The Communal Mind

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A few years ago, when it suddenly occurred to us that the internet was a place we could never leave, I began to keep a diary of what it felt like to be there in the days of its snowy white disintegration, which felt also like the disintegration of my own mind. My interest was not academic. I did not care about the Singularity, or the rise of the machines, or the afterlife of being uploaded into the cloud. I cared about the feeling that my thoughts were being dictated. I cared about the collective head, which seemed to be running a fever. But if we managed to escape, to break out of the great skull and into the fresh air, if Twitter was shut down for crimes against humanity, what would we be losing? The bloodstream of the news, the thrilled consensus, the dance to the tune of the time. The portal that told us, each time we opened it, exactly what was happening now. It seemed fitting to write it in the third person because I no longer felt like myself. Here’s how it began.

I’m Not Here to Make Friends: The Rise and Fall of the Supercut Video

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The length and reach of these classic ‘cuts varied, as did their intent. Some were merely having fun, pointing out ridiculous, overused catch-phrases; others were serving as a sly bit of cultural commentary. A few of the best supercuts, like “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” were both. “It was about exposing the tropes,” says Juzwiak. “One of my obsessions—and maybe my chip on my shoulder—are things that treat viewers like they’re dumb. And when you see the pattern, you hit back at it.”

But the ease of making supercuts also led to a glut of clips that were far less effective than the ones that had initially criss-crossed the web in 2008. Some of the new supercuts were at once more completist and less focused, collecting scenes that may have shared some connection, but didn’t make a real point: As much work as it takes to put together something like “50 Heartbreaking Movie Moments,” it feels more like an all-inclusive montage than a specific supercut. The very term had become a trope. “I’ve seen ‘supercut’ used to describe videos that are just things edited together,” says Robson.

Meet the Unlikely Airbnb Hosts of Japan

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Which brought us back to the challenge at hand. It was hard not to wonder how a company that’s disruptive at its core would be received ultimately in Japan, where harmonious unity — a concept known as wa — is something of a national virtue. How does a storm arrive in a place that’s phobic about storms?…

I asked if she thought Airbnb would eventually take off in Japan. Hayashi considered the question awhile, then gave a kind of yes-and-no answer. “Japanese people are very comfortable with the concept of sharing,” she said, citing the close quarters in which many families lived and the tradition of using sentou, communal bath houses. It’s just that they are less accustomed to sharing with outsiders.

… A number of the Tokyo hosts said they deliberately kept quiet about their involvement with Airbnb. “It’s kind of like talking about your investment portfolio,” one said. “You really only discuss it with the very closest of friends.” Japan has a national hotel law, which requires the licensing of any business that provides accommodation, though enforcement is spotty. But there’s also a tradition of individuals’ renting rooms to students or short-term visitors, called minpaku, which is considered legal. Airbnb, as it does in many countries, exists — nimbly, cannily — in a gray area. Mostly, people feared their neighbors, concerned that one poor interaction with a foreigner — one noisy night, one trampled flower bed, one failure to interpret the boundaries of what was acceptable — might lead to a police complaint or problems with a landlord.

…When new guests checked into a place he managed, he met them personally, showing them how to remove their shoes at the door and explaining that they needed to speak more quietly than maybe they did at home. Sometimes, though, the gulf between cultures felt unbridgeable, the boundaries impossible to translate. Machida described running afoul of a building co-op board, forced to close one of his listings after a visitor from Europe was spotted, to someone’s apparent horror, charging her cellphone in the building’s lobby.