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TikTok offers a brand new experience of both technology and media. This is my attempt to explain how the platform changes our perceptions and the consequences it has for the future of culture.

This essay is from my newsletter about algorithmic culture. More of my writing can be found at kylechayka.com.

For someone who writes about technology, I’m not really an early adopter. I don’t use virtual-reality goggles or participate in Twitch streams. Like everyone on the internet, I heard a lot about TikTok — teens! short videos! “hype houses”! — but for a long time I didn’t think I needed to try it out. How would another social network fit into my life? Don’t Twitter and Instagram cover my professional and personal needs at this point? (Snapchat I skipped over entirely.) …

Companies had to adapt quickly as players swarmed digital versions of classic games

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Catan Universe. Image courtesy of Catan Studio, Inc. and Catan GmbH

Not long after the quarantine began, Andrew Helms, a documentary producer, was stuck in his Brooklyn apartment and already getting bored of Zoom calls with friends. He started brainstorming other fun, socially distant ways to spend time with pals. That’s when he Googled to see if it might be possible to play a board game together online — namely Settlers of Catan, an iconic German game about competitively developing territory on a vaguely medieval island. The game, which long ago achieved cult status in the tech community, has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. …

How the urge to simplify becomes more things to buy

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Photo: Ishan@seefromthesky/Unsplash

Maybe it started with the iconoclastic act of throwing tea off the boat in Boston Harbor, or perhaps with the misperception that North America was simply a blank space before the pilgrims came from England and the pioneers headed West. In any case, the United States is particularly vulnerable to the charms of minimalism.

Something about our belief in the power of self-definition and starting over suggests to us that if we only sweep our floors, we will magically become new people, unburdened by the past. We like to think that we can do without, rough it to prove that…

The Whiplash Decade

Material goods were so 2000. Now we consume on a higher plane.

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Illustration: Brennon Leman

This piece is part of the The Whiplash Decade, a package on the wild ride that was the 2010s.

Let us consider the ultimate artifact of physical popular culture circa 2019: The Museum of Ice Cream. Launched in 2016 in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District as a temporary interactive art exhibit, the Museum of Ice Cream has since opened exhibitions in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Miami. As a pop-up, the museum is easy to replicate; more than 1.5 million people have visited its rock-candy caves, unicorns, and swimming pools filled with rainbow sprinkles made from inedible plastic. The Museum of Ice…

Netflix recommendations don’t always live up to what people expect The Algorithm to serve them.

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Tuca & Bertie on Netflix — clearly surreal. If you like this essay, hit the clap button, follow me on Medium, or subscribe to my newsletter.

The Streaming Wars are the sequel to the Content Wars in the Media Cinematic Universe. On the one hand, it means various platforms like Hulu / Amazon / Netflix competing over the biggest licensing deals for shows like The Office or Friends. …

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studyhall.xyz // info@studyhall.xyz // @studyhallxyz

We’re pleased to announce that we have hired Stella Becerril as Study Hall’s first community organizer. Stella will be directing our efforts at organizing freelancers and our collective public statements in regard to freelancers’ relationships with publications.

Stella is based in Brooklyn via Chicago, where she contributed to organizing the Chicago Teachers Union strike of 2012 and building local Black Lives Matter movements. In 2016 she was an organizing fellow at Local 555 of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Portland, Oregon. She is a graduate of the AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute’s organizer training program…

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How Google thinks I email

I opened my Gmail account this morning and my emails started writing themselves. As I typed just a few words the next words appeared before I even thought of them. The screen told me I could hit tab and there they would be, like graven type, ready to send. That they weren’t the right words at all didn’t seem to matter — it was mind-reading magic! Shitty, annoying magic. I turned off Google’s auto-suggestions as soon as I could. (Apparently some people have had this feature for a while, but the plague just hit my inbox.)

But we live in…

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We are a media-focused newsletter and digital community for freelance media workers. Subscribe: studyhall.xyz // Contact: info@studyhall.xyz.

Overview:

Study Hall is a subscription-based digital community of 1000+ media workers, with weekly newsletters, a listserv, and social network with exclusive resources. We recently made our first public statement on labor with an open letter against The Outline’s treatment of staff writers and freelancers (see coverage). Our members are excited about building on this momentum and developing more public standards and expectations for publications’ relationships with freelancers.

We are looking for a part-time community organizer who will develop these organizing efforts based…

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We are a media-focused newsletter publication and digital community for freelance media workers. Subscribe here.

Overview:

Study Hall is looking for its first staff writer. As we expand our weekly newsletters, original stories, and resources for freelancers, we want someone to lead in developing our voice. The role will focus on writing our Digest and Opportunities emails as well as contributing original media reporting and commentary that’s compact, punchy, thoughtful, and informative.

We are building Study Hall into a subscription-funded publication and community. Our inspirations are The Awl, Today in Tabs, and early-days Gawker, focused on the media and looking outward…

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A new website and a new effort to build community in the media industry.

We’re happy to announce the formal launch of our Study Hall subscription newsletter, listserv, and digital community for the media industry. Check it all out on our new website, designed by Jarrett Fuller in Brooklyn, with logo and art from Berlin-based designer Bruno Pinto da Cruz.

What It Is:

Study Hall launched in 2015 as a coworking space for freelance writers in Brooklyn. Our office in Gowanus is still going strong, but we realized that there’s a much wider desire for community and information-sharing in media…

Kyle Chayka

A writer about tech and culture: kylechayka.com & twitter.com/chaykak.

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