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Fall

2017

by
Sean Monahan
& Sophie Secaf
Poptismism ............................. 04
Memethink .............................. 29
Post personal Brand ............. 44
GenExit ..................................... 59

Based on trend Content & Creative Direction


Sean Monahan & Sophie Secaf
research, semiotic Content Editor
analysis and Rony Rodrigues

qualitative studies Art Direction & Design


Marcella Brito Franco
conducted in eight Contributors
U.S. states during André Alves & Bruna Baffa

the spring 2017. Sponsor


box1824.com
It’s the best
of times
It’s the worst
­— 1 of times
1 — POPTIMISM

We live in an age where people We’ve all been incepted by the Secret.
are individually optimistic and What’s social media if not a vision
collectively pessimistic. Somehow board for the life we wish we had? We
between the beaming selfies and Ingrid Goes West

don’t share what we have. We chart


the thunderous applause at TED what we want. We’re faking it until we
conventions, there’s a creeping make it, using the vernacular of pop
paranoia. Despite the hype: culture to conjure the lives we want.
We might be lost.
We know a better world is possible
Look at your friend’s Instagram — just look at any well-curated
page. Then take a peek in their feed. But we don’t quite know
medicine cabinet. Everyone’s which exit to take to get there…
a ‘thot’ in the streets and an Food, Travel, Wellness and Likes
insomniac in the sheets. Our are the raw material of our social
lives are defined by cognitive Poptimism Coping Mechanisms.
dissonance. In public, we project
perfection. In private, we’re
swamped with doubt.
1 — POPTIMISM

When we ask:

Who am I?

The internet answers...

This is what you want.


1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

POPTIMIST
COPING
MECHANISMS

Alternatives to the
anxiety of everyday life.
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

Kale is My
Antidepressant
Kale is for subs. Only a masochist
fetishizes a food that needs to be
massaged before it’s edible. A little
lemon juice. That half avocado
that escaped your toast’s morning
schmear. All is well. Food has become
more than a health obsession. It’s a
declaration of identity.
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

FOOD FOOD
HEALTH IDENTITY
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

Better
Than Well
Is life a balancing act or a competition?
Are we treading water or running an
uphill marathon? With life coaches
selling their services in chunks of
texting time, wellness looks more like
a data plan than actual self-care. The
world’s a crazy place. If there’s one
thing we should be able to control—
it’s how we feel.
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

WELLNESS WELLNESS
CARE CONTROL
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

Vacation
in Beta
Vacations used to have a tempo.
Two weeks for the Americans.
Two months for the French. But all
following the logic of: You went, you
saw, you returned. Today, we are
perennial hot dog legs. Splayed out
on the same beach at a smattering
of different geographic locations:
Phuket, Dominica, Stromboli, etc.
There’s no serious business that
can’t be typed out on a smartphone.
Are they relaxing? Are they
working? It’s unclear. They are,
however, drinking frozé on a beach.
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

TRAVEL TRAVEL
PERSPECTIVE POWER
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

$$$Likes$$$
for Likes
Influencer networks can be built the
easy way (through bots) or the hard
way (through personal brand). You
can buy likes, followers, retweets,
whatever. The only people who will
know if your network is real or fake
are those determined enough to
lurk your follower count. But for the
most part, high numbers give you
momentum. They’re the definition
of fake it ’till you make it.
1 — POPTIMISM / 1.1 POPTIMIST COPING MECHANISMS

FRIENDS FRIENDS
LOVE REACH
our brains
think in
­— 2 memes
2 — MEMETHINK

Those viral bits of culture that clog In the olden days, memes were super
up our feeds are also clogging up our rare. Culture moved slowly. The
brains. Our opinions sound like we’re memes you got from your family were
retweeting someone else’s hot takes. more or less what you were stuck
Everybody’s eyebrow game is identical with. Today, not so much. The world
to everyone else’s. is awash in memes. About what to eat
(avocado toast), memes about what
Memes (cultural content that to wear (Stan Smith’s),  memes about
spreads virally from person to what to do (fidget spinners), memes
person) aren’t new, but the speed about what to care about (#goals) and,
and reach of their spread have been of course, memes about what
amplified by the internet. to think…
2 — MEMETHINK

This isn’t conscious copying.


It’s unconscious synchronicity.
2 — MEMETHINK

But there’s a danger here (and it’s not The rise of the Alt-Right has been a
that the internet has made people less case study in the semiotic instability of
“real,” less “true,” less “authentic”)... images. The same way Hitler loaded a
good luck symbol (the swastika) with
The slippage between what people racism, the Alt-Right loads Facebook
say they want and what people really stickers (Trash Dove), reaction buttons
want isn’t really anything new. Double (Gratitude Flower) , and cartoon
entendre, reading between the lines, dog- frogs (Pepe) with similar implications.
whistling: these are all terms for subtle,
coded, or ironic forms of communication. Redpilling is the right wing’s term for
weaponizing Memethink.
More to the point, we exist in a media
The goal is two-fold. First, to convert:
environment defined by a very specific
If you’ve been a Spongebob superfan
form of coded language: marketing.
since you were 10, he’s the perfect
It’s become second nature for us to
vehicle to convince you vaccines cause
presume everyone has some ulterior
autism. And second, to destabilize:
profit motive. We’ve all internalized this What better way to undermine meaning
messaging style. than insist anything can be subverted?
Memethink is an image-based form of
groupthink, which makes it all the more
dangerous than its Orwellian cousin.
Thinking in images is inherently more
emotional than logical. It leaves us open
to having our thoughts hijacked by stupid,
half-baked, and just plain evil ideas.
2 — MEMETHINK / 2.1 MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS VS. MARKETPLACE OF IDENTITIES
2 — MEMETHINK / 2.1 MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS VS. MARKETPLACE OF IDENTITIES

Originally, people thought the internet


would combat superstitions, conspiracy
theories and ideologies. Yet our hyper-
mediated world is warping our brains,
making us unable to discern truth from
fiction. The internet was supposed to
be a Marketplace of Ideas. Instead, it
became a Marketplace of Identities,
a marketing vector — for brands and
people alike.

Have you ever felt like


social media was more
work than play?
That you weren’t really
being yourself, but
selling yourself?
2 — MEMETHINK / 2.1 MARKETPLACE OF IDEAS VS. MARKETPLACE OF IDENTITIES

When we put identities before ideas, we


put authenticity before truth, desire before
reality. When Oxford English Dictionaries
named Post-Truth the 2016 word of the
year, they were channelling this zeitgeist.
To thrive in this Marketplace of Identities,
we’ve been told we need to cultivate our
authentic inner selves and manifest them as
Personal Brands. Through coherent, pub-
lic-facing, cross-platform media output. Is this photo #myaesthetic?
We’ve been told this is the future. When in Does it ruin the grid?
Sharing too often? Not enough?
fact, it’s just the present.
This vision is so endemic that when we try If this all sounds exhausting, that’s be-
to imagine an alternative, we have trouble cause it is. The logic of Personal Brand is
imagining anything that breaks with or even anti-fluid. Every day is a slog to maintain
challenges this paradigm. coherence, a fight against the entropy of
everyday life. But if we’re all exhausted,
We’ve become characters in our own lives, we have to consider the possibility.
worried about settings, motivations, story
arcs. We’re waiting for the third act. But the Maybe we don’t want to live in a movie?
third act never comes. Maybe we want real life.
2 — MEMETHINK / 2.1 MARKET PLACE OF IDEAS VS. MARKET PLACE OF IDENTITIES

PEOPLE DON’T KNOW


WHO THEY ARE
PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
WHAT MATTERS
PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
WHO TO TRUST
PEOPLE DON’T KNOW
HOW TO FEEL
­— 3
3 — POST-PERSONAL BRAND

She logs into her She finds Deactivate Account


Facebook account and and it gives her a list:
searches around for Account
Settings. Facebook’s helper This is temporary. I’ll be back.
asks if she’s looking for I spend too much time using Facebook.
Privacy Settings. I have another Facebook account.
I get too many emails, invitations, and
“No,” she thinks. “I’m done” requests from Facebook.
I don’t understand how to use Facebook.
I don’t feel safe on Facebook.
I have a privacy concern.
I don’t find Facebook useful.
My account was hacked.
Other, please explain further...

She picks Other and types in:


Ughhhhhhhhhhhh
3 — POST-PERSONAL BRAND

If you look at Gen Z, the emerging Dazed One Hundred are selling. This
demographic born from 1998 to the hyper-visible demographic of micro-
present, a different story emerges. celebrities and digital influencers
Information is scarce about them. is biasing our read on reality. Are all
None of them have left their teen Millennials like Kim Kardashian? Are all
years behind, and few are even legally Gen Xers like Kurt Cobain? Are all Baby
adults. They’re a generation defined by Boomers like Donald Trump?
technology, like the older Millennials.
As a result, we tend to characterize Maybe. Celebrities have traditionally
them as Millennials on Steroids: more been used as generational icons. But
tech-saavy, more progressive, more in our fragmentary media landscape,
entitled, more diverse. celebrity seems less paradigmatic and
more mundane.
Yet, they’re abandoning Facebook.
They keep their Instagrams private When we zoom out from the most
and rarely have more than nine posts. media-savvy, a different set of values
The uber-ephemeral Snapchat is the becomes apparent for Gen Z:
platform of choice, if only because of its
narrowcast functionality. This rejection Declining labor market
of social media’s broadcast possibilities participation
is at odds with the Turbo-Millennial
narrative. Why the disconnect? Stagnating or declining rates
of college attendance
Oftentimes, we’re only looking at
the Dazed One Million. The rich, Record-breaking third-party
privileged, urban youth buying what the affiliation
Exiting School, Exiting Work, Exiting Politics
3 — POST-PERSONAL BRAND

Young people feel boxed out by urban


gentrification, astronomical student
debt, and stagnant or declining wages.
They’re ambivalent about the old
cultural centers –and the life scripts
that go with them. The old pillars
of identity— credentials, careers,
and party affiliations— are being
abandoned.

In this scenario, cities like New


York, London, and Berlin remain
aspirational—but are no longer
relatable. Perhaps, this is why we’ve
given this new generation the quasi-
apocalyptic moniker: Gen Z. The
present arrangements clearly don’t
work. But it’s important to remember
change doesn’t mean The End.
3 — POST-PERSONAL BRAND
3 — POST-PERSONAL BRAND
­— 4
4 — GENEXIT

to October 3, 2016. Kim Kardashian was


hog-tied in a hotel bathtub while some

This isn’t chic Adidas-clad motorcycle gang roared


off into the Paris night—$11 million

Gen Z — it’s worth of diamonds in hand.


Millennial Kim (born 1980) thought she
GenExit. could keep her real life and her digital
persona neatly separated. But the bleed
came pre-packaged with the very idea of
Personal Brand. For GenExit (born 20
Before the Facebook, Google, and years later), Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
Amazon triumvirate, there was was already status quo. GenExit knows
Friendster, MySpace and LiveJournal. maintaining a Personal Brand as a trap.
Greyhairs remember those platforms They don’t want to invest scarce emo-
in their heyday. Those too young to tional resources into marketing them-
remember find kitschy memorials to a selves. The possibilities of fluidity are
more innocent internet past, Wayback more interesting than the coherence of
Machines to emo teen angst, Avril being a brand.
Lavigne, ties-as-belts.
We make a prediction. This generation
Every Plague starts with Patient Zero. won’t use social media like their ancestors.
For MySpace, the beginning of the end They want fluid identities in terms of
started one day in 2006, when Sophia belief—not Personal Brands. In the same
Amoruso’s best friend blocked her after way that Millennials transformed cable
getting bumped from the Top Eight. The into prestige TV, GenExit will remake
current viral die-off can be dated back social media in their own image.
4 — GENEXIT

Millennials wanted a long-tail


television landscape that could signal Millennials
their personal taste. Something Personal Brand
that internalized the hipster logic of
nostalgia and knowingness. Relevant
GenExit wants a social media landscape
Progressive
that reinstates the personal over the Idealistic
commercial. A user relationship fixated
on imagination, creativity, and intimate
connections.
GenExit
The future is a sketch of a Post-Personal Post-Personal Brand
Brand world – more invested in ideas Relatable
than identity, fluidity than control,
anonymity than power, and community
Skeptical
than reach. Pragmatic
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

GENEXIT
EDITS

Investments in an
alternative everyday life.
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

Flaking on
Identity
The most transgressive thing a
brand can do is abandon its color.
Imagine a red Pepsi, a blue Coke. The
same thing applies to people who
buy into the logic of the Personal
Brand. Imagine Paris Hilton without
her vocal fry babydoll voice. When
GenExit hears the word “brand,” the
meme of Admiral Akbar screaming
“It’s a trap!” comes to mind.
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

IDENTITY
IDEAS
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

Experimental
Consumption
Shop on Kickstarter. Join the
Democratic Socialists and the Log
Cabin Republicans. Take selfies with
charcoal ice cream, even though
you’re paleo. Born into a world
gone beta, every opportunity feels
fleeting. GenExit buys like nobody is
watching, memes like their accounts
are private, and lives like it’s the end
of the world.  
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

CONTROL
FLUIDITY
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

High-End
Homeless
Why go see the Mona Lisa when
you already know what it looks like?
Better to Airbnb a garret apartment
in Saint-Ouen kitted out in the same
Ikea furniture you have at home.
Better yet, don’t even tell anyone
where you’re going. You’ll still be
available, just checking your email at
a more leisurely European tempo.
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

POWER
ANONYMITY
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

In
Absentia
Fixating on social reach is a legacy
problem. Media buys and social
media sweat equity yield the same
results. So why not just take the
easy route and buy your eyeballs?
The real problem has never been
exposure. It’s always been our
ability to connect. There’s a flurry
of commentary on our newfound
desire for community. Some people
see this as a good thing. But it needs
to be said: If we want something,
that means we don’t have it.
4 — GENEXIT / 4.1 GENEXIT EDITS

REACH
COMMUNITY