Photo credit: Leslie Agan/WhoWhatWhy

This year, we asked the big questions: about surveillance and Havana syndrome, the metaverse and local journalism, playlists that hack your health, and, of course, whether volcanoes are guilty of terrorism.

In the 1950s, Walt Disney began a project of creating an all-encompassing media experience that included movies, a TV show, and a brand-new kind of amusement park. Seventy years later, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the project of total media immersion will continue online. Why stop at roller coasters and cartoons when you can have… an “infinite office”?

All media — from journalism to entertainment to social networks — ask that you give up some degree of control to these storytellers. One of the projects of the WhoWhatWhy media desk was to look at what is being asked, and what is being given in return, for a bigger, better experience. If some of it reads like sci-fi, that’s not surprising: Some of the agents of this new media landscape are building new worlds here on Earth while also taking actual rockets into (almost) space. Local journalists, meanwhile, are still trying to do local journalism even as the very concept of “local” is dissolving into a great sea of fizzing electric bits.

How do we even dress for this future? VR goggles? Space helmet? An “infinite necktie” for an infinite office? The media desk is no style guru, but next year we’ll dig further into what is fashionable, flirty, and possibly dystopian.

Uncle Walt

Uncle Walt upon his throne. Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

The War for Your Attention Isn’t New

Media companies devour one another, but it’s all for entertainment.

Uncle Jeff

See Uncle Jeff ride. Photo credit: Leslie Agan / WhoWhatWhy

Ad Astra, Per Bezos

“Alexa, plot me a course to Planet Jeff.”

Geldingadalir eruption, Iceland, spectators

Geldingadalir eruption in Iceland on March 24, 2021. Photo credit: Berserkur / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Volcanoes Are Terrorists, and Should Be Treated as Such

In which we recognize the threat that could finally unite us all.

Greensboro Herald Journal, 1041

Cary Williams, editor of the Greene County newspaper the “Greensboro Herald Journal” of Greensboro, GA, in June 1941. Photo credit: Jack Delano / LOC

How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm (After They’ve Seen the Metaverse)?

A local journalism bill in Congress wants to save local journalism so local journalists can do more local journalism. But neither “local” nor “journalism” mean quite the same thing anymore.

Facebook, VR, virtual reality

Facebook, VR, virtual reality
Caption (optional): Facebook’s vice president of virtual reality Hugo Barra at Facebook’s 2018 F8 Developer Conference. Photo credit: Anthony Quintano / Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Reporting Live From the Virtual Opium Den of Tomorrow

Local journalism is being pulled in two directions. Congress is trying to help “journalism” while Big Tech is trying to blow up “local.”

Zuck’s Risky RayBans

Photo credit: Leslie Agan/WhoWhatWhy

Surveillance Is, Like, Super Cool Now

What’s not cool? Privacy.

Let’s Wrestle with New Technology… and How We Journalists Cover It.

On music apps, wellness, and the many types of “tech story.”

Brain, meditation, sound, cell phone, apps

Photo credit: © Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press via ZUMA Wire

Want a New Soundtrack for Your Mind?

We’ve got a lot of dumb stuff going on in our heads. There’s an industry that wants to replace it with new sounds. But are they better?

young female, TikTok, users, Tourette’s

Some young female TikTok users claim to have developed Tourette’s-like symptoms from using the social network. Photo credit: © Eduardo Parra/Contacto via ZUMA Press

Havana Syndrome and TikTok Tics: Many Forms of Mass Hysteria

Throughout history, social stresses manifested as strange afflictions, from dancing plagues to fainting spells. But now we may be seeing one that goes from tremors to saber-rattling.

‘Right to Repair’ Is a Fight for a Certain Kind of Freedom

From iPhones to McFlurries to John Deere tractors, trying to fix your stuff is risky — and also shows that “your stuff” doesn’t really belong to you.


  • Brandon R. Reynolds

    Brandon R. Reynolds is an award-winning journalist and comedy writer for print, radio, and television. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, WIRED, Los Angeles Magazine, and KCRW.

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