Two of our 10 Trends for 2014—Mindful Living and Raging Against the Machine (the idea that we’re starting to fear and resent technology)—intersect in a rising impetus to use digital devices more mindfully. With its new InTheMoment campaign, Buick puts itself at the center of this idea, urging: “Join the movement to look up from your phone and live for the moment. Pledge to engage more, connect more, share more, explore more.” (The sentiment also taps into what we’ve termed the “Heads-Up Movement.”)
The campaign targets Millennials, the generation most immersed in their phones and most open to the mindfulness message, by hitting key platforms for the cohort. There’s a “Get Off the Phone Song” video from YouTube stars Rhett and Link, a “Get in the Moment” Tumblr, a Buzzfeed listicle and a social media pledge. —Marian Berelowitz
Image credit: InTheMoment
Two years ago, Snapchat pioneered the concept of ephemeral photo and video messages that disappear shortly after receipt. The app has been so popular, especially among younger mobile users, that the company reportedly turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. Now, an array of apps are translating the concept for older people concerned about privacy and security.
Wickr uses “military-grade encryption” and lets recipients view text, photo or video messages for up to six days (vs. up to 10 seconds on Snapchat). There’s also the messaging app Gryphn, and Frankly (“Speak Freely. Speak Frankly”) includes anonymous group messaging. TigerText offers secure messaging for the enterprise and is proving popular among health care providers, as it helps them comply with patient-privacy rules. Beyond apps, SecretInk is a website where people can send emails or texts that self-destruct once read. —Marian Berelowitz
Image credit: Frankly
One of our Things to Watch for 2013 was Gender-Blurred Toys: Kids’ brands are producing more against-stereotype products like Easy-Bake Ovens for boys or construction sets for girls. This week a commercial for GoldieBlox, a toy company that aims to “inspire future engineers” with building games for girls, has been connecting with consumers.
The spot, which has collected 3.6 million views since Sunday, shows three girls creating their own whimsical version of a Rube Goldberg scenario, with a soundtrack that takes inspiration from the not-exactly-feminist Beastie Boys song “Girls.” Sample lyrics: “It’s time to change/We deserve to see a range/’Cause all our toys look just the same/And we would like to use our brains.” —Marian Berelowitz
Today’s superheroes are fighting more than just villains. Marvel’s new character, a Muslim-American teen named Kamala Khan (dubbed Ms. Marvel), is the latest hero to diversify the world of comics. Khan is a 16-year-old living in New Jersey and dealing with typical superhero problems: keeping her powers a secret, feeling like an outcast—and dealing with the tensions that often come with being a Muslim in America. Khan is not the first hero to break from the standard mold. In 2011 Marvel introduced a half-black, half-Hispanic iteration of Spider-Man, and last year DC Comics announced that Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern, is gay.
Expect more revamping of super-worlds to better reflect the real world. When asked about the creation of Ms. Marvel, Marvel’s editor-in-chief said, “The Marvel Universe is best when it reflects the diversity of the world around it but sculpts a narrative that is universal.” —Hallie Steiner
Image credit: Marvel Comics
One of our 100 Things to Watch in 2013 is Nature As Antidote, the idea that with urbanization rising around the world, more people will retreat to nature to escape the stressors of the city. Another driver of this trend will be our immersion in the digital world. A new U.K. film, Project Wild Thing, proposes that today’s kids spend too much time indoors, glued to their screens, and that they need more nature in their lives.
In tandem with the film, The Wild Network brings together organizations focused on anything related to kids and “wildness, the outdoors, outdoor play, outdoor education, or nature” in a bid to get more youth to “swap some screen time for WildTime.” Watch for more efforts to get people young and old to connect with the natural world, or at the least, to spend more time outdoors. —Marian Berelowitz
We’ve been talking about Objectifying Objects—fetishizing the physical and tactical as objects get replaced by digital/virtual counterparts—since putting it on our 100 Things to Watch in 2011 list; last March, our report “Embracing Analog” updated the idea. The latest manifestation of this trend: The new book S., conceived by the director-producer J.J. Abrams (Lost, among many other things). Inside the book, written by author Doug Dorst, are handwritten letters and notes, postcards, a newspaper clipping, photocopied book pages and more. “In a digital age, it’s a distinctly analog object. It felt romantic to me,” Abrams explained to The New York Times. While S. is available in e-book form, “The fun of S. is having the book itself,” Abrams said. “To physically hold it is kind of the point.”
The more we embrace tech-centric lifestyles, the stronger the urge to experience the polar opposite and the more keenly aware we’re becoming of what’s unique about physical objects. —Marian Berelowitz
Image credit: Amazon
Still don’t know what happened to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad? Don’t let Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the world ruin it. Netflix, one of the prime avenues for catching up, offers Spoiler Foiler, which blacks out Tweets with “danger words” related to the show. More ambitiously, the new Spoiler Shield iOS app is working to keep pop culture surprises safe by offering “shields” for more than 30 TV shows, as well as baseball and football games (this video explains it further). “Spoiler alert protection has become a cultural necessity,” declares a press release. Meanwhile, a high school student developed Twivo, a Google Chrome extension that lets users block keywords from Twitter. —Aaron Baar
Recent research from Brigham Young University is garnering buzz for the finding that “Instagram can ruin your dinner,” as BYU’s press release puts it. The study by two marketing professors concludes that overexposure to food imagery on social media increases satiation (a decline in enjoyment with repeated consumption). Thus, explains co-author Ryan Elder, “In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food. It’s sensory boredom—you’ve kind of moved on.”
The phenomenon isn’t new—but the finding of sensory boredom in this context, and the growing emphasis on social media imagery, may mean that “being constantly switched on is turning us off,” as an Evening Standard columnist suggests. Richard Godwin writes that beyond food, “aesthetic ennui” is setting in and that thanks to visual overload, “stuff that used to seem quite fresh … is now a bit, like, meh.” —Marian Berelowitz
Image credit: Will Palley
On our list of 100 Things to Watch in 2011, we forecast that brands would start leveraging CAPTCHAs—the distorted letters that must be typed into a box to proceed with a purchase or other online activity—by requiring users to type in relevant words or slogans. Solve Media, the company that’s been touting this idea, said in June that its so-called Type-In ads racked up 1 billion-plus engagements last year and that it expects to reach 4 billion in 2013.
Now there’s another idea in this space: PlayCaptcha, from Future Ad Labs in London, gamifies the process. For instance, a Heinz game requires visitors to add some virtual Salad Cream into a sandwich, and users must clean a dirty digital penny by dragging it to a bowl of Reckitt Benckiser’s Cillit Bang. Engagement, which is less annoying than deciphering bizarre lettering, is guaranteed. —Marian Berelowitz
Image credit: futureadlabs.com
By way of Australia, New York-based singer-songwriter Betty Who is poised to move into the national spotlight: The 21-year-old pop artist joined the RCA roster earlier this month hot on the heels of a viral video featuring a choreographed marriage proposal to her song “Somebody Loves You,” off her self-released EP debut, The Movement. In less than three weeks, the video has garnered more than 10 million views. In August, Who (Jessica Newham) announced to Billboard plans to record a follow-up EP, for an early 2014 release. She’s played a few of the new tracks, including “Heartbreak Dream,” at recent shows, some of which have sold out venues like Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory. —Nick Ayala
Image credit: Betty Who
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