March 15, 2019

Fortnite has become today's hottest social media network

fortnite is a video game that has social media like features

Fortnite is today’s hottest social media network, in spite of it not being a network to begin with. The gaming sensation attracts over 200 million users, with nearly 8 million on at any given time. Compared to other social media behemoths, these are astounding engagement metrics and others could learn a thing or two.

Fortnite as a third space

The game acts as a third space for gamers (especially younger) to discuss and interact. Compared to other social media platforms where social aspects are best enjoyed alone (scroll through a feed), users engage with each other during and between games. In addition, Fortnite gamers can easily mute trolls to focus on more positive aspects of the experience, reducing bullying in the process. This ultimately creates a safe space for people to play, interact and grow, and provides a much needed relief from everyday life.

Gaming: A Source For Good?

We’ve already know that gaming is the world’s hottest commodity, but is there more to it than eyeballs? In hindsight, games like Fortnite should be eye opening for social media platforms across the world. Rather than alienating users through the experience, humans bound together better through a shared activity. Perhaps this will spur more platforms to rethink how they work and empower users to build more together instead.

March 14, 2019

Meet Q, the first genderless voice assistant

Q Gender neutral voice assistant

Voice-driven digital interactions will be an important part of our lives going forward. Beyond performance upgrades, thinking about their experiences and relationship to culture are becoming more prevalent. Virtue (Vice’s agency) alongside Pride Copenhagen, technologists, and linguists unveiled a genderless voice assistant named Q at this year’s SXSW.

What’s the clue for gender in voices?

  • male voices are usually 175 – 225 hertz
  • female voices between 100 – 140 hertz
  • between 140 – 175 hertz is considered gender neutral
  • elongated vowels and sharper pronunciation of the letter ‘s’ are considered more female sounding

Why did the consortium decide to create Q?

Technology companies often choose to gender technology believing it will make people more comfortable adopting it. Unfortunately this reinforces a binary perception of gender, and perpetuates stereotypes that many have fought hard to progress. As society continues to break down the gender binary, recognising those who neither identify as male nor female, the technology we create should follow. Q is an example of what we hope the future holds; a future of ideas, inclusion, positions and diverse representation in technology.

You can see Q in action here.

March 10, 2019

Why anti-conforming "hipsters" always end up looking the same

MIT Technology Review Hipster

Hipsters often pride themselves on strong opinions, but do they all end up looking the same? We all know a hipster, and if you don’t, it could be you. Taking part in countercultures in order to distinguish oneself from the mainstream is not a new thing, but recent years have seen the rise of the archetypal “hipster.” The butt of many jokes and meme pages, the hipster is a universally understood and mocked character, but do we really understand them? And why do they always wind up looking the same?

“Propagation Delay”

Touboul, a mathematician at the Brandeis University of Massachusetts, conducted a study on anticonformist and concluded that the hipster population undergoes a phase transition. During this transition, members become synchronized with each other, this is an inevitable outcome of the behavior of large numbers of people. In Touboul’s study, the time taken to detect societal change is taken into account: people don’t react instantly to developments, information (like the release of a new shoe) is spread over a period of time, some find out early while others take longer to discover.


By creating a computer model that simulates how agents interact when some follow a majority and the rest oppose it, Touboul investigates how hipsters become synchronized and how this varies as the propagation delay (mentioned in previous paragraph) and number of hipsters change. This model generated complex behaviors, but in general, the population of hipsters initially act randomly before experiencing a phase transition into a synchronized state.


This study is one of the studies you see while scrolling and wonder who took the time to follow it through and why they thought it necessary. Who took the time? Jonathan Touboul. Why was it necessary? It wasn’t. Hipsters are used here as a light-hearted example of a more significant broader picture. Touboul’s model can be applied to much more important cases like understanding synchronization of nerve cells, investment strategies in finance, or emergent dynamics in social science. Perhaps the study would have been more interesting and relevant if he had published the results for any other of the possible applications of the model.

Proving a point

A point was proven when somebody reached out to MIT Technology Review under the belief his image was used for the piece. He mentioned:

“You used a heavily edited Getty image of me for your recent bit of click-bait about why hipsters all look the same. It’s a poorly written and insulting article and somewhat ironically about five years too late to be as desperately relevant as it is attempting to be. By using a tired cultural trope to try to spruce up an otherwise disturbing study. Your lack of basic journalistic ethics and both the manner in which you reported this uncredited nonsense and the slanderous unnecessary use of my picture without permission demands a response and I am of course pursuing legal action.”

MIT and the team went through the checks via Getty to verify the model release and stumbled upon something fascinating. The model had misidentified himself when his name didn’t match that of the model’s name.

March 4, 2019

Decathlon pulls running hijab amid religious backlash

Hijab running Decathlon controversy

French sportswear retailer Decathlon has abandoned plans to sell a hijab marketed towards female runners in France through its Kalenji label. What began as a response to popular demand in Morocco, where the Kalenji “hijab” is well received, the decision to market it in France was met with intense backlash with threats of boycott by politicians and of physical harm to staff by in-store customers.

Decathlon Signs Off

After hundreds of calls and emails, in addition to salespeople being threatened, Decathlon released a press release outlining its decision on February 26 (note that ‘teammates’ is the brand’s catch-all for staff):

Decathlon Suspends the Commercialization of the Kalenji Hijab Due to Threats Directed at its Teammates

Our mission is to make technical products that are by athletes, for athletes at fair prices all across the world. It is in this spirit that we developed the Kalenji “hijab” head cover based on requests by our Moroccan users. Due to violent polemic and threats that far exceed our willingness to meet the needs of our users, our priority is to now de-escalate the situation. With this context, we have suspended our project to commercialize this product in France out of concern for the security of our teammates.

-Kalenji & Decathlon

Why the controversy?

France upholds secularism as one of its core values, with the separation of church and state enshrined in a law passed in 1905 and the background for this, some say, extends back to the French Revolution where power was wrested from the church, aristocracy, and nobility and distributed to the people. While embracing multiculturalism, modern French society and its government remain highly resistant to overt displays of religious affiliation.

The argument in Tweets

The back-and-forth leading up to Decathlon’s recent decision can best be summed up by a Twitter exchange between Aurore Bergé, spokeswoman for President Emmanuel Macron’s La République en Marche party and the brand’s community manager Yann.

Aurore: Sport frees. It does not subjugate. My choice as a woman and citizen is to no longer trust a brand that breaks with our values. Those that tolerate women in the public space only when they hide themselves do not love freedom.

Yann: Hello. For us, we are focused on the democratization of sport. The fact is some women run in a hijab, one that is often ill-suited for the activity. Our goal is simple: to offer them a suitable sports product, without judgement.

Aurore: You are focused on the democratization of a religious practice. And not of sport. A beautiful alliance of business and bigotry. Luckily, women have been free to run in our country since long before Decathlon!

In case you were wondering

Nike, which courted controversy of its own when it released its own running hijab, has marketed its version of the sports hijab in France since 2017. But because Decathlon is the largest sporting retailer in the world and a French company, the association between its decision and the threat to French values is inescapable.

March 4, 2019

Nike creates special jerseys for China's League of Legends teams

Nike sportswear esports league of legends gaming in China

Nike is at it again. The sportswear giant is now China’s League of Legends (“LoL”) Pro League official apparel provider, making it the latest and arguably most prominent brand to enter e-sports. Whilst e-sports have attracted sponsorship for years, the Nike deal ushers in new credibility and scale for the competition genre. This will likely be a welcome change from the company’s more controversial recent publicity.

Nike Goes Beyond Normal Sponsorships

Compared to standard sponsorship deals, Nike will be sponsoring the league as a whole. This means it’ll include sneakers, apparel, and team jerseys which will be revealed during the League of Legends Championship in Paris later this year. E-sports leagues are increasingly emulating traditional sports leagues, taking their knowledge and building upon it to create scalable and valuable franchises. For reference, traditional sports teams have expanded into e-sports, along with nationwide leagues. For example, the NBA has a joint venture with Take-Two Interactive, which includes some of the leagues biggest teams.

More Than A Game

Nike is taking the partnership one step further by introducing new physical training programs. As a result, this becomes significant for a few reasons as it:

  • Legitimizes e-sports and gaming as an actual physical activity which requires physical training
  • Puts League of Legends on the map as the first truly cross-functional league, where top athletes need optimal fitness to be at their best
  • Enables Nike to push its more standard merchandise to a greater audience

In many ways, the training programs are the most consequential piece of the puzzle as they bridge Nike’s core business with its new ventures. For instance, just as many people use to clamor at how golf was not a real sport (Tiger Woods might have something to say about that), e-sports will very much be on the same trajectory to credibility.

The Big Picture

Whether you are into e-sports or not, the Nike deal will have a ripple effect for fans across the world. More importantly, it shows that large brands see the bigger picture. In addition, it will position themselves as willing to engage with up-and-coming segments to expand their empires. As the gaming world continues to expand, we’ll be on the lookout for the next megatrend to get large corporates excited about new possibilities.

February 20, 2019

Artist-endowed foundations are worth more than USD 7 billion

Artist Endowed Foundations Are Worth More Than 7 Billion

There has never been a better time to own art. The asset class attracts investors from across the world who bid for a chance to own prized and recognizable works from renown artists. The red-hot market creates opportunities for artists to open their own foundations from which they can grow different initiatives. Above all, these entities now yield great power to facilitate more progress in the art world and more broadly across culture.

What do foundations do exactly and how have they grown?

  • Foundations are nonprofit corporations or charitable trusts which make financial grants for charitable purposes.
  • It typically involves wealthy individuals or firms who use these vehicles to support initiatives they believe in.
  • Foundations are important as they back groups that can often be left astray or marginalized.
  • These entities focus on leveraging wealth to impact communities with a focus on art-based initiatives.
  • For many artists and creatives, the goal is to see their wealth enable the next generation of talents.
  • Art foundation total values more than doubled to $7.66 billion between 2011 and 2015.
  • Small entities with large coffers create the largest impact, extending to study centers, exhibits and other initiatives.
  • This growth is welcome news for the art world, especially as art funding keeps being cut in favour of STEM-type programs.

Key take-aways

There are six main points worth noting:

  • These entities continuously benefit from soaring art prices. For example, Italian artist Amedeo Modigliani’s “Nu couché (sur le côté gauche)” sold for a whooping $157.2 million in 2018.
  • Foundations have never been so generous, giving away over $90m in 15 years.
  • They focus almost entirely on the arts, as opposed to other charitable causes.
  • They are expensive to run and maintain.
  • The largest estates drive most of the growth, due in part by the rising value of art.
  • They are top-heavy. Similarly to other industries (we see you tech), the art world operates on a “winner takes all” basis..

Ultimately, artist-endowed foundations are here to stay for years to come. Although concentration at the top is not preferable, art foundations have so far done an excellent job at distributing wealth to where it is needed the most. Perhaps the future of art lies in the hands of these wealthy cultural innovators.

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