The Aesthetics of Mark Zuckerberg – The New York Times

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Over the past few months, Zuckerberg’s Instagram feed has become stylishly professional. He appears to be an athlete practiced in elite leisure activities: foil, fencing, rowing, spear throwing. In an Instagram video posted on July 4, he crosses the water on a hydrofoil, hoisting an American flag to the tune of “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver. This summer, the paparazzi captured Zuckerberg in bizarre hobby scenes: towards the jungle hunt wild boar with a bunch of friends, wearing tactical gear and knitted sneakers; surf in the ocean, her face covered in opaque white sunscreen like some kind of tropical mime. Recently, he posted a series of videos shot with Facebook’s new smart glasses, inviting the viewer to see through their eyes as they pilot a boat or rush into a backyard fencing match. Now, in his main presentation, Zuckerberg becomes our avatar for experiencing the whole metaverse.

The video begins in a house, presumably Zuckerberg’s. Stock music resonates as he walks a beige expanse punctuated by gnarled driftwood, ceramic vessels, and fossilized sea urchins. When he invites us into the metaverse (in reality, simulated images of a virtual reality product that doesn’t exist), his living room dissolves into a grid and a computerized fantasy version of his house appears. It features several globes, a bonsai tree growing from an urn, and a row of costumes – a Spartan, an astronaut. Large windows overlook the kind of nature images used in screen savers that come preloaded on a computer: tropical islands on one side, snow-capped mountains on the other.

The most visible element of Zuckerberg’s fantasy house is a slim television mounted on the wall. “You can do anything you can imagine,” Zuckerberg says. “You will discover the world with ever greater wealth,” he promises. And yet, most of the time, he predicts that we consume content in increasingly antisocial ways.

It stages a virtual concert followed by a virtual after-party with virtual swag, all of which can be experienced from a relaxed position on a living room sofa. In his main monologue, he reverently speaks of the “virtual goods” we will cherish in the Metaverse, keeping them close to us as we walk from app to app. He constantly refers to “experiences,” an idea that has become a buzzword signaling the commodification of life itself.

And yet, the aesthetic of the Metaverse, with its horrific translucent holograms, evokes the specter of death. Its program of activities reads like an advertisement for a virtual retirement community where lone millennials can live out their final days, watching what Zuckerberg calls “a view of everything you find most beautiful” as advertisers design new ways to pierce ads straight into their heads.



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