This season on VISIONS will explore the content of VISIONS: Volume IV by Future Commerce. VISIONS is an audio-visual Annual Trends report that examines the changes in culture and commerce and their impacts on the technology industry that serves them. VISIONS: Volume IV took place over three months, from April to June 2023, bookended by two events. Today we go live to the first of those events at the Celeste Bartos Theater at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where we'll speak with a panel of modern culture reporters, foresight analysts, and media creators and ask them the question, “Where is the counterculture?”
This season on VISIONS will explore the content of VISIONS: Volume IV by Future Commerce. VISIONS is an audio-visual Annual Trends report that examines the changes in culture and commerce and their impacts on the technology industry that serves them. VISIONS: Volume IV took place over three months, from April to June 2023, bookended by two events.
Today we go live to the first of those events at the Celeste Bartos Theater at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where we'll speak with a panel of modern culture reporters, foresight analysts, and media creators and ask them the question, “Where is the counterculture?”
Announcer: [00:00:02] Today on Visions.
Daisy Alioto: [00:00:06] To go back to this idea of the counterculture, the culture and counterculture are cyclically influencing one another. I can't think of anything more aesthetically barren at this point than an Apple store. But there was a time when that aesthetic was revolutionary and some of that revolution still lives on in it. And it's also enabled some really terrible impulses in Silicon Valley. So it's also important to remember that for every counterculture movement, the response to it will be part of the cycle of the next culture.
Announcer: [00:00:41] Welcome to Visions. Visions is an annual audio visual trends report that covers the changes in culture and commerce. It is meant to be a companion guide to our new zine, The Multiplayer Brand. Buy your copy today at TheMultiplayerBrand.com. Episode 1: Where is the counterculture on the rise of the critic class?
Phillip: [00:01:12] Hi, I'm Phillip. To predict the future of commerce is to understand the way that commerce is expressed in the world. And to understand commerce means you must understand people. To understand how commerce happens in a given channel, you have to understand the platforms that serve that channel and again, the people they serve. So if, for example, the prevailing culture is more online today than it was yesterday, then perhaps the future of commerce is digital. If it is more social than yesterday, perhaps the future of commerce is more social. But perhaps it is we, the creators of the digital commerce platforms that serve the people, that have lost the context. We are persistently online, digitally addicted, voracious media consumers in our own right, contributing to the discourse, whatever that may be at the time. We have become our own subculture. So what, then is a counterculture? A counterculture shopper would be anybody who unplugs from The Matrix. This season on Visions will explore the content of Visions Volume IV by Future Commerce. Visions is an audio visual Annual Trends report that examines the changes in culture and commerce and the impacts that they have on the technology industry that serves them. Visions Volume IV took place over the course of three months, from April to June of 2023, bookended by two events. Today we go live to the first of those events to the Celeste Bartos Theater at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, where we'll speak with a panel of modern culture reporters, foresight analysts, and media creators, and ask them the question, "Where is the counterculture?" What do you believe signifies something that's countercultural and do we witness something like that happening right now in the world?
Daisy Alioto: [00:03:12] I think you have to define culture first. But one thing we think about and write about a lot is this idea of the monoculture.
Announcer: [00:03:20] Daisy Alioto, CEO and Co-Founder of Dirt.
Daisy Alioto: [00:03:25] So appointment television viewing eras where everyone would be watching the same show at the same time, consuming the same thing. And I think this came up a lot in the previous panel. Now there's just a ton to consume. And by nature of that volume, we can't all be consuming the same thing at the same time. And so at least we have the sense that what we're consuming is more personalized, which is a little bit at odds with consuming as a community. So the idea of the monoculture, if you have a monoculture, it's pretty easy to situate the counterculture in relation to that. If the monoculture is everyone watching Game of Thrones at the same time, the counterculture is whatever the opposite is of that, which is maybe like people throwing paint on each other at a black box theater in downtown New York, Dimes Square or whatever. What we have right now is a lot of interesting niche subcommunities with their own cultures and then countercultures to those. And I think the result of that is it's very hard to know what's trending because trends really exist within these sort of niche subcultures and microspheres. And then by the time they exit, they're no longer a trend, they're more like a trend discourse. So I was talking to somebody about this recently. It reminds me of the quote, "History happens first as tragedy and then as farce." It's like all trends happen first as trends within their own bubbles and then as trend discourse. And Emily is really good at identifying those at the point of exit. I think I'm probably preaching to the choir here. It's not that there's no counterculture as a category, it's that it's no longer, I think, singular in a way that it might have been considered in the past. It's very environment specific and even regionally specific, despite the fact that the Internet is global.
Phillip: [00:05:11] But there isn't, I guess we would have considered Internet culture to be a thing at some point.
Emily Sundberg: [00:05:16] Yeah, I think size is a big thing to consider here. And then also what's countercultural to me as a person who's lived in New York City for my whole life.
Announcer: [00:05:27] Emily Sundberg, writer, creative strategist and publisher of Feed Me substack.
Emily Sundberg: [00:05:33] How I might look at people who subscribe to Andrew Tate as like counterculture, right? Or like these alt-right guys. And when I see stories written about them in publications, it feels so radical that there's this group of people that exists when in reality outside of my backyard that's a lot of those ideas might be pretty common. Something like what Daisy was mentioning with more of like Dimes Square, that might feel radical and countercultural-y. People partying during the pandemic, people bringing back print media. But is that large enough to qualify as a counterculture? I just like you said, I feel like the Internet is way too fragmented. And there's also this idea with the root of counterculture that has so much to do with physical signaling, whether it's growing your hair long, if you're a hippie or like dressing punk, if you're listening to Kurt Cobain. And that is also something that people can do for one Instagram post or like check off that box and get the sign off from like a counterculture or try it out for a minute. And then you can go back to like your regular life or whatever the next trend is and whatever is on the shelf next. And then you can't really talk about counterculture without talking about the capitalization of it all. You can capitalize on these weird trends, whether it's something like Dimes Square, and then you see a year later, the entire Marc Jacobs campaign for a massive fashion brand is these characters. So is that really counterculture if that's cool now?
Phillip: [00:07:09] There's so much there, I think part of understanding... So the word counterculture has a meaning. We're defining what that means. Subcultures certainly still exist. They're everywhere. A lot of them are really defined by the things that how we do in group signaling and like what we wear. There seems to be an understanding of the way that you explain what's happened in the world through the evolution of fashion and how that overlay is so important to understanding what's happening. So can you take some of these nuggets here and maybe pull that together? What are some of the fashion affectations of things like the Dimes Square? The way we write about it, the way we mythologize it, and how does that come back to how we align ourselves with whether we're in part of that culture or not?
Alexi Alario: [00:07:52] One thing I think that you mentioned, Emily, is the recent Marc Jacobs campaign, which is just if anyone hasn't seen it, it's like a really long couch with a ton of kind of famous people on it and then less famous people on it.
Announcer: [00:08:06] Alexi Alario, Co-Host of the Nymphet Alumni podcast.
Alexi Alario: [00:08:11] But they all have some kind of clout in their own way, and it's a really random mix of people. And I think that really represents the mode of where a counterculture is right now. I think there are lots of subcultures, but I think because of the surplus of images and content the most novel thing that people can do is create combinations of unexpected elements of culture and just bring them together. Like even with our podcast, one of the things we're most well known for is this like trend spotting thing that I did, and it's called Blokette, and it's like a portmanteau, which kind of represents that everything is just like combining two things that already exist. But it's a bloke core, which is like British 90s kind of Britpop fashion mixed with Coquette, which is really feminine and girly. So it does feel really hard. Sometimes I do get bummed about the lack of existence of new things, and that's why we're going so hard on fashion history because everything feels really referential. But also there's something fun about new combinations and seeing a couch where there's a guy from the White Lotus on it, but there's also a girl that you saw at a party last week. Yeah.
Phillip: [00:09:20] Wow, you really touched on something there. The naming of something I think is also like the inception. It's not just that we recognize that there's something that's happening, it's recurrent. It's that somebody gave it a name. And part of one of the things that we like to examine is who has the right to give it that name. Do you have to be participatory in order to recognize it? There's a lot more of that sort of dynamic of who's in the in-group, who's in the outgroup, who has the power to be able to name something. And usually it's the people with the greatest audience that wins out.
Matt Klein: [00:09:51] Yeah, it's a messy one. And back to your point, I think right now trends are trending. They are means for us to firstly understand our moment. In a moment of just unpredictability, trends provide an answer, an explanation of where we're heading next.
Announcer: [00:10:06] Matt Klein, cultural theorist and publisher of ZINE.
Matt Klein: [00:10:11] And then second, it provides some sense of progress. Trends mean change. So we're desperate for change. We're obsessed. For the last six years, I've been looking at every single published trend report, from ad agencies to consultancies to VR firms to understand what is getting published year over year across all these 50 plus reports that are sharing a common denominator. And what I found is that over the last six years, those trending trends don't really change, which led to future research. And what we found was that we asked 1500 people globally, have you heard of any of the ten trends from indie sleaze to vibe shift, the things that we just like, "Yeah, obviously that's gorpcore." And 43% of people have not heard of a single one. You uttered these words to the general public. They'll think you're absolutely insane because you're speaking a completely different language. For those who have heard of them, though, we ask, "Have you participated in any capacity?" A purchase? Have you identified yourself? Have you made a post? Have you engaged in any capacity? 44% of people have not. So when we talk about these trending trends, which for the most part we're absolutely saturated and drowning in, they're applying to a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of people. So to go back to your point and to answer this entire question, is there counterculture or subculture or monoculture? It's completely dependent upon the sample size in which we're looking at. And for the most part, I think it behooves us to really broaden our aperture of really understanding what's most important to the most amount of people, because if we have to select too small of a sample size, we're just speaking to ourselves and really ignoring the masses. And perhaps that's where we get into trouble by not recognizing what people actually want.
Phillip: [00:11:57] As we examine popular countercultures like hippies, goths, or punk rockers, a counterculture can be defined both by the monoculture that it opposes and its participation in or abstention from commerce. For example, some countercultural movements are defined by their participation in commerce. Often overlooked countercultures are examples that created categorical shopping like social enterprises or sustainable fashion or alternative milks. Labeling a niche community and a behavior as a trend pushes it into the spotlight, and it substitutes mystique with an invitation to participate in commerce. It is we, the commerce creators, who continue to manifest context through categorization and trend analysis by serving a customer, giving us context in a world where context is scarce. So maybe we can actually even dig a little bit deeper to say that. Maybe these subcultures exist for the benefit of the culture in its entirety, and we mythologize it through nostalgia. It's like how many greasers really were there? But everyone knows about that, and we all think of that as a certain era now, and we associate it with some bygone time that nobody really lives in. And then we give that thing a name called Anemoia. You never lived it, but you have nostalgia for it. What are some of these things that we're really looking at when you think about the way that we're capturing those moments and how tied to the media in which we produce it? The way that we capture those moments in the eras that they're captured in has a lot to do with the fidelity and quality of the medium in which it was made. And we see this happening right now, like folks are going back to point and shoot cameras. I don't know, presumably to feel something. And there's something really pristine about the way that we take pictures and how they can be retouched. There's something really raw. I don't want to lead the witness. What do you think about maybe part of that being associated with us trying to recreate our participation in a group that we've never actually come into contact with?
Daisy Alioto: [00:14:22] Phil, would you say that the medium is the message?
Phillip: [00:14:24] The medium is the message. I didn't say that exactly. I think Marshall McLuhan said it.
Daisy Alioto: [00:14:29] Exactly. Fashion is such a strong framework for these conversations because fashion has given us like the best moment to explain why trends are much smaller than we believe at all times, which is the blue belt scene in The Devil Wears Prada, where Miranda Priestly is giving this very barbed speech about the belt that starts off on the runway and eventually trickles down to the bargain bin over a long period of time, which I think even since that movie has been made, that period of time is probably accelerated. At the same time, does the consumer does the end point consumer actually have the language to talk about it or the name to talk about it? Probably not. I think where the medium comes in is increasingly related to time as a scarce resource and attention. I think time and attention are the new gold rush of any consumer company and digital company, and I think it's because of the relationship that time and community have on an emotional and psychological level. When we're talking about nostalgia and memory as some of the strongest mechanisms for marketing and the relationship that nostalgia and memory have to certain mediums, like the type of film or camera you were using when you first encountered something or the type of car you were driving when you first encountered something, it's very hard to package that in an authentic way, but if you can, that becomes the brand moat. And that's the thing that allows you to excel past all of your competitors. I think time and attention are going to become a bigger part of the conversation as we look to the next ten years. And I have a friend who said to me last week, for the last ten years, consumers have defined themselves by brands and their personal identity. The next ten years will be defined by community, primarily digital community, and the medium by which people are encountering those digital communities will define their life and their consumer habits forever. So I think that you're touching on something really important here, and it's the time aspect of trends. It's the ephemerality aspect of trends and also just memory and the sheer power of memory informing community and informing our memory of that community at a past point in time. Going back to childhood.
Phillip: [00:17:30] It's funny because the you can't really you can recreate the esthetic of something with a vintage camera, but Discord's not going to bring back their retro theme from 2008, right? It's never going to be the way that it was back then. And I don't know that we can approximate that anymore, especially as the world sort of changes. I wonder what we lose. I don't want to like out anyone as extremely online. I'm very online. But there's only so much I can take and I don't know if there's an anxiety that comes along with it. Maybe it's just the fact that like, we all do this for a living, but there's an anxiety that comes along with having to track this stuff.
Emily Sundberg: [00:18:06] Do normal people have to deal with it? I think to different levels. Being online is a part of my work. So when people ask me like, "Do you get stressed out or do you ever want to put your phone down?" It's just kind of part of what I do, so I can't really accurately answer. Does it make you anxious or not? Because without it I wouldn't have this special career that I've built for myself. But somebody like my parents, they probably look at it like all of this content and sign off at a certain point. "Okay, I watched the news. I like have an understanding of what's happening and now I'm going to continue the routines that I've had for the last 50, 60 years of my life." But I think that younger people probably have a different, and you can track this with like depression and anxiety levels in young people, especially women, they probably take it on in a different way than I did when I was, what, like 20, 19, 18 in high school or whatever. So I do think that anxiety comes but in a different way. I went to FIT in the city and I did a talk there recently to a group of students and they all asked me at the end, it's a business school that I spoke to. They're all trying to work in like marketing to some level, and they were all saying like, "How do we become the next Alix Earle? How do we become the next top influencer? How do we make a space for ourselves in this category of creators that already exists and there are so many voices? How do we find our own?" What I said to them is, just be careful with a career like that, that you begin online, because you can't take it back. And I wrote in one of my letters this week just about putting your stuff online and not being able to get it back. And I've dealt with that many times over my... I'm looking at Daisy because you can't get that back. So if that's the career that you decide to put yourself out into, you probably will have to reckon with that in many different ways, whether it's embarrassment or a future employer asking you about it or somebody seeing it when you're going on a potential date or whatever. So those pangs of anxiety might come into younger people in a way differently than it did for me because I didn't go into college with a searchable life online where all of these other people do. Do my friends feel anxiety because of social media and the amount of time that they spend online? Absolutely. I don't know if they're all going to quantify it or speak about it in the same way that I do. But the cost of being here on a panel and going home and having the life that I do is that time I spend in the trenches, building this and like becoming an expert on certain things or whatever, a trusted source on certain things. Yeah, I think a lot of people feel it.
Phillip: [00:21:10] You're sacrificing some part of yourself to that part.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:14] Certainly.
Phillip: [00:21:14] And that's that itself is like this archetype that you've... It's not you, but part of your role in your work.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:22] What's not me?
Phillip: [00:21:22] I'm sorry. I don't want to speak for you.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:23] My bit? My like online bit?
Phillip: [00:21:24] Your online person is a persona.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:26] And I can turn that off at a certain point.
Phillip: [00:21:28] You'd probably do all the time. But that's not what people see of you.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:31] Press send.
Phillip: [00:21:32] Right.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:33] Go to the office.
Phillip: [00:21:34] And then it's off.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:35] Yeah.
Phillip: [00:21:35] But the anxiety doesn't go away because you're off the clock.
Emily Sundberg: [00:21:38] It's like a buzz.
Phillip: [00:21:43] In the summer of 2023, brands like Away and Nikon rallied against the idea of an AI-generated world. Nikon pulling pictures from its catalog with a subtext saying, "Don't give up on the real world." Brands as a monoculture have become an opposition movement to a new future. At Future Commerce, we examine both the transaction and the transcendent. This idea of popularized AI driven personalization requires unbelievable context. Personalization with your customer requires context, but context is fleeting. A brand's perception of consumer context is one sided. How can I serve the customer and what they need right now? But that is an incomplete story. True context requires understanding millions of storylines that intersect into this one moment, the here and now, and at least for the moment, that context cannot be AI-generated. So let me ask what tools do we have to deal with this? And maybe this is just like inherently a content creator thing, but when you're thinking of I look at somehow Marcus Aurelius is trending again, like he's cool now. And because stoicism and daily stoic and whatever other self-important white men. But when I'm thinking about what brings that about it could be this feeling that we all have that we're ill equipped to deal with the outrage, the bombastic nature of everything that we encounter all the time. And to the point of "Don't buy this." We're in influencing now, right? It's not just about what to buy. It's don't buy that. There's this piece there that we don't have the tools. So maybe that's why stoicism is a thing.
Matt Klein: [00:23:36] There's a few things there. Firstly, how are those things coming about? I don't know how much of it is bottoms up as much as it is the algorithm just spewing it into people's feeds and this is what it is. And. Okay. Yeah, sure, I'll take it.
Phillip: [00:23:49] It's piggy dipping now all the time. Sorry. That's what everybody gets.
Matt Klein: [00:23:52] There are some of that. But again, I don't know how much exploration or intimate kind of bottoms up exploration and journey seeking people are going on to try to find their X, whatever that thing is. The thing about de-influencing is, yes, there's a little bit of stoicism of screw it, don't buy this thing, but it's still a form of influencing. It's still the same thing. It's still people gaining clout and posturing and saying, "I have a take that you need." It's the same thing. I think arguably to tie some of these things together, one of the more countercultural punk rock things is just logging off and not letting anyone know that you're logging off. The number of people like, "Fuck Twitter, I'm out of here." But then letting people know that they're doing it, that's de-influencing. That's the same exact thing.
Emily Sundberg: [00:24:46] Ten weeks off of Twitter. I'm going to update you all, but it's been like...
Matt Klein: [00:24:49] Great, see ya. I don't care. And I think that's tying some of these things together that it's so hard to escape because it's just, I don't know, we're so seeped in it, it's hard to just completely rip the Band-Aid off.
Phillip: [00:25:02] That's punk rock now. What punk rock was really, again, and I'm not a punk rocker, but I'm a cusper. I'll claim affinity to Gen X when it's appropriate or when it works best for me in a conversation. But I'll say this, what I do know of folks that participated in scene and underground and music affinity sort of communities, there was this real sense of like identity being in doing things for the sake of doing them and not to commercialize them. And that's not the world we live in anymore. The world that we live in now is how fast can you commercialize something to the point of your friendship, your social following... That is success and that's how we quantify it. And Alexi, I don't know how you see this, but de-influencing can certainly be the maybe it is the Miranda Priestly. It's a cerulean belt. It's like there's a whole history here and we have to distill the whole history for you to understand the context of everything. Or maybe it is you can just wear the leather jacket because you're punk rock now and you signed off Twitter. I'm not sure what your perspective is there.
Alexi Alario: [00:25:59] Yeah, I don't know. To me, I think de-influencing is just like a trust building exercise. You're trying to prove to your audience that they can trust you because you're like making this trade off and being like, I'm doing something that's not profitable, but then they're just going to take that trust that they got from that and sell you something better later, probably.
Phillip: [00:26:18] I'm certainly conflating a lot of ideas here. I think that there's the identity in the way we share our identity with others is linked to behavior and maybe ethos. And the ethos in punk rock was this anti sellout culture. Are we on the brink of another anti sellout movement? Is that even possible at this point?
Alexi Alario: [00:26:38] Honestly, I don't think so. I think like selling out is a bit cool, especially seeing people I know from Dimes Square every time they get some kind of like campaign or sitting at Fashion Week, there's like a celebration vibe. No one has ever derided someone for selling out that I know just because I think also there's this thing of I know that you are selling out, but it's cool because we're in on it and it's actually a bit punk to sell out. I don't know, punk rock like really isn't cool. Like I can't think of anything less cool, honestly, but I think hippies are a vibe and they were what I was thinking of with counterculture because that's like the biggest example ever. But also that was only possible because of the conformity that came out of like the 50s and 60s, and because we don't have that anymore, everyone is their own subculture. It's hard to imagine what's going on.
Matt Klein: [00:27:30] The other element worth acknowledging too, is that we're in a completely different financial environment than we were decades ago. You cannot survive today without selling out. You can't be an artist.
Daisy Alioto: [00:27:52] The other thing that came to mind, when you're talking about hippies, the back to the land movement ironically led to a lot of the values and the aesthetics that influenced early technologists like Steve Jobs and the actual aesthetics and the typography of the Whole Earth Catalog, which was essentially a catalog that told you how to live off the land. These are the seeds that you need. These are the tools that you need. That became basically the prototype for the way that your Mac looks. And so to go back to this idea of the counterculture, the culture and the counterculture are cyclically influencing one another. I can't think of anything more aesthetically barren at this point than an Apple store. But there was a time when that that aesthetic was revolutionary and some of that revolution still lives on in it. And it's also enabled some really terrible impulses in Silicon Valley. So it's also important to remember that, for every counterculture movement, the response to it will be part of the cycle of the next culture, even if it's happening in this very fragmented way now.
Phillip: [00:29:45] When we were talking about the emergence of critique, because it's effectively what we've all done here for the last 20 minutes is we're applying critique to things that we see in the world. We've to some degree, we've named things. Does everybody know what Dimes Square is? At this point, I'm afraid to ask. I don't know. I read the article.
Emily Sundberg: [00:30:05] You're in Florida.
Phillip: [00:30:05] I'm in Florida. I'm in Palm Beach. But being far removed from where those things are happening, but understanding that they still do have an impact on the way, especially in the digital media that I consume because I'm affiliated with so many people like yourself. I'm a subscriber of so many of the things that you all create, and that feed definitely shapes my perspective. Even if I'm not there, I feel like I'm still immersed in it. So this critique. When we're thinking about the way that we apply criticism. Could you then say that the emergence of criticism for these subcultures denote some sort of performance art or some sort of artistic quality to it that maybe it's already well commercialized because everybody's making money off it and they wouldn't be doing it otherwise. Can we say that TikTok is an art form unto itself and that there is a genre development, there is historical preservation, there's oral history. We have all of the other hallmarks of emergence of art form. Could you say that there is a new art form and maybe a commerce centered art form that's being birthed right in our midst?
Matt Klein: [00:31:13] It would maybe behoove us to interrogate critic class in the first place, despite it being on the slide. If we ran research to figure out are people more critical today than they were before? I don't know. I don't know if we're more pessimistic, but I would argue or what I'd hypothesize is that people are more desperate for a sense of engagement or participation with a lot of media today. And I feel like that's maybe perhaps what we're grasping towards or scratching at that is not necessarily that people are more hungry to critique something as much as they are trying to raise their hand to say, I want to be a part of this. And especially in a environment which is purely online, critiquing or participating in a comment is a form of participation where one feels included in that IP in some capacity. And perhaps maybe that's the twist, which to me makes it a little bit more sense. I don't know if that makes sense, but that's my take.
Emily Sundberg: [00:32:14] There's also something to gain with all that. You can get likes, you can get followers, you can get retweets, like people can think you're funny and that's like a human need and want to be liked and to be considered smart or interesting. I'm sure 50, 100, 1000 years ago, people were just as critical or questioned things. But now it's so much easier to get something for being critical or often mean or get a reaction from masses of people because of a small opinion that you have that might be meaningful or might not be. But there's also like a value to it, right? If a lot of people are saying that something could change in a product, for instance, because this is like retail, people can redevelop a product and change something or change the way that they're hiring or change the way that something looks or tastes or something like that. If enough people tweeted Eric Adams that they're upset about something things can actually be brought up and seen and listened to and heard. I think where it gets dangerous is when people just go into this vacuum of tweeting. I keep saying tweeting. I feel like that's the medium for criticism. It can get dangerous.
Phillip: [00:33:33] Oh, yeah. I mean, just look who owns it. Alexi. When you are what I would characterize at the beginning of creating what seems like it's going to be a really beloved media property, you have this capability to explain a fire and you're putting it into a passive consumption medium that allows people to just be immersed in your knowledge. And there's a vibe. You have a wonderful rapport with each other. You are like following a tradition that happens in shorter form in social media of explaining why things exist and how they came to be. And so I'm not sure if you have a perspective on why you chose long form versus short form in this moment, because you could probably have done a very similar thing on TikTok and have benefited from the reach of an algorithm, but you chose a different path. What are some of the thoughts around that?
Alexi Alario: [00:34:23] Yeah, one of my co-hosts, Biz Sherbert, is a cultural analyst on TikTok, and she makes like short form fashion history videos and is done really well with that. But really, the reason we chose podcasting is because we had a group chat first and I think group chats are major key. We were talking about community as well, like Discord is just a big group chat. I think there's so much possibility that comes out of that just with the speed of it, and it's convinced me that things don't have to just be images because images on the Internet can feel so overwhelming. And like when you look at enough of them, they feel a bit meaningless. So yeah, I guess it's a bit ironic because it's like a podcast about visual culture. So you're like hearing us talk about things and you just have to imagine them in your head or know what we're talking about. But I do think what we're doing with contextualizing things and giving it like a place in fashion history is a part of criticism. And I'm obsessed with criticism. It was my childhood dream to be an art critic. It's what I went to school for. And my whole life people were just like, "Oh, so you just want to complain about things? You're insanely negative." But nothing gets better without criticism is what I always like to say. So I feel like it's okay that everyone is a critic as long as I think it creates a heightened awareness. And especially with like algorithms. If you're not a critic, you're just going to let them like run over you. And I feel like it's good to see people my age taking control of their algorithm when I see a lot of like millennials being like, "Oh, Twitter is so miserable, social media is so stupid." I'm like, "Maybe follow smarter people or when you see something you don't like, say, "Not interested." I'm actually having a ball on social media. My algorithm is perfect.
Audience Member: [00:36:05] Hello. Hi. Thank you all for just a really insightful discussion and I took a lot away from this, but I wanted to bring it back to Commerce and ask you about the fact that it seems like advertising has led to this sort of critic class because advertising has gotten so smart that it's able to these platforms are now able to target users so effectively and efficiently that brands have become more and more niche in their needs. And and so customers are expecting that level of personalization and specification with every product that they buy, but that doesn't really align with the economies of scale that lead to a successful business. And businesses need to apply to mass audiences to grow to a level that makes sense for them from a consumer brand standpoint. Do you think it's possible for consumer brands to succeed today with the level of personalization and specification that is expected by the customers that shop for them?
Daisy Alioto: [00:36:58] I think that we're entering a period of creator economy and brand consolidation, and if you haven't listened to the Acquired podcast episode on LVMH, I strongly suggest you listen to it. My biggest takeaway is essentially Bernard Arnault is once again the richest man in the world. So congratulations to him. It's no longer Elon Musk. And of course, these are economics. But I think that there's something really symbolic about that, the type of business he has, the type of business Elon Musk has and has taken on. But what I took away from that is LVMH has better margins than software because they've pared economies of scale with very distinctive brands. And I think what we're going to start to see is these subcultures and niches that have experienced success on a qualitative level with the depth of engagement of their community will combine with other subcultures and niche brands to be part of larger conglomerates. And that's going to be how people succeed in the post algorithm era. I think we'll probably see this across consumer, but maybe even beyond the consumer category. So I guess it's like trying to have the best of both of those worlds. And critics will adjust, I think, by moving through those communities as participants, as Matt said.
Matt Klein: [00:38:10] I think I agree entirely with that. There's a recognition on the consumer side at least, or let's put it this way, the idea that growth for growth's sake is good, I think is fading a little bit. I think that's entirely felt on the consumer side. I don't know if that's felt entirely on the organization or the brand side. And there is still this mentality that we have to be something for everyone and it's unsustainable, plain and simple. So until organizations recognize that we have to be something special for just a small amount of people, that's when there is success. And do you think that's feasible? It could be a Rorschach test of what brands have hit that. But until organizations recognize that we just can't be the average or the common denominator for everyone, that's when perhaps those things combine and you can hit some economies of scale and could work.
Audience Member: [00:39:10] The question that I have is what would you say is a line of demarcation, like the monetary value of counterculture? Because at a certain point what becomes popular, what was once counterculture, they sell out, right? A good example I can think of recently is Salomon Footwear. This is a French athletic brand for extreme sports alpine skiing. But now Rihanna's wearing that in the Super Bowl. So would that still be considered counterculture or is it a popular trend? I guess what I'm asking is, should I buy a pair of Salomon shoes?
Emily Sundberg: [00:39:42] I think it's just like a good stylist relationship, right? I don't I would never think of that as something that's like counterculture. I feel you mentioned I think maybe gorpcore or something. It's one of those I think even like sneakers on women at a time probably could have been called counterculture. I feel like a lot of these things, I'm just like, how far do we want to think into it and try to give it a larger meaning? And how often is it just like a cool stylist in the room?
Daisy Alioto: [00:40:11] It's a changing of the in-group, but I don't know that it's crossed over from counterculture to culture rather than the in-group around it has changed the social signals. But I also think there's, and you hinted at this before, selling out as an art form has become more of a part of the counterculture today than it was in the past.
Announcer: [00:40:35] Next time on Visions.
Jose Cabaco: [00:40:39] It's easy to pay someone to endorse your brand. It's easy to get into the fandom business, but it's really, really hard to be genuinely adopted by the culture that you're trying to be a part of, engage with, promote to the benefit not just of your brand, but that culture that you're putting the spotlight on. And I think there are very few brands that do it nicely. Fortunately, we are in that time where we have so much fragmentation of communication that seems to be a problem that hopefully will disappear.
Orchid Bertelsen: [00:41:16] How is there a fine line between selling out and buying in, and what are some things that determine which side of the coin you fall on?
Announcer: [00:41:29] The Visions podcast is brought to you by Future Commerce. You can find more episodes of this podcast and all Future Commerce properties at FutureCommerce.com. Join our interactive and immersive Miro board that expands on our trends at Visions.FutureCommerce.com.