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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

This was the last place I expected to see anti-China sentiment addressed. I like Steve Guttenberg’s writing in the past for CNet on all things hi-fi and now follow his videos. What he does in in video makes up in enthusiasm, what he lacks in production skills. It was interesting to see him shoot a video that directly addressed a desire in his audience to not buy Chinese hi-fi products. Whilst some of this is about protecting well loved brands, I think some of it reflects a real turn in consumer sentiment towards an anti-China tone. Guttenberg manages to address the topic in an even-handed manner and tries to take some of the vitriol out of the discussion. More China related content here.

The New York Times wrote a great feature on the rise of statist intellectuals in China who are influencing government policy. Providing an intellectual justification for Xi era policies. What’s interesting is that they draw on German intellectual thinking used to support Nazi ideals of authoritarianism: ‘Clean Up This Mess’: The Chinese Thinkers Behind Xi’s Hard Line – The New York Times 

Ambient music to work by. There is an internet community who are re-editing selected pieces of sci-fi soundtrack to provide an epic ambient audio background. Here’s edits that have been done featuring Blade Runner and Ghost In The Shell.

This TV series provided one of the best backgrounds of Irish history. I remember seeing one or two of the episodes that my Dad had managed to capture on video tape. I can also recommend Robert Kee’s book Ireland which accompanied the series. It stops during the Troubles. Given the quality of the series and the mainstream audience that it received at the time, the UK is still astonishingly ignorant of Irish history. This has become especially apparent the Brexit process. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to have been moved on to Blu-Ray, DVD or legitimate streaming services. More Irish-related topics here.

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ICYMI | 万一你错过了| 당신이 그것을 놓친 경우에 대비해서

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Why Protest Tactics Spread Like Memes – The New York Timesoften, she noted, the images’ similarity was unwitting. In their spread, their simultaneity and their indirect influence on each other, the protest videos had all the characteristics of memes, those units of culture and behavior that spread rapidly online. The same cultural transfer that gives us uncanny cake-slicing memes and viral challenges also advances the language of protest. “We live in this world of attention dynamics so it makes sense that tactics start to converge,” Ms. Mina said. She called the images’ tendency to build on each other “memetic piggybacking,” and noted that everyday items that are subverted into objects of protest are “inherently charismatic.” – protest groups tactics as memes. A meme is a transmissible idea; whether its knowledge, humour or even cat gifs. Reciting lines from films or TV programmes like The Office are memes. More meme related content here.

Hong Kong Protests 2019
Hong Kong Protests 2019 by Jonathan van Smit

German oil refinery to build 30 MW hydrogen electrolysis plant – Reuters – great news. I think hydrogen fuel cells should be a more important part of the energy mix

Apple Faces $1.4 Billion Lawsuit by Chinese AI Firm in Siri Patent Fight – WSJ – Conflicts over intellectual property, technology and trade are driving bilateral relations between the U.S. and China to their lowest point in decades. Last Friday, President Trump threatened to ban Chinese short-video app TikTok on national-security grounds. U.S. officials have been involved in talks over a potential sale of TikTok’s American business to Microsoft Corp.

Google to invest $450M in smart home security solutions provider ADT | TechCrunch – tech eats the old economy due to obscenely high share prices

7-Eleven owner is buying Marathon Petroleum’s Speedway gas stations for $21 billion – CNN – it’s a good deal for Marathon; but looks expensive for Seven and I (7-Eleven’s owner). 7-Eleven would need to get $175,000 net profit a year out of each gas station to make it worthwhile at the current purchase price

Op-Ed: Never Trust Mark Zuckerberg Again- PingWest – a few things in this. 1/ Facebook probably didn’t get anything out of its reprochment with China. Yes China could stop advertising on Facebook, but A/ Chinese state owned companies not advertising on Facebook would be immaterial and probably benefit Facebook politically B/ Chinese private sector companies don’t have a lot of choice, so China would see a good deal of SME job destruction. 2/ The US government have more leverage. In this respect its like the embarrassing HSBC kowtowing in reverse. The Chinese author now realises how lame it looks when you’re on the other side of it

Pompeo the Maoist – SettimanaNewsBorrowing from the logic used by Mao Zedong in his On Contradiction, Pompeo tried to prove that CCP didn’t represent the Chinese people, and that actually the party is the enemy of the Chinese people. This point is fundamental because, as Mao put it, the crucial political element is to know who is with us and who is the enemy, and the party should always represent the people. Pompeo stated: “We must start by changing how our people and our partners perceive the Chinese Communist Party. We have to tell the truth.” What is the truth, according to the US secretary of state? It is that: “We know … that doing business with a CCP-backed company is not the same as doing business with, say, a Canadian company. They don’t answer to independent boards, and many of them are state-sponsored and so have no need to pursue profits… We know too that if our companies invest in China, they may wittingly or unwittingly support the Communist Party’s gross human rights violations… We know too too that not all Chinese students and employees are just normal students and workers that are coming here to make a little bit of money and to garner themselves some knowledge. Too many of them come here to steal our intellectual property and to take this back to their country.” Therefore, he argues that the US should de facto work as a new revolutionary party: “We must also engage and empower the Chinese people—a dynamic, freedom-loving people who are completely distinct from the Chinese Communist Party.”

Breaking Off TikTok Will Be Hard to Do — The Information – basically China still has control despite the window dressing. Given the structural, development, infrastructure and control aspects on this; how can Microsoft negotiate and engineer a clean break in the limited time that they have for TikTok versus Douyin? Some interesting analysis at the FT: The challenges Microsoft faces in buying TikTok’s US arm

ARM China Asks Beijing to Intervene in Row With U.K. Parent – Caixin Global – It is interesting that the ARM CEO thinks he has the political juice to go against Hopu and its head Fang Fenglei. Is there more than meets the eye going on here? More from Sina.com’s tech channel (via Google Translate): Sina.com Technology Channel ARM China debaclethe intention of Hopu Investment , which represents 36% of the investors of the central state-owned enterprise financial institution in the joint venture, to join hands with foreign shareholders this time? Hopu and Arm recently appointed Hopu Investment’s Teck Sien Lau (Singaporean) as Chairman of Amou China, and Arm President Graham Budd (British) as Vice Chairman. In addition, Arm and Hopu previously appointed two co-CEOs (one Singaporean and one Chinese) on the disputed board of directors, and the board dispute is currently being resolved in legal proceedings. It seems that Hopu hopes to help Arm replace the existing management team and actually control the operation of the joint venture company through this operation. However, under the premise that HOPU violated the Chinese party’s agreement to act in concert and joined hands with Arm, such an organizational structure obviously did not represent China’s national interests. In addition, can they lead the technical team to realize the original intention of the joint venture company and truly realize the vision of autonomous and controllable core technology that China needs? More on ARM here.

How to Keep Your Skin Healthy While Wearing a Mask | Vogue Hong Kong

Facebook Employee Leaks Show Betrayal By Company Leadership – “hurting people at scale” is a brutal header on the article

Upfield targets block butters with vegan Flora Plant range | News | The Grocer – repackaging to remove the negative connotations of margarine by creating ‘vegan butter’ in salted and unsalted variants. *Disclosure, I worked with Mullen Lowe and Phd to develop ‘Family Brands’ global digital strategy, prior to Flora et al being sold off to Upfield. My work covered Blue Band, Bonella, Country Crock, Doriana, Dorina, Flora, Imperial, La Perfecta, Maizena, Milda, Mirasol, Planta, Planta Fin, Primavera, Rama, Sana, Stork, Tulipan, and Vitam

Tymbals : Bytedance and the hypergrowth delusion – Nigel Scott explaining the importance of context when there is yet another hyperbolic growth story in the tech sector

Slack Files EU Competition Complaint Against Microsoft | The Official Slack Blog – feels a bit Netscape all over again

Influencer Marketing Panel – some useful primers here from the CIPR, in particular about UK regulations

Imint is the Swedish firm that gives Chinese smartphones an edge in video production | TechCrunchThe hyper-competitive nature of Chinese phone makers means they are easily sold on new technology that can help them stand out. The flipside is the intensity that comes with competition. The Chinese tech industry is both well-respected — and notorious — for its fast pace. Slow movers can be crushed in a matter of a few months. “In some aspects, it’s very U.S.-like. It’s very straight to the point and very opportunistic,” Lifvendahl reflected on his experience with Chinese clients. “You can get an offer even in the first or second meeting, like, ‘Okay, this is interesting, if you can show that this works in our next product launch, which is due in three months. Would you set up a contract now?’” “That’s a good side,” he continued. “The drawback for a Swedish company is the demand they have on suppliers. They want us to go on-site and offer support, and that’s hard for a small Swedish company. So we need to be really efficient, making good tools and have good support systems.” – Ok a few things. 1/ The hyper competition is a very Chinese phenomenon. Like when in someplace like the UK Chinese restaurant opens in a neighbourhood, another will move in next door. In China, you end up with clusters of barber shops, tea shops and restaurants right next to each other in; actively competing. It’s about rapid small iterative steps of innovation, or what Huawei used call ‘customer focus’. It’s not paradigm shifting stuff. 2/ Its interesting that Imint have taken the German middelstadt model to software. Historically, German companies have managed to focus on a niche and do it really well. There is a long-term focus, continuity, independence, flexibility innovation and customer focus. They are nimble by nature and design with lean hierarchies and a family-like corporate structure.

Google in Talks to Take Over More Search Tasks on Samsung Phones – Bloomberg – Samsung would be giving up more user experience control and by implication, becoming more commoditised. To be fair a lot of Android skins and bundled apps haven’t been great. What happens with Google’s Pixel brand devices?

Aaron Toponce : The Physics of Brute Force – Why you should use encryption and why Moore’s Law’s limitations and physics indicate an optimal key size when using it against non-quantum computing.

Europe and AI: Leading, Lagging Behind, or Carving Its Own Way? – Carnegie Endowment for International PeaceEurope, meanwhile, despite having certain advantages such as a strong industrial base and leading AI research and talent, is punching far below its weight. This state of affairs is especially due to the fragmentation of the EU’s digital market, difficulties in attracting human capital and external investment, and the lack of commercial competitiveness. Fortunately, in recent years, European leaders have recognized the importance of not lagging behind on AI and have sought to raise their ambitions. Leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have stressed the need for Europe to become a leading global player on AI, and the new European Commission has made AI a top priority for the next five years. By declaring AI a major strategic priority, several member states and EU institutions are taking steps to advance the continent’s ambitions for AI leadership

COVID-19 and biopharma in China | McKinsey – fascinating read. In particular the growth of health insurance. Up to now, one of the reasons why Chinese consumption is so low the high amount of savings to cover health costs. (Yes, I know property and parent care are also huge areas for savings). But that is why Chinese people are generally lower in credit use in aggregate and have a large amount of savings. Private health insurance could have a huge impact on future consumption patterns and act as an economic driver

Dundrum Town Centre introduces a ‘Crowd Checker’ | RTE – interesting piece of service design to support opening up of retail. Dundrum shopping centre would be the Irish equivalent of Westfield in London. It is Ireland’s largest shopping centre. RTÉ has a broadcast studio there to capture the opinion of the average Irish person as needed.

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Things that caught my eye this week

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Nike Japan: Create with Air Max by AKQA. Japan seems to be particularly open to an augmented reality AR campaign in general. This AR campaign taps into the challenges that COVID-19 lockdown represented to creators and the wearing sneakers. The purpose of the AR campaign was three fold:

  • Reinforce the cultural aspect of the Air Max
  • Emphasise innovation in the Nike brand through the AR campaign functionality
  • Encourage customisation

More Nike related content here.

It isn’t usual to be proud of your government’s IT department. COVID Tracker Ireland on the App Store – had the highest uptake of tracker applications in a country’s population. It was based on Apple and Google’s APIs. Ireland has shared its code as an open source project – Ireland donates its COVID Tracker app to Linux Foundation. Singapore did something similar early on the year. Northern Ireland is said to be adopting Ireland’s code base for their own tracking app – Coronavirus: Northern Ireland rejects UK’s COVID-19 contact-tracing app | UK News | Sky News

Beatboxing and digital sampling technology meets meditation in this video by Yogetsu Akasaka, a Japanese Zen Buddhist monk ‘Heart Sutra’ vocal live looping remix.

How Taiwan’s Unlikely Digital Minister Hacked the Pandemic | WIRED – Audrey Tang has been doing some interesting press briefings on how the Taiwan government deals with disinformation. A lot of creativity is used; inspired by behavioural science. More on this podcast as well.

The Korean Tourism Organisation collaborates with Netflix to promote Korea as a travel destination. The ad spot highlights locations drawn from food travelogues to Korean dramas on the platform. Korean drama already has an international following, previously it has been on specialist sites and DVD boxsets. Netflix has made the potential reach for Korean dramas even larger. At least some of the Netflix audience won’t have heard of ‘hallyu’, or K-pop. Netflix had helped improve access to international dramas in general. That’s the audience that the KTO is trying to tap into with this ad creative.