While many of us may find it hard to imagine the demise, or even decline, of social networking and web services giants such as Twitter, Facebook, Google, or Instagram (the tagline of "Catch me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram," has become so ingrained in our minds as the foundation—and no longer the exception—of nearly every branding effort imaginable), one Rome-based digital artist is exploring this theme head-on in a series aptly titled “Social Decay”.
Self-taught digital artist Andrei Lacatusu hails from Bucharest, Romania and uses a set of haunting 3D renderings to communicate his sobering message: it is clear that he imagines a world that crumbles into desolation without the presence of these companies.
There seems to very much be US-specific references throughout the series, both in terms of the architectural choice and even the arrangement of the letters: one could even imagine that these photos had actually been taken nearby an old Southwestern ranch or town from forgotten times in the Wild Wild West. Images of economically depressed Midwestern cities such as Cleveland and Detroit come to mind as well.
An image of Tinder, with its signature phrase “It’s a match” appear on a large rusty sign, is reminiscent of an old gas station:
It is also an interesting choice to use the word “decay”, as opposed to “decline”. What Lacatusu seems to be implying here is that the end of giants like Google and Facebook is not only inevitable but will occur in a way that no one would have been able to predict.
Seen from this perspective, they can be seen as time capsules, or even predictions of the future.
A Tech Hub in the Most Unlikely of Places
On some level, Lacatusu could be reflecting a cynical response to Romania's growing influence in tech-driven industries. In some ways owing to the large, educated, yet restless population of youth living in a country mired in corruption, the outcome has been the unleashing of entrepreneurial spirit throughout the country, as young people it seems are actively taking their financial future into their own hands, and at the same time attracting many tech investors.
Mircea Vadan, tech entrepreneur and founder of Cluj Startups discusses the competitive edge she believes the country has in Europe: “There are a lot of people who have technical and software development capabilities,” she shares. “Compared with most other central and eastern European countries, Romania has the advantage of numbers — more human resources. It’s easier to find talent. Being part of EU is also an advantage compared with Ukraine, which is bigger in size and has a lot of talent, but is going through a tough period.”
As most funding for these startups is not state-supported, attracting investors has been the key to transforming the economy in the four cities of Bucharest, Cluj, Timisoara, and Brasov, which make up the majority of the €11.3m raised by startups in 2016.
In this regard, Lacatusu could also be issuing a kind of warning to Romania to avoid excessive dependence on outside foreign investment. Regardless of the layers of meaning, the art series provides interesting commentary.