Shifting Sentiments
I got excited about the Internet as far back as 1999 when The Cluetrain Manifesto was posted online. Web 2.0 and its shift toward social media promised an open, empowering and democratic environment. According to Wired Magazine, these two metatrends — fundamental technological change and a new ethos of openness — would transform our world into the beginnings of a global civilization, a new civilization of civilizations, that would blossom through the coming century (the cover title somewhat ironically was called The Long Boom).

In a context more fitting for wartime footing, this month's Wired cover presents a starch defense of tech. This comes in response to headlines and practices that reveal a much more dystopian picture than the once optimistic take. Consumers feel their data and privacy have been violated. Addiction and fatigue fueled by hateful comment threads and endless clickbait headlines are widespread feelings. And the recent panic the Nancy Pelosi video caused proved once again that something as simple as a slowed down video can change the conversation around what’s real and what’s not.

This sentiment shift is less about technological developments, but rather about changing culture norms. The business models began to shift with social media years ago, but the discourse around them has since changed. People in the know like Kickstarter founder, Yancy Strickler, compare today’s Internet to a dark forest. At night, the forest is quiet because the predators come out to hunt. To survive, the animals stay silent. Similarly, we’re retreating to our dark forests of the internet like newsletters, podcasts and private message boards to avoid predatory behaviors of the mainstream. As proof, see companies like Google and Apple putting privacy as the centerpiece of their consumer marketing strategies.
Judging by the headlines, truth is an endangered species as well as a tension communicators must take on. Recognizing untruths and attempting to present a different side of a story can both prove very difficult when so many have retreated to their dark forests. Author Rex Sorgatz recently called out one of the most effective ways people have succeeded in broadcasting alternative or deeper perspectives: creating contrarian content about very recent history. He calls this genre of documentaries, movies and podcasts like Fiasco and The Clinton Affair, "The Historical Cinematic Universe." But what about short term solutions for correcting false or incomplete information? Especially when serious damage can be done very quickly. A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes (a quote that, fittingly, has been incorrectly attributed to Mark Twain for the last century). 

Of course, the forest isn't all dark. As shared in our last newsletter, many of the tech problems of today could likely be solved by emerging intelligent technology. If we can learn to embrace it and use it to find new solutions, perhaps the dangers will diminish and we can come out from hiding again. 
Chris Perry 

P.S. In case you missed it, Media Genius is the new name for the newsletter. It better reflects how the content within has evolved and what you can expect to see as the worlds of artificial intelligence and media come together at a breakneck speed.  

As always, if you find this newsletter valuable I would be grateful if you encouraged others to sign up by directing them here.
What We're Reading
Content Experience
Against Waldenponding
By Venkatesh Rao, Ribbonfarm Consulting, LLC
Venkatesh Rao uses the term "Waldenponding" to describe the trend of unplugging from digital dependencies. But he advises against the practice. Whether we like it or not, we are all now part of a powerful global social computer that has the abilities to solve big problems of the world, and we need to do our part. 
Media Forensics 
How Many Bones Would You Break to Get Laid?
By Alice Hines, The Cut

Online forums of anonymous men have formed the collective belief that facial surgery is they only way to avoid a life of misery and loneliness. These problematic groups have hailed one doctor with a plastic surgery practice as their unwitting celebrity, and the answer to help them fake it to the extreme. 

Platform Dominance
How Has No One Learned That Twitter Stories Are Almost Always Made Up? 
By Madison Malone Kircher, Intelligencer

Nashville web developer Shane Morris tweeted a thread about the incredible story of when he "accidentally transported a brick of heroin from Los Angeles to Seattle." Except he made the whole thing up. The case is an interesting look at the often fabricated stories that go viral. 

Synthetic Content
Calvin Klein Apologizes for Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela Campaign
By Emilia Petrarca, The Cut

A recent Calvin Klein marketing stunt featured supermodel Bella Hadid kissing fictional virtual influencer Lil Miquela, who both identify as heterosexual. The controversy poses interesting questions about queerbaiting and “digisexuality” — a term brought into the spotlight after a Japanese man “married” a celebrity hologram last year. 

Media Forensics
How Tea Accounts Are Fueling Influencer Feuds
By Taylor Lorenz, The Atlantic

Tea accounts, so called because the word tea is slang for juicy information, are like online gossip magazines on steroids. They are networks of Instagram pages, YouTube channels, Twitter handles, and Facebook groups, many of them run by young fans and observers, that can create major mainstream attention. 

Platform Dominance 
I Staked Out My Local Domino's To See Just How Accurate Its Pizza Tracker Is 
Brian VanHooker, Mel

One curious man decided to stake out his local Domino's and track his order progress against the pizza tracker in the Domino's app. His conclusion: the tracker is in no way customized for individual orders. 

Media Forensics
Why Is Everyone So Obsessed With AOC? Let's Analyze The Memes
By Lam Thuy Vo, Buzzfeed News 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s fans and enemies are inventing a new kind of politics: fandoms and anti-fandoms that drive how we bond over candidates online. Today’s Instagram sticker is the new campaign button.

Emerging Technology
What's the deal with Yolo, the #1 app that's taken over Snapchat
By Karissa Bell, Mashable

There's a new app that's topping the App Store: Yolo. It's an anonymous Q&A app built around Snapchat that lets people ask their social media followers for feedback. But if the history of anonymous apps has taught us anything, it's that a platform's ability to deal with harmful content will make or make break these types of apps in the short term. 

Deep Take
Ctrl Shift Face
Ctrl Shift Face, an anonymous YouTuber, has gone viral with a series of celebrity DeepFakes. In this example, Bill Hader seamlessly morphs into Arnold Schwarzenegger. It's simultaneously uncanny, terrifying and hilarious.
Copyright © 2019 Weber Shandwick

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