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In virtual showrooms, China's young people seek fame, fortune, and connection, but find the same perils and promises online as off.
Originally trained as a molecular biologist, Hao Wu traveled to the Internet world before focusing on filmmaking and writing. His documentary films have received funding support from The Ford Foundation JustFilms, Tribeca Film Institute, Sundance Institute, and international broadcasters. Wu is a fellow at the New America Foundation. His writing on… Show more China has appeared on Time.com, Slate.com, Marketplace Radio, Strait Times, and China Daily. Show less
A generation of young Chinese have come of age on social media, where virtual relationships are replacing real-life human connections. Online showrooms are the most popular gathering place for hundreds of millions—attracting China’s super rich (who lavish virtual gifts on their favorite performers) and the poor, many of them migrant workers in urban areas searching for cheap entertainment and a way to feel connected. These two groups never cross paths in real life, yet in the digital universe they band together to worship online idols who earn as much as $130,000 a month singing karaoke or doing talk shows to interactive audiences.