A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Where the Semantic Web Has Taken us

Junto (and soon to be Ebiidii) has become a source of great pride and enlightenment.

In case you are unfamiliar or confounded as to what “it” actually is, Junto is the brainchild of @VenessaMiemis and brought about by @aquarious at the Parsons The New School For Design, as well as a collaborative evolution of thought, process and platform adopted by a good many folks from all over the globe, including @openworld @notthisbody @Cole_Tucker and @CoCreatr. It clearly demonstrates that none of us have to be confined by media and technology... We can simply act and ideate, whenever we want, however we want. Here are some screengrabs of version 2.0, beautifully designed by @GavinKeech in Australia.

We originally coined it as “radically open telepresence”, but soon realized it was simply an “emergent discussion platform”. Using backchannel chats and topical threads, we can create ideation rooms on the fly and in real-time.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Where the platform departs from being just a multimedia, video chat tool quite simply is the fact that it is reflexive. In reality, we are not confined by time or space (well, sort of), nor are we bound to protocols imposed by a closed network.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Where things get really fascinating is in the realm of how we evolve while we ideate. We can actually develop technology and ideas concurrently and synchronously. We don’t have to be mired in perfection or some desired result... We can just make “it” whatever it is supposed to be, when it’s supposed to be.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Collaborative frameworks are essential. We can extract great ideas from anywhere and shape them through consensus and context. What evolves are new frameworks that beg to be improved upon. Perhaps where competition can be revitalized: in the creation of new value systems.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

From there, we start to see narrative threads emerge. Narratives already exist out in the world, but in this way we can adopt them, shape them, remix them and make them things that contribute to our individual learning, yet formalize as new parts of the greater whole.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

As narrative threads build, the limitations of our individual intellect give way to new streams of consciousness and storymaking possibility. Story becomes a part of our genealogy, and we can start to recontextualize meaning, as well as our individual roles in the world. More importantly, we discover a renewed sense of self by mapping our emotive and sensoral cognition to those willing to share in these truths.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

The Creation of New Value Systems

So, you might ask, why is this at all important?

Well, for one thing, it is free.

For another, we are using the lens of experience and participatory narrative to generate new, or renewed, value systems.

Perhaps where we’ve been hindered or even stopped in our evolution, particularly as corporations operating in the post-industrial age, is the fact that we attempt to commercialize conversation and human interaction. The simple fact is that we really can’t, and it starts with our perception of what we want out of human discourse.

Do we want ownership, or do we want advocacy?
Do we want shared value, or owned value?
Can value really be owned in a corporate sense, or is it co-created?
If it is co-created, are there more opportunities to be profitable (because we can actually change behavior as opposed to manipulating it)?

Most important, given the obvious limitations we now suffer from in our transactional systems, is it possible to create transcendent value?

All of us have witnessed the limitations of what the semantic web can do. Search, for one, is a classic example of how expanded binaries can easily plateau and even cannibalize themselves — just look at how contextual advertising is faring under this scheme. The Google engine – and by no means is this a slight on the genius creation that it is – suffers from its own scale (or lack thereof). Semantics have also challenged our notions of artificial intelligence; perhaps the meteoric rise in intelligence sharing is really a manifestation of our desire as people to relate and to emote, with an interdependence on each other rather than a codependency on machines and inventory.

While this may seem obvious to some, it’s safe to say that all of us find ourselves at the whim of impulse sharing, and perhaps this is a direct result of our addiction to all things “network”. The notion of the open network has brought on a legacy of fears we associate with our past and present: from radio networks, to TV networks, to online networks and the new breed of social networks, all brought together by the need for control. And as much as we’ve complained about net neutrality and our rights to privacy, we’ve even developed our own conspiracy theories around what this all means. Hint: we’re questioning the very things we’ve fought to hard to attain – not necessarily a bad thing, but are we being too careful about what we’ve wished for?

Not to beat a limping horse, but all this fuss about Facebook and privacy, in my estimation, fails to look at the bigger picture, which is to understand our sharing behaviors in order to get us to state of true openness. Here’s what I mean.

The fact is that Twitter, Google and a number of other platforms have all gone through similar iterations when moving from privatized to more open network systems. You also have to remember that any system of measurement requires an element of control, and without it, we have no purview into things like direct or latent attribution. This is all part of the development process, of platform evolution. And by control, I don’t mean ownership, I mean careful moderation and assessment of things we don’t immediately understand. Big difference.

With that said, I like what my colleague @eswayne (Eric Swayne) said to me recently in a conversation on this topic:

"I'm totally fine with Facebook Credits and Likes when they're truly a part of the collective intelligence effort - make THAT a part of the public web. But my identity? Let me own the data, and set privacy as a default."

And this is exactly where I think Facebook is headed. In other words, I don't think it's banking on its own ubiquity so much as it is the ubiquity of people as entire ecosystems -- for one, it's the largest content repository in the world. The reason why it may be difficult for 3rd parties to jump in now is because it's too early... we don't even know what the new user dynamics look like yet (influence mapping, etc.). It's analogous to building a massive, protected freeway system and then asking commuters to reroute -- how do we tell them to break their driving patterns and why? Do we really want to spread misinformation?

Individual Sacrifice for The Greater Good

The perceived privacy issues are a relatively small sacrifice to make for a much more significant long-term gain. Truth is, the web has always asked us to skirt the line between individual privacy and collective intelligence — we must remember that it started out as a military intelligence intranet platform. And sure, many of these platforms will be battling for marketshare, but instead of competing over inventory, they'll be competing over value... which is a good thing. Umair Haque wrote a great piece recently on this notion of the "betterness" model, and how we can specifically redefine value.

So, the assertion we can make is that as users and consumers we will soon stake claim to our own data, and as open networks formalize themselves (in an adaptive sense), we will then have opportunities to monetize the insights. (A quick aside, one might argue that the new ad models put forth by Facebook and Twitter are the result of investor pressure to produce a near-term revenue model while the 3rd party models continue to evolve...) This is the very essence of the open web, at least from a consumer or even a marketing point-of-view. The glue seems to be in how we relate and how we emote. And this very clearly resides in narrative. Why? Because narrative takes us beyond semantics and into experience, into the realm of sentience. And I’m not talking about content, I’m talking about context and consensus as they apply to experience. (More on this in a moment...)

So where do we go from here? What does the Road to Openness look like?

Well, if that answer was clear, there would be no need for a discourse on the matter. However, we can establish adaptive frameworks as the new means for development; in other words, we don’t need to procure fixed models for growth. If you consider value to be the fulfillment of experience, interpretation and context, then we find ourselves in a promising position, which is that we can remove a lot of the guesswork that goes into what we think products or services are worth.

In a nutshell, it’s all about collective intelligence.

What Mapping Emotional Communities Can Mean

Here’s a final piece of narrative to chew on which speaks directly to the power of collective intelligence, specifically through the Mapping of Emotional Communities. Special thanks to the brilliant work of Marc Mazurovsky (USHMM Curator) and Erik Steiner (Spatial History Lab, Stanford University), this is something that I had the pleasure and honor of discussing in my recent keynote speech on transmedia at Gulltaggen. (video to come soon...)

Imagine that we took the narrative threading you see in the comps above, but this time we could actually reconstruct historical accounts so as to account for gaps in time and space. Here we can look at the evacuations from Auschwitz in January 1945 as an overall context for this exercise.

We can start by mapping out the core geospatial components.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Then we can take key testimonies and place them against timelines of events that we know took place.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Once we have aggregated these testimonies, we can then identify the gaps between interpretation, meaning, time and place. We can even see things like word density (a form of intelligence mining) and draw correlations by way of pattern recognition.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Now we can reference those patterns against spatial parameters, and begin to see a shift in the formalization of time, place and event.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Once the new parameters reveal themselves, gradations of experience are created based on the scale of experience placing various perspectives inside of the same matrix... And we start to see how sentience restructures what we interpret versus what these accounts really mean.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

Here’s where things get really interesting: we can create hotspots and map together different accounts according these new narrative threads...

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

... And where one account may “trail off”, we can at least see where these gaps still occur in the greater context of the community.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

And guess what? The non-linear threads actually fill in the gaps that time, space, interpretation and event have left off.

From Semantics To Sentience: The Road To Openness #Junto #NarrativeDesign #EmoMapping #Facebook #transmedia #GreaterGood

The final result is a new map comprised of the newly formed threads spanning all of the parameters set forth. Imagine that the entire world was remapped in this new context, or a series of evolving contexts.

This is only the beginning. From here, we can use platform, technology and media to recontextualize our pasts in order to literally build our future. Just imagine how we can use these contructs to avoid war, to cure social ills, to improve the environment, to become better people.

It’s all happening right now. You’re an active part of it. You always were.

We are on The Road to Openness. Embrace it and let’s enjoy the possibilities, together.