27th September 2019
Written by Aidan Reid (Associate)
Aidan Reid rounds out the week with a look at the growing trend of tech-driven selective socialisation, only wishing we could do with less building around similarities and more bridging differences.
It is a rare person who manages to pull off their best look in the gym. Likely covered in sweat, breathing heavily and in whichever old t-shirt you could find, do you really want the world to see you at your worst when you’re trying to work towards your best? That appears to be the surface-level pitch of exercise equipment provider, Peloton. It not only provides stationary cycling equipment for home use at an upper end price, but also offers, for a $20 to $40 a month subscription, live classes led by an instructor alongside other Peloton users so that you can still work out with other people. Listing on the stock exchange yesterday (£), it succumbed to the trend set by Uber and Lyft of a lossmaking upstart company being over valued at its initial price and suffering significant falls in value upon listing. The firm has a dedicated fanbase, though, who may carry it to profitability in future. This fanbase is also based on more than the quality of the equipment, for the sociability aspect of the Peloton experience has also proved to be key. The ‘classes’ in which people participate can be highly selective, forming along the lines of self-described groups relying on characteristics such as parenthood, age and even preference for cigars and bourbon. This allows them to work together, share messages online afterwards, and generally build an internalised community. As one user describes, it is a “magic combination of coaching, content and community”. The implications of its offer, of controlled and selective socialisation defined by the user, appears to be a growing trend. Japan Airlines has started to flag on seat maps for passengers where there will be babies or very young children sitting, giving us the opportunity to avoid the potential for the flight to be sound tracked by yelling. For our music, we can block out artists and entire genres with the click of a dislike button. The same goes for social media, where we build our ‘tribes’ through follows and blocks. When choosing who we date online, limits on convenience such as distance are being superseded by new dating apps set up to cater to exclusive social and economic groups. This form of internalised social capital, formed in bonds between like-minded people, is probably not what we envisaged from the expansion of communications technology. Where once we were going to expand our horizons, communicate and gain different perspectives, now companies now cater to our desire to find fellow travellers on similar paths, even on the other side of the world. I can’t help but feel though, looking across the news landscape, that we could do with less tribes built around similarities and more around bridging differences.
Boris Johnson has defended his description of legislation to block a no-deal Brexit as a “surrender bill” in interviews with the BBC. The prime minister’s comments come as MPs report increased hostility towards them, with a man held in custody over aggressive behaviour towards the staff of Jess Philips at her constituency office in Birmingham. Efforts were made by the White House to conceal a transcript revealing that Donald Trump asked his Ukrainian counterpart to launch a corruption investigation against Joe Biden’s son, according to a whistleblower’s report. It comes as over half of the House of Representatives indicated that they would vote to launch an impeachment inquiry against the president over the incident. Ursula von der Leyen has suffered her first major setback as European Commission president after the Romanian and Hungarian nominees to join her lead team were rejected by the European Parliament’s legal affairs committee. There has been some discussion over whether the committee’s decision will be challenged, though. Facebook has announced it will begin trialling new efforts to boost users’ wellbeing. The trial, taking place in Australia, will see the number of likes and views of other people’s photos and videos hidden in order to avoid users feeling that they have to compete on metrics of interaction.
Business & Economy
Airline group and owner of British Airways, IAG, has issued a profit update following a series of strikes by British Airways’ pilots represented by the union, Balpa. It confirmed a fall in operational profits of up to €170 million, with further industrial action possible as the union has yet to agree a 11.5% salary increase. Economists at Citi Group have warned of a global economic slump until 2023. They predict that global GDP would fall to 2.7% growth this year, and not rise above three per cent until 2023. This would represent the longest period of sub-three per cent growth since records began in 1969. (£) It is expected that the fallout from Thomas Cook going into administration will cost at least £520 million. The bill includes over £100 million to repatriate holidaymakers stranded by the firm’s collapse, with 40% of them now repatriated back to the UK. It has been reported that WeWork has started implementing a number of cost-cutting measures as it tries to rein in costs. This includes removing senior figures close to former chief executive, Adam Neumann, as well as postponing all new leases. (£)
What happened yesterday?
The political fallout from the potential impeachment proceedings of Donald Trump is already said to have impacted the US markets. There were falls across the US exchanges, with the S&P 500 down by 0.24%, the Dow Jones by 0.3% and the Nasdaq by 0.5%. The declines were in spite of early indications that discussions between the US and China could produce a deal to end their recent trade disputes. This saw other global markets rise, including in the UK, where both the FTSE 100 and 250 rose by 0.84% and 0.22% respectively. Credit score agency, Experian, was one of the leading positive stories of the day, rising by 2.23%, while education publisher, Pearson, was one of the biggest fallers as its text sales in American colleges fell below expectations.
Whats happening today?
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Columns of Note
The Italian far right leader, Matteo Salvini, has failed for now to have the election he is so sure would see him gain power, but the Guardian’s Jamie Mackay argues that it’s unlikely to be the end of the matter. While former prime minister, Matteo Renzi, has regained the role under a new coalition government, he has since launched a new centrist political party, Italia Viva, which he hopes will win sufficient support to reset Italian politics. Mackay expresses fears, though, that centrist votes will now be spread too thinly and that further political disruption could reopen the door to a Salvini-led government. Will Dunn writes for the New Statesman that concerns over the viability of WeWork following a tumultuous week should not detract from the role it can play in the future of working environments. He argues that its efforts to tie working spaces more closely to lifestyle by enabling people greater choice follows the trends of the original start up tech companies like Microsoft, who set up start-up incubators to bring like-minded creatives together during its initial growth. The free office drinks and living room atmosphere at many of its sites are said to be the basis for further expansion. That it is targeted at reorganising the working patterns of white-collar workers is felt to give the firm staying power, and it is argued that its model will be successful even if the company is not. (£)
Did you know?
While the rest of of the world looks forward to the end of the decade, in Ethiopia it is still officially 2012 as it uses the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar.
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