or spending time alone due to COVID-19, makes me think that there are vast creative opportunities around these perspectives."
Submitted by Dylan Lanas,
The University of Alabama

Modern Content Canvas
Here Are All the Livestreams & Virtual Concerts to Watch During Coronavirus Crisis
By Billboard

"Due to the cancellation of countless concerts and tours in 2020, Billboard has been keeping a consistently updated list of virtual concerts and festivals that fans can stream and enjoy from home. The most recent updates include performances and shows featuring artists such as Liam Payne, Zac Brown Band, Eric Benet, The Temptations, and many more. The livestreams include question and answer sessions, performances, and fundraising. Billboard's goal in providing this updated list is to help provide some relief and to 'share musical joy during these trying times.'"
Submitted by Samantha Tush, Saint Joseph's University 

Modern Content Canvas
Instagram Live Usage Jumped 70% Last Month. A Psychologist Says it's Because 'People Are Not Designed to be Isolated.'
By Paige Leskin, Business Insider

"People are spending more time than ever before on Instagram Live, with Instagram reporting that the platform saw a 70% increase in the use of the Live feature during March. The increase indicates how people are using the platform as a coping mechanism for the loss of social interaction since social distancing orders began. While applications like FaceTime and Houseparty are more often used for closed conversations, Instagram Live allows people to expand the virtual boundaries and meet and interact with new faces. It also serves as a powerful platform to amplify the voices of powerful activists, and allow people to converse, reflect, and educate themselves from home."
Submitted by Halle Foster, The University of Texas at Austin

Modern Content Canvas
The Awkward, Surprising Realness of Virtual First Dates
By Naomi Fry,
 The New Yorker

"A new trend we’re seeing is virtual dating in the age of coronavirus. Zoom has emerged as an alternative to dating apps as singles are opting for the online platform. Maybe Zoom will eventually allow users to 'swipe right?'"
Submitted by Lily Horsley, Washington and Lee University

Emerging Technology
Revolutionary 3-D Fashion Show Showcased By African Designer Anifa Mvemba
By Brittany Chambers, Forbes
"Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen all industries affected drastically, and fashion is no exception. Anifa Mvemba masterfully launched her collection, Pink Label Congo, on Instagram Live with 3D models, an amazingly innovative move for the fashion industry. She dedicated her line to her home country of Congo, highlighting African seamstresses, and raising awareness surrounding child workers in Congolese mines. Though the virtual release of her collection was in the works long before COVID-19, the creativity of Anifa’s virtual show revealed what the future of runway fashion could look like as we continue adapting to the 'new normal'."
Submitted by Ngozi Chukwueke, University of South Carolina
Deep Take
The Next Frontier in Storytelling Universes and the Never Ending Desire for More
By Matthew Ball and Jonathan Glick,
One of the strongest and most consistent human traits is our desire to escape to imaginary worlds where anything is possible. Modern technology began a century-plus process to achieve that goal across four dimensions: (1) immersiveness/believability; (2) persistence and frequency; (3) continuity across different media and mediums; and (4) audience control/influence. Understanding the metaverse allows us to better understand the next storytelling innovation, which stories will thrive and decline, how many we’ll support and love, and where they come from.
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.

Email Marketing Powered by Mailchimp