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It is said that a person who has no awareness of relative rank is not able to speak, or even sit and eat. In everyday life, she is expected to be ready at all times with differentiated, delicate degrees of understanding and expression - able to address every specific context with the appropriate measure. Seniority and merit are the backbone of this vertical order, to which we may add a third, timeless element: reputation. To understand the invisible interaction between these three attributes is indispensable. Those who master it are able to move through the world with elegance, with the power to effect change in indirect or intangible ways.

There is an intrinsic imbalance in this triangle of influence. While time and achievement can be objective standards, one's reputation is like a fleeting reflection in the eyes of others, forever taunting and compelling us to adjust. What we imagine that other people see in us can become the guiding rhythm in an infinite and distracting performance - negatively affecting the established social geometry. Digital relational networks are the perfect embodiment of this triangular, asymmetrical structure: chronological, event-driven, and highly sensitive to the unpredictable fluctuations of human judgement.

The Medieval Latin word influentia described the belief that epidemics were due to an emanation of occult power from the stars. This vertical ordering of the world continues.

The Blind Machine is brought to you by the good people at chumbo

Listen to our playlist on Spotify, a careful selection of old & new futures.

Thank you for being here.

Let’s Agree That I Don’t Know You

on Aug 08, 2022 05:33 pm


In a world of strangers, the act of recognizing who you are has value. But increasingly that personalized greeting is becoming commoditized: from personalised spam to automated birthday greetings; the spread of retail chains with their service training to say a customer’s name out loud after asking for it. Increasingly, this trend toward the value of commoditized recognition will be supplemented by facial recognition.

The overworked humans behind China’s virtual influencers

on Aug 08, 2022 11:56 am

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Over the past decade, entertainment companies in China and Japan have increasingly invested in developing virtual talent: pop stars that appear on stage via hologram, animated personalities who livestream themselves playing games and chatting with fans, brand influencers powered by teams of computer scientists and voice actors. Last year, the value of business driven by virtual idols was $16 billion in China alone, according to research from iiMedia.

YouTuber Akuma and Chinese pop star Luo Tianyi are both virtual idols. Marketing agencies in China bet big that these digital influencers represented the future of celebrity, with their looks and words carefully crafted and controlled by branding agencies and corporations.

Algorithmic fame

on Aug 08, 2022 10:36 am

Social influence rests on the fact that, when faced with abundance of choice, we habitually rely on others to know what to buy, read, wear, or listen to. When these others are “regular” people just like us, we tend to trust them more than we would a compensated spokesperson, a model in an ad, an invisible editor, or a distant celebrity.

Meet Luo Tianyi, China’s biggest virtual pop star

on Aug 08, 2022 10:36 am

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Luo Tianyi is China’s most popular virtual idol among an estimated 30 to 40 holographic celebrities in the country. The trend originated in Japan, which has a long history of making virtual idols. The most famous is holographic pop star Hatsune Miku, who sings with a synthesized voice and has done several concerts in China, performing in both Chinese and Japanese.
Their fanbase overlaps with the same subculture that’s interested in comic books, anime, and cosplay. In China, this market is expected to reach about $30 billion this year, according to a report by iResearch.

KOLs Are Dead. Long Live the Virtual Influencer

on Aug 08, 2022 10:36 am


Luxury brands have long used influencers or key opinion leaders (KOLs) to get into the hearts, minds, and ultimately digital wallets of young Chinese consumers. Influencers, particularly those who enjoy a mass following, have helped to dramatically democratize the accessibility of a luxury lifestyle.

This has been a key success factor for labels in winning over younger and first-time luxury consumers. According to McKinsey’s China Consumer Report 2021, 44 percent of Gen Zs surveyed reported that bloggers and online influencers were among their top three sources for product recommendations (versus just 10 percent in the US). Indeed, the rise of livestreaming in the mainland has redefined the market power of celebrity influencers, many of whom can sell millions of dollars of prestige branded merchandise.

Colour & Shape: Using Computer Vision to Explore the Science Museum Group Collection

on Aug 07, 2022 11:36 am


This article analyses a selection of the Science Museum Group Collection. We examined over 7,000 photographs of objects from 21 categories. The categories were selected on the basis that they contained large numbers of everyday or familiar objects. These categories range from photographic technology to time measurement, lighting to printing and writing, and domestic appliances to navigation.¹

The photographs allow us to study the form of objects — their shape, colour and texture. The insights gleaned can be used to enrich a museum’s catalogue and expand the ways of searching through the online collection. More broadly, this analysis shows how a photographic dataset can shed new light on a museum’s collection.

Afrotopia —

on Aug 07, 2022 10:36 am

In this story from Nataal issue 3, Ekow Eshun, Selly Raby Kane and Sunny Dolat discuss Afrofuturism in fashion

“Afrotopia is an active utopia that takes as its task the cultivation of vast and open spaces of bountiful possibles in order to help them flourish. The challenge thus resides in articulating a thought that bears on the fate of the African continent… by identifying the site where new practices and discourses have already begun to express themselves, where this future Africa can come into view.”

The war against printing

on Aug 06, 2022 10:36 pm

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‘The pen is a virgin,’ wrote Filippo de Strata in the late fifteenth century, but ‘the printing press is a whore.’ And that wasn’t the half of it. Born into a wealthy Pavian family, Filippo had joined the Dominican Order at a young age and had spent most of his adult life at the convent of San Cipriano, on the Venetian island of Murano. One of the smallest religious communities in the lagoon, it could boast no special intellectual renown, yet its members still attached great importance to the production of manuscripts, and Filippo was no exception.

The Orient Express Is Resuming Its Legendary Journeys From Paris—and It’s More Glamorous Than Ever

on Aug 06, 2022 11:36 am

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The train that forever changed luxury travel almost 140 years ago—it debuted on October 4, 1883—is being brought back to life by French hospitality group Accor, which uses the Orient Express name under license from SNCF, France’s national train service. Starting in 2024 and just in time for the Paris Olympics, the railroad icon will gear up to resume service from the French capital to the rest of the continent, reviving the same lavish journeys of its heyday. While details and itineraries have yet to be confirmed, it’s likely that some of the routes will end in Istanbul, just as it was for the first Orient Express.

The End of Social Media

on Aug 05, 2022 10:37 pm


Last week, Meta announced that the Facebook newsfeed would be shifting towards an algorithmic, recommendation-based model of content distribution.
Platforms like the massively popular (and still growing) TikTok and YouTube put far less emphasis on friends and social graphs in favor of carefully curated, magical algorithmic experiences that match the perfect content for the right people at the exact right time. This is recommendation media, and it’s the new standard for content distribution on the internet.

The Era of Rebellious Web Design Is Here

on Aug 05, 2022 10:37 pm

This experimentation comes from seeing the internet as a medium for making (and not just showcasing) art. “I think a lot of the people involved in these sites have a deep love for the internet, and what the internet is and what the internet was,” said Jack Koloskus, lead UX/UI/visual designer at BDG Group.

The Changing Face of Compute

on Aug 02, 2022 12:36 am

Once upon a time chip companies all specialized on designing one type of chip: Intel made CPUs; Qualcomm made modems; Nvidia made GPUs; Broadcom (pre-Avago) made networking chips. That age is all over. The future of semis will be designing ever more specific chips for ever more specific uses. This change will take many years to play out, but the transition has already begun. This is going to upend the semis industry to the same degree that consolidation over the past 20 years has.


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The Blind Machine is a publication about Pop Culture, Software Studies, Business Strategy, Media Platforms, Algorithmic Management, Game Design, and everything in between.
Copyright © 2022 chumbo, All rights reserved.

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