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Issue #21 – Playing With Reality – Axie Infinity, Parasocial Relationships, Unearned Fame, Voice Cloning and Fuzzynomics

Thijs Pepping
July 20, 2021

It’s official: the full title of our upcoming book is “Real Fake – Playing with Reality in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.

“Real Fake” is our take on synthetic media and the follow-up to our 2008 book “Me the Media”. Real Fake is about how humans continuously manipulate reality and how new digital technology tools enable us to go one step further in this ancient game. This includes modern phenomena like conspiracy theories such as QAnon, Deepfakes, and fake news, but also virtual humans such as CGI Influencer Lil Miquela and virtual worlds like Fortnite.

How Axie Infinity Creates Work in the Metaverse

“A cute NFT pet game called Axie Infinity is currently raking in more protocol revenue than Ethereum and Bitcoin. its business model is designed so the people profiting from it are not just a bunch of crypto bros getting richer. It’s people farther down the food chain, those who are usually excluded from these kinds of life-changing moments of wealth creation. Filipinos are benefitting.”

The Blurred Lines of Parasocial Relationships

“Opportunities for interactions with celebrities in the past were rare and carefully controlled by celebrities for publicity and promotion purposes. However, social media have changed this one‐sided relationship to a more interactive and reciprocal one. Celebrities willingly share on social media seemingly personal information with their audiences. In response, audiences ‘follow’ their favorite celebrities 24/7, peeking into their private lives and getting to know them ‘up close and personal.’ These new media environments have narrowed the distance between audiences and celebrities and have altered the role of audiences from that of mere spectators or admirers to ‘friends’ of celebrities.”

An influencer’s death became a joke on Twitter. Here’s why trolls love to hate influencers.

“Harassment of internet personalities and influencers increased during the coronavirus pandemic as more people communicated through digital spaces during lockdown. […] Experts say there are many reasons influencers are mocked online and are often the targets of cruelty in times of personal tragedy. Some of the key factors are the disconnect people experience when they’re commenting online, the anonymity of the internet and a fundamental misunderstanding of content creation and the work that goes into it. But a major component of the attitudes toward influencers is gender-specific hatred directed at women. […] Along with the gendered harassment some influencers experience, experts brought up the notion of ”unearned fame,“ the idea that such influencers are perceived as having no real talent or as making no real contributions to society, when, in reality, they are an arm of the marketing and advertising sector that has capitalized on the digital space.”
Mmm, unearned fame, never heard of this term before, but it might be important to explain harassment on social media.

Why the Anthony Bourdain Voice Cloning Creeps People Out

“The revelation that a documentary filmmaker used voice-cloning software to make the late chef Anthony Bourdain say words he never spoke has drawn criticism amid ethical concerns about use of the powerful technology. […] That’s renewed a debate about the future of voice-cloning technology, not just in the entertainment world but in politics and a fast-growing commercial sector dedicated to transforming text into realistic-sounding human speech.”
The new documentary “Roadrunner” uses A.I.-generated audio without disclosing it to viewers. How should we feel about that?

Fuzzynomics and 12 Other Attempts to Name Our New Era

Fuzzynomics encapsulates a world where the old rules no longer apply and the new ones aren’t yet clear. Where governments and central banks—at least in rich countries—can throw around money by the trillions and make up the rules as they go along. Where things feel artificial, inflated, uncertain—and where the experiment could go either wonderfully right or terribly wrong.”
How would you describe the new, post-pandemic economic era? And what would be the name by which it should be known?

MUST WATCH: The Currency of Currency

The Currency of Currency – Directed by Spike Lee

“The digital rebellion is here! Don’t believe Spike Lee? Well, we have the receipts: you’re currently on your digital device visiting a digital website watching a digital video about digital currency. There’s no debate. Old money is out. New money is in.”


Playing with Reality is a weekly newsletter in which SogetiLabs’s Research Institute VINT examines the future where synthetic reality becomes part or our objective reality. We investigate the impact of new technology on people, organisations and our society. If you have any questions or comments, do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach us at

About the author

Trend Analyst VINT | Netherlands
Thijs Pepping is a humanistic trend analyst in the field of new technologies. He is part of the think tank within SogetiLabs and in his work he continuously wonders and analyses what the impact of New Technologies is on our lives, organizations and society.


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