Untethered: What to Watch in 2019

The future is weird, good luck out there.

Irreality

It isn’t that we don’t know the difference between real and fake, it just doesn’t matter anymore.

Calling out inaccuracies has become tiresome. Bemoaning CGI, Shopped!, and Fake News is passé. Our efforts to cling to distinction between fact and illusion is stale in the face of an internet that seems to fluidly move from real to unreal.

Today, the lines of absolute are being blurred in new ways. We’ve seen the signs. The uncanny of a business with no end. The fakeness of everything else. In 2019 the popular conscious will relax its grip on the desire for reality.

Because the emails we send are Google autocomplete madlibs. The influencers we follow are pretending to be sponsored. The photos from friends have been altered, contoured, and tuned. The Skeezy Reddit users find the implications of Deepfake tech appealing rather than repulsive.

This is the new irreality.

And at the epicenter of this world sits Lil Miquela (and her cohort). Her immense impact on emerging culture shows that in our lives online we no longer find illusion unsettling; irreality is alluring.

Mind Games

From meme-propaganda to jarring authenticity, illusions will reign.

To-date, the marketing industry has used the internet as barely more than a tool of blunt force to strike at consumers. Modern marketing consists primarily as billboards in a newsfeed or hard-sell pitches that dog your path across sites.

Yet in the political realm, the internet has been used as a tool of covert impact and influence. We are still uncovering the beguiling ways entities at home and abroad have been able to influence modern American politics. In 2019 brands will blatantly burrow from these blueprints of mass subversion.

Playing Mind Games with Consumers:
It was recently reported that Netflix used scores of fake accounts to seed memes for their shockingly successful Bird Box release. Twitter users pointed out what seemed to be a multi-tendrilled initiative to incept the ubiquity Bird Box in the popular conscious. The strategy seemed to mimic the successful bot-driven disinformation campaigns of the 2016 election. Though Netflix has denied these reports, Bird Box’s success clearly hinged on a meme-engine that flooded social media following the film’s release.

Mind Games with Misinformation:
Others will build on this success as advertisers take cues from Russia and other entities who have mastery the internets ability to shift perspective. The IHOB campaign shows another approach to strategic disinformation. Publishing a blatantly false news report spurred coverage and reinvigorated interest in the ailing brand. This move could have been blamed on a rogue social media intern, but instead we learned it was born from one of the most effective marketing companies in America.

Playing Mind Games with the Competition:
Balenciaga is employing mind games to revolutionize the way consumers interpret luxury. Using smudgy iPhone photos as art direction, the brand has cleverly differentiated themselves when it seems every other fashion house simply changed their font. The brand’s Instagram account presents a bizarro vision that erodes long-held concepts of fashion. Balenciaga’s ambitious Winter 18 video dismantles the concept of concept, leaving the viewer to reconsider their relationship toward the symbols of luxury presented by other brands. How are their competitors to compete?

Engineered for Apathy

The cognitive load required to participate in a life logged-on is driving changes in entertainment and technology. Welcome to The Great Relief from Distinction.

The overload of the internet has set into the psyche and companies are responding with offerings that soften the need for attention and comprehension. Let’s take first music, a medium being increasingly stripped of context and code. Spotify is the maestro here, slowly erasing the time, space, and context of music. As Spotify shifts listening from albums and songs to playlists and moods, new products must rise to meet the market. Many call this shift Spotify-core. Artists like Khruangbin, Greta Van Fleet, and Post Malone signal the new world, music meticulously designed to be indistinct.

This is all the output of a strategy built to succeed in algorithmic classification and eschew the mental effort of contextualization.

We also see apathy at work in Stories, a product that has been perfected for disinterest. Stories are the pinnacle intersection of low-barrier creative and low-effort engagement.

Gone are the icky feelings associated with public replies. Gone are demands for a point-of-view. We are instead left with a dull echo of content that never surprises and takes only a sliver of necessary attention. The rhythmic doldrum of clicking through stories signals the next evolution in social media.

Tech products that are successful simply because they ask far less of us than we have been asked before.

2019 will rise more of these creations.

Artifacts that require nothing more than ambivalence.

✌🏼Thanks for reading.