Interesting Read: “Instagram’s Wannabe-Stars Are Driving Luxury Hotels Crazy”

Back in 1974, Alice Sheldon (aka ‘James Tiptree, Jr.’) won a Hugo for “The Girl Who Was Plugged In“, a dystopian narrative about an ugly, ghetto-trapped teenager given an opportunity to join the media celebrities she idolizes. All she has to do is agree to risky experimental surgery that will allow her to pilot a gorgeous, brain-pithed android-drone who can maximize product placement in a world where ‘advertising’ is banned. Her reaction? Show me the fire I have to walk through.

That was the story that convinced me Tiptree-the-author must be a woman (at the same time, IIRC, a famous sf critic publicly announced that no mere ‘lady writer’ could produce prose so muscular). Sheldon / Tiptree had the foresight to imagine the arc from 18th-century merchants ‘quietly’ advertising their royal customers, to 19th-century proto-celebrities taking payments to use Pears soap, to the 20th-century legitimation of PR agents, to the 21st-century protype Reality TV. But I don’t think even she predicted the Uberization of the form, where every product-shiller would have to hustle themselves as a “brand”.

The proudly libertarian Atlantic should be thrilled at such viral commodification, and yet, something about the unwieldiness of the current process seems to perturb them

Three years ago, Lisa Linh quit her full-time job to travel the world and document it on Instagram, where she has nearly 100,000 followers; since then, she has stayed in breathtaking hotels everywhere from Mexico to Quebec to the Cook Islands. Often, she stays for free.

Linh is part of an ever-growing class of people who have leveraged their social media clout to travel the world, frequently in luxury. While Linh and other elite influencers are usually personally invited by hotel brands, an onslaught of lesser-known wannabes has left hotels scrambling to deal with a deluge of requests for all-expense-paid vacations in exchange for some social media posts.

Kate Jones, marketing and communications manager at the Dusit Thani, a five-star resort in the Maldives, said that her hotel receives at least six requests from self-described influencers per day, typically through Instagram direct message.

“Everyone with a Facebook these days is an influencer,” she said. “People say, I want to come to the Maldives for 10 days and will do two posts on Instagram to like 2,000 followers. It’s people with 600 Facebook friends saying, ‘Hi, I’m an influencer, I want to stay in your hotel for 7 days,’” she said. Others send vague one-line emails, like “I want to collaborate with you,”with no further explanation. “These people are expecting five to seven nights on average, all inclusive. Maldives is not a cheap destination.” She said that only about 10 percent of the requests she receives are worth investigating…

But to influencers themselves, this is a fundamental misunderstanding of the value exchange. Instagram has ballooned to more than 800 million monthly active users, many of whom come to it for travel ideas, and influencers argue that the promotions they offer allow hotels to directly market to new audiences in an authentic way…

Some of these issues can just be a miscommunication. Miragliotta said he’s invested in making clients happy—but hotels need to make sure they’re organized and prepared for influencer stays.

“I went to one Mexico resort and three different people were giving me different hashtags and handles,” he said. “I was with five other influencers and we were excited to post, but there was limited Wi-Fi. If you don’t have the simplest things ready for us, then that makes it difficult to produce the content you need, or do it correctly.”…

As an introvert and aspiring agoraphobe, just looking at the sampled Instagram pics convinces me that I’d rather eat glass doing this ‘social influencer’ thing is indeed a job. It is, after all, not that different than any other form of… what was Melania’s old job title… modeling, is it?



Saturday Morning Open Thread: Sorrows of the Young Minions


 
Count on Politico to find the real victims this week. “Young Trumpies Hit D.C.… And D.C. hits them right back”

.. There’s always tension when administrations change in Washington; a new cast of characters arrives, and an influx of appointees, lobbyists and hangers-on have to stake out their own ground. But the era of Donald Trump is—as in so many respects—different.

Washington is a hipper city now than it’s ever been, a place where staffers, especially young staffers who want to drink and date and live normal millennial lives, would want to live. The problem is, if you work for Trump, it’s also more hostile territory than it’s ever been. The president campaigned against the very idea of “Washington,” slammed cities as “war zones” and ran a racially charged campaign whose coded messages weren’t lost on the diverse, Democratic-leaning residents of D.C.’s buzzing neighborhoods. The bar-filled areas that became synonymous with young Washington in the Obama era—Columbia Heights, Shaw, U Street, H Street—are full of anti-Trump T-shirts and street art. Even old Republican redoubts like Spring Valley in upper Northwest aren’t very Trump-friendly.

So, what’s a young Trumpie to do? Many still do live in D.C., and to understand what their lives here are like, we interviewed more than 30 millennial staffers from the Trump White House and across the administration, both current and former (many have already left), as well as a smattering of their friends and outside observers. Nearly all spoke on the condition of anonymity, to talk candidly about their personal lives or because they were not authorized by their bosses to comment. They told us their horror stories about being heckled on the street and their struggles to get a date. Unlike their predecessors, who made their mark on the city’s social scene, they largely keep to themselves, more likely to hop between intimate apartment gatherings than to hit the town. “Instead of folks looking outward,” explains one young White House aide, “more folks look inward.”

Faced with open antagonism, Trump’s millennials over the past year and a half have quietly settled on the margins: a stretch of Washington that spans from the Wharf—a shiny new development three blocks south of the National Mall—southeast along the Waterfront and into Navy Yard, on the banks of the Anacostia River. It’s a string of neighborhoods that peer out over the water, separated from most of the city by an interstate, and facing away from official Washington. It’s a bubble within the Washington bubble: Here, young Trump staffers mix largely with each other and enjoy the view from their rooftop pools, where they can feel far away from the District’s locals and the rest of its political class…

A resolutely generic bubble… sounds Trump-tastic!

Strictly the white-bread cover version…

(nothing against Jimmy Buffett, but Sam Cooke he ain’t).



Thursday Morning Open Thread: Out of Our League

In related news, Not The Onion… but the BBC“Does the US have a pet tiger problem?”:

Taj was a four-month-old tiger cub when purchased at a Texas truck stop by the driver of an 18-wheeler lorry. But after Taj began tearing up the truck’s cab, the driver contacted Austin Zoo to get the animal off his hands. The zoo now looks after the fully grown 17-year-old Bengal tiger male.

Taj is one of as many as 7,000 tigers living in the US either in zoos or privately owned, according to some estimates. That’s nearly double the estimated 3,890 tigers still prowling in the wild around the world.

Many of America’s tigers could be in people’s backyards as pets, and often aren’t registered, especially in states like Texas. No-one really knows just how many tigers there are out there.

At the heart of this surprising tiger turnout is the very American notion of a God-given right to do one’s own thing, including owning a pet – no matter how exotic – being an individual liberty that the state should not mess with…

It is easier to own a tiger than a dog that has been labelled dangerous in the state of Texas, which could have between 2,000 and 5,000 tigers.

“Texas is a conservative state and values personal liberties and the right to keep what you want,” says Pamela Boich of the Texas Human Legislation Network, an animal welfare lobbying group…

Floods and hurricanes notwithstanding, Texas’s climate is usually very amenable for tigers, meaning they can live outside year round, without the need for winter quarters, says John Gramieri, general curator at Austin Zoo…

And here we thought the imported boa constrictors in Florida were an ecological disaster!

Considerably further down the ‘dangerous wildlife’ scale…

The Washington Post quotes an academic expert:

… Suzanne MacDonald, a York University psychologist who studies urban raccoons… wasn’t worried. Why? Because raccoons — as their black masks might suggest — have “quite a few superpowers,” she explained not long after the drama ended Wednesday morning. The most obvious of those talents: a crack climbing ability.
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Late Night Cheap Shots Open Thread: Okay, Sometimes I’m Petty

From the hometown paper:

Aversion to dynasties aside, New Hampshire observers speculate that the real reason Bernie Sanders has not weighed in on his son’s behalf is that Levi Sanders is running what most in the state consider to be an inept campaign – and Bernie Sanders doesn’t want to be damaged in the run-up to a potential 2020 campaign of his own.

“Nobody I know is really considering Levi as an option,” said former state senator Burt Cohen, who was Bernie Sanders’ first prominent endorsement in 2016 and is backing a rival of Levi Sanders. “No, it’s actually worse than that: I don’t hear anyone even bringing up his name. People aren’t sure why he is running. If Levi thought he could just transfer the enthusiasm from his father to himself, well he is learning that is just not happening at all.

“It is just silly what he is doing,” Cohen added. “The way to sum up how people feel about the campaign is the eye rolls you get when his name does, infrequently, come up.” …

… Bernie Sanders’ decision not to weigh in has played a role in dampening support for his son, several longtime political observers say. If his own father isn’t backing him, why should voters? Last month, when Bernie Sanders had a conference call with the dozens of people on his New Hampshire steering committee, he thanked them for their work in 2016 and said it was crucial that they get involved in upcoming midterm elections. He never mentioned Levi’s campaign…

Now, if only Levi had access to the old man’s tax returns, he might’ve gotten more paternal respect…



Cosplay Stuntin’ Open Thread: Wolverines!… SKONKS!

High-dollar chew toy has opinions…

Her ‘conservative’ playmates rush in to assist…


(Bruenig, incidentally, is a professional “Christian”.)



Saturday Morning Sci-Fi Open Thread: Mars Needs Believers!

Even as a very young hardcore sf reader, I knew I would never be part of a one-way space mission, because I can barely stand to spend a long weekend trapped in the house with a handful of people I love, much less a bunch of random strangers. (And, yes, I did not rate my chances of appealing to a quorum of those strangers, either.) But Murphy the Trickster God bless the… idealists… who are willing to share their dreams of Martian colonization with all the world and the Boston Globe:

When the initial tingle had passed and the idea had been given time to marinate and settle, Peter Degen-Portnoy said his family split into camps regarding his decision to commit to a one-way trip to Mars.

His sons think it’s cool.

His two oldest daughters stopped speaking with him.

And his wife left him.

Three years ago, Degen-Portnoy, a 54-year-old father of five from Stoneham, was one of 100 semifinalists chosen for Mars One, a wildly ambitious Dutch-led project that ultimately seeks to colonize Mars, beginning in 2032, with 20 permanent, never-to-return-to-Earth settlers. The plan has been controversial from the moment it was announced in 2012, with serious questions about the technological feasibility, as well as the plan to fund much of the mission.

Mars One organizers say the project can be accomplished for roughly $6 billion; critics say that is preposterous, as is the plan to raise much of that through corporate sponsorship and the sale of television rights.

The mission is currently far, far away from becoming a reality — millions of miles and millions of questions remain about how they will get there, how they will survive on Mars and build a self-sustaining colony, and of course how they will survive the trip. The current plan involves sending supplies ahead, then sending crews of four crammed into spaceships the size of a tour bus for the 18-month journey. When solar flares erupt, they will retreat into a bathroom-sized pod, surrounded by water for protection, for several claustrophobic days at a time.

While space experts and keyboard cowboys continue their debate, Degen-Portnoy and the three other semifinalists from Massachusetts have been dealing with the very real impact on their personal lives that comes when you make a commitment to a one-way trip to outer space.

For whether they go to Mars or not, “the 100,” as they call themselves, are the first humans to actually experience the terrestrial repercussions of making such an extravagant extraterrestrial commitment…

But there’s also a love story! Much more at the link — along with a full-sized version of the video clip at the top.



Saturday Night Techno-Smut Interesting Read: “Are We Ready for Robot Sex?” [NSFW, Obviously]

Everyone who’s witnessed (or been) a toddler with a security toy, or a middle-aged man with his dream vehicle (bike, car, boat) already knows: When there are people-shaped robots, people will anthromophocize / individualize them. And when there are people involved, of course sometimes there will be sex, but also there will romanticization. From NYMag:

Henry is six feet tall, with six-pack abs and the customer’s choice of penis. He’s just a prototype at the moment — you can’t buy him — but the two female models Realbotix developed alongside Henry will ship this summer. So far, there have been 50 preorders at $12,000 apiece. Henry, Harmony, and Solana have sturdy silicone bodies, and once they’re synced up to a corresponding app, they can give compliments, recite poetry, tell jokes, and seduce.

Or at least, this is the general idea. The easy fantasy of what a sex robot might be — indistinguishable from an actual human, except hotter and prepared to fulfill any desire — is far from the current reality. Henry, if we’re being cruel, is essentially a high-quality dildo attached to a fancy mannequin with a Bluetooth speaker in his head. But the gulf between what we imagine and what’s possible makes sex robots the perfect vehicle for pondering our sexual and technological future. We might not wake up with sex robots in our beds tomorrow, but right now they’re an irresistible thought experiment. Since making my date with Henry, he’s become my favorite dinner-party topic…
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