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Issue #9 – Playing With Reality 🚀🔮🌟

Thijs Pepping
May 03, 2021

“Playing with Reality” is the title of our upcoming book on synthetic media and the follow-up to our 2008 book “Me the Media”. Playing with Reality 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.

Deepfake Geography

Researchers have shown that deepfake technology can be used to manipulate satellite imagery to produce real-looking — but totally fake — overhead maps of cities. A fire in Central Park seems to appear as a smoke plume and a line of flames in a satellite image. Colorful lights on Diwali night in India, seen from space, seem to show widespread fireworks activity. Both images exemplify what a study, led by Bo Zhao from the University of Washington, calls “location spoofing.” The work challenges the general assumption of the “absolute reliability of satellite images or other geospatial data.”


European MPs targeted by deepfake video calls

A series of senior European MPs have been approached in recent days by individuals who appear to be using deepfake filters to imitate Russian opposition figures during video calls. “It is clear that the so-called truth decay or post-truth and post-fact era has the potential to seriously threaten the safety and stability of local and international countries, governments and societies.”


Timelapse in Google Earth: Our Cities

See how cities around the globe have changed since 1984 through a global time-lapse video. Explore the whole planet:

Our Cities | Timelapse in Google Earth

How TikTok Chooses Which Songs Go Viral

TikTok, a social network where people post short videos, often set to music, has become this generation’s hit machine. Social media has always been less spontaneous than it appears, but from its inception, TikTok has been even more controlled than competing apps. Company executives help determine which videos go viral, which clips appear on the pages of personalized recommendations, and which trends spill out from the app to flood the rest of the world.

How to Go Viral on TikTok Like Megan Thee Stallion? Play the App’s Game - Bloomberg
How to Go Viral on TikTok Like Megan Thee Stallion? Play the App’s Game – Bloomberg
The app’s hits seem to emerge organically, but the success of artists like Megan Thee Stallion reveals a highly managed curation process.  •  Share

Robots Can Be Our Partners

Dr Kate Darling is a research specialist in human-robot interaction, robot ethics and intellectual property theory and policy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab. In her new book, The New Breed, she argues that we would be better prepared for the future if we started thinking about robots and artificial intelligence (AI) like animals. You can read the complete interview with Kate Darling at the Guardian.

Music NFT Market Update

NFT’s and Music, it might me be a golden combination. Cherie Hu has made an excellent overview of all the things that are happening in this space. Read this slide deck and you’re up to date.

Music NFT market update, April 2021 || Water & Music - Google Slides
Music NFT market update, April 2021 || Water & Music – Google Slides
Music NFT market update Cherie Hu Water & Music April 20, 2021  •  Share

VINT Summit: The Reality Show

On the 15th of June 2021 we are organizing our yearly summit. This year we try to answer the question how digital technology is changing our relationship with reality. So if you want to know more about deepfakes, virtual humans, cgi influencers, synthetic media, AR, VR and mixed reality, please register yourself. And it’s free!


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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