Bicycle Diaries: Microcelebrity

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a little Brad Pitt?

Anyone riding the trains our buses in my fair city has had a greater chance of seeing me than ever before. It's not because it's winter and I'm staying off my bike. It's that I'm one of 14 bikers featured in The Chicagoland Bike Federation's new ad campaign: Join the Movement.

Being recognized by friends and strangers alike reminds me of Clive Thompson's recent article for Wired, The Age of Microcelebrity: Why Everyone's a Little Brad Pitt.

Microcelebrity is the phenomenon of being extremely well known not to millions but to a small group — a thousand people, or maybe only a few dozen. As DIY media reach ever deeper into our lives, it's happening to more and more of us. Got a Facebook account? A whackload of pictures on Flickr? Odds are there are complete strangers who know about you — and maybe even talk about you.

You could regard this as a sad development — the whole Brand Called You meme brought to its grim apotheosis. But haven't our lives always been a little bit public and stage-managed? Small-town living is a hotbed of bloglike gossip. Every time we get dressed — in power suits, nerdy casual wear, or goth-chick piercings — we're broadcasting a message about ourselves. Microcelebrity simply makes the social engineering we've always done a little more overt — and maybe a little more honest.

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