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June 5th, 2022

In this short essay, I posit that Facebook’s hard turn towards virtual reality and headsets stems from the realization that new devices who wish to compete for user’s attentions must be immersive.

On October 28th 2021, Facebook announced that it would change its name to Meta, short for Metaverse, in a bid to publicize their dedication to being a Metaverse-focused company. The move shocked many analysts as Facebook’s virtual reality business is not profitable compared to its other endeavors, namely The Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp. Evercore ISI analyst Mark Mahaney estimated that at an approximate $5.4-6.4 billion dollars in operating losses this year, the bet on VR would eat 5-6% of the company’s operating margin.

Why then bet on virtual reality headsets?

  1. Facebook runs an advertising business: they make money selling views, impressions and clicks.
  2. That business model is under attack.
    1. Apple’s privacy changes have, through its new App Tracking Transparency feature, hinders the ability for mobile apps to track its users and confirm whether purchases or a download was made after seeing an ad, basically rendering conversion tracking impossible. 
      1. Facebook estimates the changes will result in a $10 billion dollar revenue loss this year
    2. It’s been a Pulcinella’s secret that digital advertising is not as efficient as many of the tech giants purport it to be. According to a 2-year study conducted by PwC, only 12% of impressions companies pay for could be traced. Moreover, there was a 15% unknown delta on average of spend that couldn’t be attributed to the fees disclosed by the companies.
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October 31st, 2021

Privatronics

In 2003, Russian artist Alexie Shulgin, a pioneer of Net Art, created Privatronics, a web page for a factitious eponymous corporation that produced and sold human-like masks like the one featured in the header image. Its goal is to protect its users from face recognition-based modes of surveillance.

The company’s blurb reads:

“Fed up with constant observation of your private life? Aware of modern surveillance and face recognition technologies? Not happy with thousands of cameras following your every step? Privatronics® Personal Security System™ will protect your privacy, will make you feel more secure in any situation of your everyday life.”

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October 30th, 2021

I ran a seminar on Iteration and Playtesting this week in class at the Parsons School of Design. My aim was to showcase a product’s creation process as reactive to its technological context then run a playtest of that product using Sharp and Macklin’s framework for evaluating the design efficacy of games.

Specifically, I was interested in how users were able (or not) to achieve their goals of “Playing Music” using an iPod, the original portable music player released by Apple in 2001. I was curious to see if 20 years later the intended experience was still intelligible by a much younger audience. Most people in my class were 1 when the iPod was released.

In evaluating the playtest, we looked at actions, goals, challenges, information spaces, feedback, decision-making, player perceptions, contexts of play, takeaways, and emotions.

After the playtest, we incubated and brainstormed on potential improvements to the first iPod.

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October 8th, 2021

What do Crypto-PFPs reveal about the state of modern selfhood?

Le moi est haïssable - Pascal in Pensées (1670)

Self Under Siege

Ever since it glanced at itself in the mirror, the self has been uneasy. This essay explores two different types of visual representations of the Self, the painted portrait through art history, and the display picture on Facebook to explicate a third, the Crypto-profile-picture (from now on called “Crypto-PFP” or simply “PFP”) mainly used on Twitter and in adjacent networks such as Discord.