The media struggle, the Toaster Project and viewing time and space through icons
Ephemeral Reviews, Essays and Opinions s°01.ep12 - 2019.09.30
Stripe is definitely one of the most impressive unicorns of the last few years. Offering a developer-friendly product to integrate payment processing when it was founded in 2010, it now harbors a noble mission: "to grow the GDP of the Internet". And this is no BS: in 2016 it launched Atlas, a service to easily incorporate a US startup from anywhere in the world. And it’s just launched Stripe Capital, a financing option for online businesses.
In a fresh founding round, Stripe’s valuation hit no less than $35bn. Link (T)
If you want to know the direction in which economic winds blow, private equity (investment funds buying large chunks or most of the time entire companies) is a good indicator: where funds invest is where money is made. Thus, it is noticeable to see more and more of them raising funds dedicated to technology companies. Advent International, one of the largest investment firms, just raised $2bn for that purpose. Link (T)
The media industry is struggling yet it is still an incredible object of desire and power: while their business model is collapsing, the most compelling and established media’s valuation looks disconnected from their economics. The most famous and respected newspaper in France, Le Monde, is facing up to a conflict with its shareholders that tells a lot about our time. Link (S)
Why, oh why disruptive Netflix spent the crazy sum of 500 million dollars to hire an old glory like Jerry Seinfeld? Here is the answer. And a great perspective on the platform economy. (S)
Have you read the Toaster Project? One of my favorite books these past few years. While an industrial design graduate student at the Royal College of Art in London, Thomas Thwaites, the author, undertook to build an electric toaster - maybe the most common and cheapest electric appliance in any british household. Reengineering this very simple object from scratch, trying to build it from raw materials, extracting iron from rock, hand-carving a mold for forming molten plastic, and melting Canadian coins for their better nickel. The exercise is both instructive and entertaining, enough to allow me to spoil the conclusion: Thwaites’ toaster is an epic fail, both ugly and dangerous, that cost him £1187.54, or 300 times more than the £3.99 Argos model that inspired him—but it teaches invaluable lessons about modern complexity and environmental responsibility: we take for granted our ability to transform raw materials into these everyday objects.
Bring this toaster to the scale of your smartphone, billions of smartphones to the scale of the Internet, speculate on this toaster to foresee the impact on the global workforce and global job market… Is there any mean to keep our control, individually and collectively ? I think not. And my “toaster-point” these days goes for a different type of material, let’s call them raw immaterials, our digital utopias. Where are they gone? They have been “executed” and “delivered” to a point we are not able any more to track them down to their origins. From Californian hippie communes to WeWork, from Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame to TikTok, it looks like the recipe is so strong we can’t taste one of its single ingredient anymore.
Is there a way to cope with this growing complexity and trace ideals lost in execution?
We need a Thomas Thwaites for every single object or service in the world. Let’s all find our own.
TikTok was the 4th most downloaded app in the world last year, joining the 500 million monthly active users very exclusive club. The first and only not born in California and not pretending to ease your conscience with any kind of cultural or social service. Just like Fortnite, this is a new generation of platforms, aiming at a younger audience… we should definitely study and break down its success. Link (S)
Esports keep spreading, and a further sign of their institutionalization is that high schools are willing to create dedicated teams. Link (T)
The Gartner Hype Cycle in action: far from their “Peak of Inflated Expectations”, drones are approaching the plateau of productivity. Google’s subsidiary Wing will soon bring a delivery test to Virginia, in partnership with Walgreens and FedEx. Link (T)
A new research from Cass Business School has found that battery icons on mobile phones shape how people view time and space, and how battery conservation practices define user identities. Link (S)
Monoskop is “a wiki for the arts, media and humanities” where you’ll find for instance an eclectic list of digital libraries. As quirky and unexpected as the web can be! Link (T)
Why you should try deep breathing. Not a passing fad; real benefits for your mind! Link (T)
I often ask myself how and why a location becomes a trendy vacation spot. Georgia (not the one on Ray Charles’ mind, but Joseph Stalin’s birthplace) is a great case of how to build a new tourist heaven. Link (S)
Did you need one more good reason to visit your grandma? Link (S)
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Edited by Stéphane Distinguin & Tom Morisse
Fabernovel is a talent company that creates digital products and services to support companies in their transformation and innovation trajectory.
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