April 01, 2008
Microcelebrity — by Clive Thompson
- Almost Famous
In the age of microcelebrity, everyone's a little Brad Pitt
Whenever Peter Hirshberg is at a party, someone eventually pulls out a camera and takes a snapshot with him in it. Hirshberg — chair of the executive committee at the blog-search company Technorati — performs a quick mental calculation: Does the photographer look like one of those people who will immediately dash home and post all their candids to Flickr? "If I think it's going to end up on the Web, I straighten up more, try to smile the right way," Hirshberg says. "Because if it goes online, people I know will probably see it."
Hirshberg has a blog, which means a couple hundred people — some strangers, some friends — regularly follow his comings and goings, his Facebook updates, his online photo trail. Any time he does something embarrassing or stupid, those people will know. So in essence, Hirshberg has to behave like a very minor version of Brad Pitt. He's got to watch out for the paparazzi, be careful with his public image.
But he's not a celebrity. He's a microcelebrity.
Microcelebrity is the phenomenon of being extremely well known not to millions but to a small group — a thousand people, or maybe only a few dozen. As DIY media reach ever deeper into our lives, it's happening to more and more of us. Got a Facebook account? A whackload of pictures on Flickr? Odds are there are complete strangers who know about you — and maybe even talk about you.
Geoffrey Grosenbach, a programmer in Seattle, wrote a Twitter post about a new office chair he got — then discovered people in Australia chatting about his purchase. A friend of mine learned that her microfans had formed a Yahoo group (with 125 members!) to discuss her blog. I've been touched by this trend, too: I once stumbled upon a discussion-board thread arguing over whether it's healthy for me to have a nanny look after my son during work hours — a personal detail I had revealed online.
Some of the newly microfamous aren't very happy about all the attention. Blog pioneer Dave Winer has found his idle industry-conference chitchat so frequently live-blogged that he now feels "like a presidential candidate" and worries about making off-the-cuff remarks. Some pundits fret that microcelebrity will soon force everyone to write blog posts and even talk in the bland, focus-grouped cadences of Hillary Clinton (minus the cackle).
But I think these gloomy predictions are probably wrong. The truth is that people are developing interesting social skills to adapt to microfame. We're learning how to live in front of a crowd.
If you really want to see the future, check out teenagers and twentysomethings. When they go to a party, they make sure they're dressed for their close-up — because there will be photos, and those photos will end up online. In managing their Web presence, they understand the impact of logos, images, and fonts. And they're increasingly careful to use pseudonyms or private accounts when they want to wall off the more intimate details of their lives. (Indeed, fully two-thirds of teenagers' MySpace accounts are private and can be viewed by invitation only.)
I now use a few coy tricks to communicate with the small group of people who follow me online. When the backlog of unanswered messages in my inbox grows too huge, I'll post a message to Facebook or Twitter pleading "Snowed under by work!" in the hope that my audience — including, ahem, my Wired editor — will cut me some slack.
In essence, I'm sending out press releases. Adapting to microcelebrity means learning to manage our own identity and "message" almost like a self-contained public relations department. "People are using the same techniques employed on Madison Avenue to manage their personal lives," says Theresa Senft, a media studies professor and one of the first to identify the rise of microcelebrity. "Corporations are getting humanized, and humans are getting corporatized."
You could regard this as a sad development — the whole Brand Called You meme brought to its grim apotheosis. But haven't our lives always been a little bit public and stage-managed? Small-town living is a hotbed of bloglike gossip. Every time we get dressed — in power suits, nerdy casual wear, or goth-chick piercings — we're broadcasting a message about ourselves. Microcelebrity simply makes the social engineering we've always done a little more overt — and maybe a little more honest.
Whirling Hands Wall Watch
From the website:
- Crazy Wall Watch
Forget everything you know about telling time.
This wacky and wild timepiece is absolutely accurate — once you know its secret.
Rather than using the position of the hands to tell time, you have to note the numbers that they are pointing at.
At the top of every hour, the hands whirl to a new configuration.
Unique oversized watch-style presentation adds to the fun.
Clock face is 9½" diameter.
Watchband length is 4 feet.
Johnson's Baby Shampoo enters the 21st century
I espied the new bottle (above, left) last week at my local Kroger and was quite impressed by the change.
Conservation of what matters:
• Iconic red teardrop
• Bottle shape
Transformation of what doesn't (as much):
• Paper label from the front to the back
• Size of word "shampoo"
• Bottle top color
[photo credit: bookofjoe crack photography team]
Official Gum of John Rain, Assassin Extraordinaire
Better let Barry Eisler know instanter, what?
BBC iPlayer — Episode 2: On your iPhone
In last Friday's Episode 1 we welcomed this wonderful new tool.
Today I report, via Aaron O. Patrick's March 28, 2008 Wall Street Journal article, that the BBC has partnered with Apple to take its new service into the future, well ahead of the clueless U.S. TV networks which still haven't the faintest idea about what's going down around them.
BBC Chief Has Radical Designs on Internet
Unlike U.S. networks, which have only made tentative steps on the Internet for fear of losing advertising revenue, the BBC has thrown almost its entire schedule online. To do that, the broadcaster has bet big on iPlayer, a free computer program offered via the BBC's Web site and Apple Inc.'s iPhone, which allows anyone in the U.K. to download and watch BBC shows that have appeared in the past week.
Launched on Christmas Day, the iPlayer is already emerging as a cultural phenomenon, particularly among young viewers. About 17 million BBC shows were downloaded in the seven weeks after iPlayer's launch, compared with one million videos sold in the first three weeks after TV shows were put on Apple's iTunes store.
"It's pretty cool," says Ella Bloom, an 18-year-old University of Stirling student, who recently used iPlayer to watch a fashion-model show on her computer. "My friends told me about it." BBC executives say they believe the iPlayer will become the industry standard in Britain and will be launched in the U.S. this year.
Sounds like "real soon now."
Maybe it's time to move to England, where things seem to be happening.
Long story short:
It's a backpack that clips on your small car
and comes off to become
a suitcase or sports bag on wheels.
Videre est credere:
watch the video.
Snail Love — by Sam Gross
Audio Tooth — Those voices you've been hearing? Stay tuned
I want one.
- From a website:
mibec (micro-in-body-electronics-corporation) was invented
as a platform to launch an experimental idea — a miniature
telephone embedded in a tooth.
The audio tooth was presented as a radical concept in
personal communication to test the response of the public.
There are no plans to put the audio tooth implant into production.
That was then.
This is now.