This week’s issue is guest-written by my colleague and collaborator Julia Dixon. Check out Julia’s take on the tech and innovators providing much-needed guidance, connection, and peace this holiday season – and let us know what you think. — Chris
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Addressing the Holiday Gap

For those in the US, post-election drama and an escalating pandemic promise the perfect storm of already-high family tensions this Thanksgiving. That is if you’re gathering for the holidays at all. Most states are strongly advising against it as COVID cases continue to rise. Some in warmer climates are considering outdoor festivities. Most are looking for ways to celebrate apart, and nearly everyone is wondering how they'll reimagine holiday traditions as December rolls around. 

Journalist Michelle Dean says that "crisis forces commonality of purpose on one another." Delivering on this common purpose are a handful of big companies, graphic designers, app developers, and individual entrepreneurs filling gaps we may not have even realized were there. Those thriving in this uncertain time are looking past typical seasonal trends and asking questions that get at the core of what people crave. 

Guidance. Families are wondering if and when they can gather safely with loved ones this holiday season. Services like Georgia Institute of Technology's COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool are stepping in to help inform decision-making. New and renewed data visualizations like the Swiss Cheese Model, which emphasizes the importance of layered disease prevention methods, provide memorable mental models that help people stay safe. And emerging applications like Airsider's COVID-19 Flight Tool inform potential travelers of safety measures and restrictions at airports and airlines globally. 

Connection. While physically gathering for the holidays may not be possible, most are still looking for ways to connect with loved ones this season. Tech companies like
Zoom are facilitating by eliminating time limits for free sessions on Thanksgiving. Other services offer new forms of virtual entertainment for distanced families to enjoy together – from magic shows to virtual games ranging from cooking challenges to murder mysteries to group watch extensions for a post-feast movie. And as has been true throughout the pandemic, humor helps us collectively cope with trying times  — like these reimagined Thanksgiving traditions from Jimmy Fallon. 

Peace. A year of economic, political, and social unrest has left us exhausted. Stepping in to provide some relief are tools to help us see eye to eye, like the "
how to talk to your family about disinformation" guide. Other resources provide prompts to help families rediscover gratitude. But for many, peace is best found in the form of distraction — and luckily there is no shortage of new and classic holiday specials to dive into this season.

A tough season in an already tough year calls for reimagined celebration. As we explored with the
NBA, sometimes the most severe circumstances spawn the most exciting change. As we progress further into the holidays, I'm optimistic about the ways innovators will identify white space to address needs for guidance, connection, peace, and beyond. 

Julia Dixon

PS - Stay tuned for an exclusive first look at our latest research "What Happens After the Coherence Crash." Invites for our Media Genius community will be coming this week — hope to see you there. 

What We're Reading
New Influence
Why Post-Pandemic Ubers and Netflixes Will Be Nothing Like Their Predecessors
By Chris Howard, The Next Web

Catastrophe isn’t just a catalyst for starting a new business, but a chance for systemic change in business. When the Coronavirus pandemic is finally behind us, we will look back and find that the great business disruption of our time wasn’t the Netflix of marketing or the Uber of supply chain management. The movement that finds a completely new way to empower the culture class of creators, inventors, and founders with a business-building framework that fits the morals of the artist rather than the other way around will be hailed as the great innovator of our time.

Modern Content Canvas
The Substackerati
By Clio Chang, Columbia Journalism Review
Newsletters go back at least as far as the Middle Ages, but these days, with full-time jobs at stable media companies evaporating — between the 2008 recession and 2019, newsroom employment dropped by 23 percent — Substack offers an appealing alternative. And, for many, it’s a viable source of income. In three years, Substack’s newsletters—covering almost every conceivable topic, from Australian Aboriginal rights to bread recipes to local Tennessee politics—have drawn more than two hundred fifty-thousand paid subscribers. As more journalists embark on independent careers, could newsletters be the answer to a more equitable media system?
TikTok Users Forced Trump to Shut Down His Election Fraud Hotline

By Matthew Wille, Input Magazine
It’s been two weeks since President Trump’s team established a voter suppression hotline, encouraging people to report voter fraud and irregularities. The hotline has since been shut down after TikTok users flooded it with fake calls — the second time Gen Z has successfully organized on the platform to interfere with the Trump reelection campaign.  
Data Ethics
Colleges Say They Don’t Need Exam Surveillance Tools to Stop Cheating

By Todd Feathers, Vice

Companies have made millions selling exam monitoring software during the pandemic, but many universities have adopted less-invasive alternatives. Educators who object to proctoring software for ethical or logistical reasons are looking for alternative means to assess students in ways that are fair, protect privacy, and also result in better educational outcomes than high-stress, high-stakes exams.

Media Intelligence
The World of Anti-Fake-News Video Games
By Quinn Myers, Mel Magazine

A team of psychologists at the University of Cambridge have developed a video game, Harmony Square, that quickly introduces players to the basics of misinformation — namely, why it’s created, what it looks like and how it spreads. Results of an early study indicate that these kinds of games are highly effective at preventing players from sharing misinformation in the future. This isn't the first example that proves gaming isn’t just for entertainment anymore — and surely won't be the last.

Media Intelligence
Parler's Winning the Right-Wing App War
By David Pierce, Protocol

Over the years, contenders aiming to be the ultimate "censorship-free" platform have ranged from Gab to MeWe to Rumble, but it looks increasingly like Parler is going to win. Its been the most popular free app on both iOS and Android for the last several days, beating even chart-topping mainstays TikTok and Zoom. Will its new-found popularly outlast the post-election frenzy?

Modern Content Canvas
“Emily in Paris” and the Rise of Ambient TV
By Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker

When musician Brian Eno coined the term “ambient music," he described it “as ignorable as it is interesting." Netflix is pioneering a similar genre that some are calling ambient television. Like earlier eras of TV, it's less a creative innovation than a product of the technological and social forces of our time. Netflix’s catalog of reality shows and thinly-plotted fiction gives you permission to look at your phone, get some work done, or fall asleep with a light distraction.  

Emerging Technology
Twitter’s New ‘Fleets’ Are for People Who Are Afraid to Tweet
Will Oremus, OneZero
Last week Twitter launched “Fleets,” its version of Snapchat Stories (or Instagram Stories, or Facebook Stories, or LinkedIn Stories, or… well, you get the idea). From one perspective, this is just Twitter keeping up with the Joneses, launching a familiar feature in a characteristically belated fashion. In a call with journalists on Monday, however, Twitter executives made the case that Fleets are part of a larger push to reshape the service as something friendlier, safer, and more comfortable for novice users.  
Deep Take
IAB’s 2021 Brand Disruption Report Reveals COVID-19 Acceleration of Key Trends
IAB's latest report explores how brands of all sizes are innovating to address disruption accelerated by COVID and social unrest. Key findings indicate that the fastest-growing brands of 2021 will be storeless, data-rich, live, participatory, entertaining, localized, and streaming. As instant gratification becomes even more imperative, I'm curious to see how legacy brands apply these filters. 
Copyright © 2020 Weber Shandwick

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