Weeknote 18/04/2021

Standard

Reading

https://www.wired.com/story/pink-princess-plantfluencers-pink-congo-scam/

I like articles like this, which open a window into a world or subculture that I never would have thought of myself – I didn’t need to know that “plantfluencers” exist, but I enjoyed the article regardless. The author explained enough horticulture terms to lead readers through the story, but kept the focus on the human quirks: the drive people have to collect seemingly anything to display social status through those collections, and how often people turn any trend into a chance to make quick money.

Reading through the article, it became clear that people only needed a small amount of knowledge about plants to realise that the pink congo plant couldn’t be real. TL:DR: only the green parts of plant leaves contain chlorophyll, the substance that lets plants photosynthesise to feed themselves. As a result, a plant would never produce solidly-pink (or any other colour) leaves by itself, as producing leaves with no chlorophyll makes the plant risk starving. Breeding plants to have colourful leaves and still survive takes careful and long-term work by growers. So this also article shows how scams (and malicious trends) rely on people being swept up in FOMO and hype in order to succeed.

Speaking of FOMO…

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/15/22385957/arcade-fire-45-minute-long-single-headspace-meditation-app

I‘m already sceptical about the idea of meditation apps, so I’m a little biased here, but to me this goes beyond illogical and into counter-productively stupid. I’m aiming the criticism at Headspace rather than at Arcade Fire, who I know nothing about, as Headspace are likely to be the party who had the most impact in bringing this idea to fruition.

The gamification aspects of meditation apps, such as using points, badges, or achievements to reward consistent app usage, are already a debated aspect; some people could see gamified elements as a stepping stone that helps them stick with the app until the beneficial effects of meditation become clear to them. Alternately, people can see these elements as misguided attempts to “hook” users on to the app, and encourage them to pay for extra features in the app by appealing to loyalty and to our desire to complete collections.

But adding gated “exclusive content” in this way goes beyond even the existing questionable trend of adding “influencer content” such as stories read by celebrities. I just don’t understand how any service can claim to be encouraging mindfulness and deliberation with their apps when they’re designing those apps to contain many of the worst traps of materialism and consumerism.

While I was fairly annoyed after reading the article about Headspace, this article by science communicator Sally Le Page left me bemused instead.

Continue reading