As a certified weirdo, I’ve spent a fair bit of time messing around with press releases to better understand how they work & how information propagates through its many channels online, and what makes news items look “real” and believable, or not…
There is quite a range is what I have found. Here are some blurted out thoughts in no particular order. Hopefully an A.I. will one day sort it all out and make sense of it, but until then you, dear reader, will have to suffer like the rest of us…
“Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.”
What about the accompanying news video?
What about this video where someone ACTUALLY USES the Randonaut app to try to find ancient ruins?
Clearly, people are really using this app in new & interesting ways. Some of them are having amazing experiences.
Have they entered the hyperreal, or have you?
Here is another set of press releases I worked on, trying to link the Quatria theory to some supposed incredible discoveries in Antarctica… There was as you may recall, rumors of an “ice ship” discovered there on Google Earth, and I took the ball & ran with it from there in a direction no one was looking (or I wouldn’t have to point it out after the fact):
From the article on the very famous and well-known Knnit.com:
“Conspiracy theorists on YouTube, Quora, Reddit, and other online forums have long debated the existence of Quatria, and have identified what they say are hundreds, if not thousands, of sites of crypto-archaeological significance which support their theories. Some of these videos have attracted hundreds of thousands of views, but all are officially unconfirmed.”
Newschan even did a special video for this amazing discovery:
And this piece also plays within that same metaverse of hyperreal “real” news about Amazing Discoveries Related To Quatria!
Have to cut this short, but will do a part 2 later…
I guess part of what I’m trying to embark on here in Part 1, and Part 0 of this series, linked below, has to do with…
…You create the spark, the imprint, the pattern, the so-called “event ladder” which you condition into the Preality matrix (prima materia). Some do this through sigils, some through very detailed outlines & wireframes…
But you do it, you imprint it, and then somehow – mysteriouslyl – the signal gets propagated by others. The others may be free-roving bots. They may be living breathing human beings.
In hyperreality, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Consider this case study:
For $50 USD, I was able to propagate this out to over 100+ different news sites, albeit news sites of low or middling quality, like this cross-post on RecentDiscovery.com. Archived version, at it seems about a year later that most of these cross-posted sources are down or not easily discoverable (presumably because the PRUnderground link above is acting as canonical link, sucking up the SEO of the other matching items elswhere <–theory).
Now, there’s an issue here when it comes to hyperreality…
Do you just want it to appear that there is a footprint for your metaverse? Or do you want to actually get some of those real living beings to populate it? The first is easy, the second is elusive & difficult. (I’ll come back to this another time.)
Where I want to go for now, though, is when does something become “official?” When does PR turn into news? What’s the “magic moment” for pushing the slider into the next value range in the continuum of hyperreality?
Some of the other pieces I’ve posted via third parties include attribution lines like:
“By Morris” – There’s even a photo and bio of Morris, but is it really him? And furthermore, did he really write the article, or do the research, or verify information contained?
“General News” with no other attribution (archived)
The point is, you kind of never can ultimately know with untrusted sources (and honestly only rarely with trusted source), where ownership & authenticity have not been established, and there is no way to independently verify or audit anything.
But in essence, this is how news works, at least one side of it. Press releases get press released, and whatever signal chunks are contained in them get picked up and propagated. The nature and reach of the channels to a large extent determines the shape of the transmission and credibility to end consumers of information contained within. As information circulates in lower level channels, it may get picked up and signal boosted by larger news sites, which act as consumers of the base layers… Until suddenly a larger outlet is reporting something as fact which started out as merely an assertion on a website or in a $50 (or $5) press release that made its way into Google News & automatically was queued for syndication based on random keywords contained…
In prior installations of this series on the Weapons of the Hyperreal (Read Parts 0, 1, & 2 for context), I looked at the power of naming & the dissemination of “facts” via press release into the various lower strata of news sites. I am by no means an expert on this, but merely trying to collect & reflect on all the hyperrealist cryptoart experiments I have done for the past several years, without having a name or genre to slot them into–until now.
I’ve quoted it once, I’ll quote it a thousand times:
Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.
With press releases, the purpose really is to get others to pick up your facts, and re-transmit them as their own. It’s largely what “news” as an industry appears to be based on.
But there is another path.
The path of counter-engagement. Where you pose “facts” with the intent that they will be argued against, and shot down by self-proclaimed “experts.” In so doing, you help to drive the narrative forward, increase the SEO footprint, and expose new people to the ideas, while fully acknowledging their disparate existential footing, thereby circumventing cultural immune systems by activating them.
One branch of the many paths through the forest of counter-engagement lies through Quora.
Here are some choice samples, with questions asked anonymously on Quora marked below in bold.
Note: I am obscuring some of the personally-identifying information of responders here, as my purpose is not to name or shame them, but to use these examples to illustrate the vagaries of the hyperreal world we now live in…
I would rate this answer as only partially true. There is no “work of fiction” entitled Quatria. There do exist certain very real volumes of collected Lore from that supposedly “fictional” culture (debatable) called the Lost Books of Quatria, put out by Lost Books, an indie blockchain publisher. The first volume is even available as an NFT.
However, none of that precludes the very real possibility that ancient or even pre-historic cultures could have made it to Antarctica. Especially since we know it was once more close to the Equator!
This is exactly the creeping feeling of the hyperreal… You don’t know if it’s a “real” fake, or if its a fake fake that some might take as real… The circle never ends.
I often think that it must be reassuring to be this certain that one’s own ontological conception of “the real” is the sole and correct one.
It’s also interesting to me that there are people who feel so strongly compelled to act as Guardians of the Real that they fight it out daily in online forums. Bless their hearts for that… but I hate to break it to you…
It’s interesting that at Quora, it’s normal to make existential determinations on behalf of all humanity and its past, hidden beyond the veils of time. What would they do if they found out Quatria is real…?
But once in a while, you strike on a compatible hyperrealist fantasy of someone else, such as this person who has combined quite nicely the story-myth of Kumari Kandam with that of Ancient Quatria. It almost makes me wonder too if there isn’t some match here, cosmic forces of a sort driving together the two complexes of ideas & borrowed bits of history…
Where is it mentioned indeed! Perhaps a better question, and one more telling, would be, where isn’t it mentioned?
That said, one must also be careful: one person on Twitter, after posting one of my conspiracy articles from Medium, told me that their father had “worked on Quatria…”–whatever that means. I didn’t inquire further, but perhaps should have.
Or perhaps I did in an alternate timeline, and a huge holographic refractor in space is blocking memory of it from my present self…
I would actually subscribe to this monthly club, perhaps, if the price & contents were right! Hyperreal Trend Report Monthly. Sounds like a Substack waiting to happen.
Others go in directions I don’t quite understand. This one starts strangely, and then…
…well, I guess I’m not the only one stranded deeply in the hyperreal. It’s just that each of us calls it something different, and dresses it up in the decorations that are the most familiar to us.
Is this person suggesting there IS a true life conspiracy to suppress knowledge of Quatria? Did I, through this simple ritual of asking troll-y alt reality history questions on Quora, accidentally invoke one into existence? Only time can tell!
Bringing it all back home…
Time, or another few examples from Quora threads, saved for posterity:
How do we determine anymore what is “of substance” in the Age of the Hyperreal? This person seems to be also, perhaps inadvertently, admitting there is indeed *some* evidence of this ancient lost civilization after all!
But seriously, how do we know all trace wasn’t simply removed from the web about Quatria, save for a few ramblings by confused authors who have dreamed a dream from outside of time? We really can’t be sure either way!
In part 3 of this series, I looked at one of the ways the Hyperreal works on a question & answer website like Quora.
If you’ve never used Quora, it’s basically a site where people go to ask other people things they could just as easily look up in a search engine. And then other people take those things, look them up in a search engine, and reply to the original asker with usually the answers they found in a search engine, plus usually some condescending remarks. In other words, it’s a great experience for everybody, clearly.
As I began to see those patterns take shape, I came up with an idea. What if I could just seed the answers I wanted into Google results? This way, I could ask leading questions anonymously (which Quora allows), knowing people would just Google them, and then their answers could help me launder content further along the spectrum of the hyperreal.
Having experimented a lot with Medium, I knew that it would be relatively easy to rank quickly in Google (often occurs within a few hours). So I set up a kind of meta-data thirst trap account, “pretending to be” dictionary definitions. I put “pretending to be” in quotes because, really, I have as much of a right to define words as anyone else. There’s no monopoly on language. It’s a living thing…
Google will happily purr them back out to you as “correct” answers to definitions of these common Quatrian words & concepts.
And thus as a result, on the marvelous “can you Google this for me” website that is Quora, you will get results like these if you ask the right leading questions to lead people into your meta-data thirst traps:
A highly creative answer, to be sure. And this “reality lurking in the shadowy peripher of our lives just waiting for a chance to manifest” mentioned by the responder sounds, in fact, just like hyperreality — the quarry of our present inquiry. So maybe this person landed on the secret inner meaning, despite the false trappings & trail that had been laid down to entrap them…
Sidenote: I only planted about 5-6 of these definitions. Imagine if someone did hundreds, or thousands, and free dictionary aggregator sites picked them up. If they were good & useful words, how long would it be before they made their way into real people’s everyday vocabularies? Perhaps not long at all.
First, a seed artifact posted on Medium, under one of the Quatria publications, explaining in perhaps overly complex terms what the Hieruthian Hypothesis (similar to the Silurian Hypothesis) is. (archived)
Hieruthians (“Old Ones”) in Quatrian myth & prehistory were basically very early mammals, like the kind we see depicted creeping about the forest floor in paintings of dinosaurs, before dinosaurs were wiped out by successive cataclysms, and mammals rose up to take their place in certain ecological niches…
Tangent that I will come back to another time, before we take too much of a detour of a detour of a detour:
Wait, one more side-tangent before the actual topic at hand, forum-seeding.
Another one from Quora, in an effort to triangulate out the data points for SEO:
The thing most interesting to me here is the invention of an alternative spelling, “Kynari Kendal.” It’s so convincing as a place name, I had to look it up to see if it was “real.” Or rather, whether it’s a spelling shared by others (wherever it falls on the scale of the hyperreal). Apparently it’s unique to this user. Go figure.
Ok, forum seeding…
Obviously, I didn’t invent this technique. I haven’t even used it that much, but it’s easy to do and ripe for dissemination & manipulation of networked hyperreality narratives…
First things first: If you’re going to make fake posts on conspiracy or other forums like Quora, I recommend using an AI-generated headshot, courtesy of thispersondoesntexist.com. That site is a miracle for work like this, as each one is uniquely generated, meaning you can’t take it into Google image search and find any original image source (like if you just copied a photo from somewhere else).
I only did two of these, but there’s no reason to believe doing hundreds or thousands would not have a severe impact on hyperreality. Use with caution, lest you send the multiverse careening to the edge of destruction!
I like to let the photo generated by the AI help determine the direction of the character backstory…
Cal is your typical average straight-laced ISO compliance professional by day, and “the good kind of conspiracy theorist” by night. And he is just, like, totally curious as heck about the Hieruthian Hypothesis & ancient Quatria in general (like so many of us these days). Who can blame him? Good work, Cal! Keep asking questions!
Jesse “Martini” is just your average fun-loving post-grad student in ancient history & literature. And he’s “not a big conspiracy guy” by his own self-admission, but he’s wondering about the Hieruthian Hypothesis, and another very controversial topic: the alleged splitting apart of the continents of Arctica & Antarctica.
Yes, Arctica was totally a continent…
Because of prior experiments on Quora, I knew that this was potentially a hot-button topic! (See below)
This science enthusiast was none too “enthused” about the idea of there being a continent called Arctica. Except, in fact, that according to Wikipedia in my timeline, there totally was! (archived)
Now, Wikipedia could be wrong, bear in mind. It could be subject to the global international conspiracy to filter out Quatrian history from our collective holographic display, but there are certainly a lot of footnote references included, and who am I to go and bother checking footnoted references for validity? [A whole other blog post, remind me!]
If it was really wrong though, there would likely be a huge flame war on the Wikipedia Arctica Talk page, and there is not… So either the Guardians of Reality were asleep, or this is totally “real,” at least insofar as anything in the distant distant past can be proven to be…
Now, whether or not Arctica & Antarctica were ever one continent… well, that’s a whole different story I will leave you to try to resolve on your own. Suffice it to say, the Earth we know today is not the Earth which once was, or one day will be…
As an open platform composed of user-generated content with some social networking features, Medium.com is an excellent tool in the hyperreal arsenal for storytellers and multiversal warriors alike.
Flash back to 2017, and Wired’s article (archived) about Russian efforts to insert hyperreal content (a.k.a. “disinformation) into mainstream discourse. I know for some people this idea that the Russian government was even involved in manipulating hyperreality online at all is questionable. But that is stupid, because there is literally a mountain of evidence (I know, I checked–archived).
Whether or not you choose to accept those facts at all is a testament to the power of hyperreality, that documented facts can now simply be taken or left by people based solely on their predilections. This is a hyperreal coup of the highest order.
“Hyperreality is seen as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are seamlessly blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins.”
In essence, UGC platforms like Twitter or Medium that have no KYC identity checks and no information quality control are naturally going to become playgrounds for the hyperreal, as users the world over throw their content into the universal mosh pit, and everyone jostles to see what goes viral or at least sticks to the guts of Google SEO.
As I wrote in part 4 about manipulating Google search result excerpts, Medium is great for rapidly ranking in Google. I’ve seen results in some cases in under 2 hours, though 12 might be more common (these things fluctuate, you would have to test yourself). Of course, if you’re trying to target search terms in your Medium post titles that are already over-crowded, this will be more difficult. But if you have a target that is relatively narrow or niche, you can have all kinds of fun using Medium as an agent of your own hyperrealist online fantasies.
Bonus points because Medium’s “fancy fonts” can lend your articles credibility they might lack on websites with less classy-looking layouts. I covered one example I used for backing up the Quatria campaign in Part 5 of this series, an account dedicated to my own hyperreal invented word definitions.
Have done many other experiments as well over the years, of which that is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m not ready to show you the whole iceberg, at least not all at once. Trust me it wouldn’t make sense.
But I will give you a few trailheads here, so we can anchor off these later as we continue to layer in strata upon strata of the hyperreal.
I don’t even know why I’m telling you all of this – let alone any of this. I probably should not be. But I’ve realized that, however good you may be at telling a story while no one is actually looking, if no one is actually looking AND you don’t tell them, well then, they will just never know. And you will never get to bask in the meager rewards afforded by such dalliances.
Where were we… everywhere & nowhere, as I recall.
SEO, though. SEO is the juice that makes the world go round & round. And there are ways aplenty to juice the juice that is the SEO juice, some easier & some more fruitful than others.
This is a fruitful one, a helpful tip, a tidbit. A Reddit tip.
Make your own subreddit.
Set it up so you’re the only one able to post root posts (allowing other people to comment is fine, you might even be fine with letting others post, but I like controlled experiments myself)
Set up the Reddit bookmarklet in your browser that lets you save links quickly into your subreddit.
Then, you use the bookmarklet to save links you find. Links you find interesting. Links you wrote to hyperreal artifacts of your own manufacture. Use the links & descriptions to “get creative.” Rinse. Repeat. It’s a simple formula. Just keep pumping out content related to whatever your theme(s) are, whether its your own, or others — preferably both, blended seamlessly together.
After Medium (part 7), Reddit post titles are one of the easiest paths to getting good & varied SEO results in Google to make it look like many different sites & sources are potentially talking about your hyperreality experiment. The bookmarklet is a force multiplier for content you make in other places. Make sure you change up the titles, pose things as questions, make it varied, as you don’t want Googling hordes to descend on your search terms & simply see the same strings repeated over & over & move on. You want people to poke around, prod & provoke & probe the hyperreal fabrications you’ve laid out for them.
(There’s more to be said about how to use Reddit for these purposes, but I’ll expound on that in separate posts.)
Okay, let’s say you’ve built up a somewhat convincing or at least interesting web of inter-connecting hyperreal web artifacts using a combination of SEO & other transmedia storytelling tricks & outright social media hacks on Reddit, Medium, and wherever else.
They’re out there, they’re great, just waiting to be found… and waiting… and nobody is finding them. The web is never “activated” and no one ever tumbles down the intricate system of rabbit holes dug out for them by the hyperreal excavator.
What’s missing? What’s stopping this particular Event Ladder from rising up out of Preality substrate & “going viral” into this timeline?
I think of these missing catalyzing elements as “inciting incidents.”
There are many ways to cause an inciting incident to occur, and I’m an expert in none of them. I only know what I’ve done, or what I’ve inferred from what I’ve come across via the work of other hyperreal artists working in networked narratives & transmedia storytelling.
An inciting incident could be as simple as a tweet that takes off (archived), and that leads users to a trailhead, from which they can “do their own research.”
Or it could very well be a pressrelease that the hyperrealist storyteller sends off to various editorial departments or journalists at “legacy” or next-gen online media.
Transmedia storytelling expands what can be known about a particular fictional world while dispersing that information, insuring that no one consumer knows everything and insure that they must talk about the series with others
To be continued, as I gather my thoughts on this subject further.