A Literacy of the Imagination

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

Filtering by Tag: collective intelligence

Conscious Capital & Collective Intelligence

I just returned from Grasse in the south of France, where I took part in curating an experience to reinvent the perfume industry with executive leaders and stakeholders in the supply chain. I really didn't know what to expect (a common feeling when doing 'innovation' work), and I can honestly say that I was blown away by what transpired.

Human-centered design processes are obviously important in the work we do, but what's often neglected or left out is some sort of a human evolution in connecting to the intentions of what is desired as an outcome or set of outcomes. One of the themes we explored in this discovery process -- a new economic construct, really -- was conscious capital.

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The magic of this event was the people and the interactions; in short, we were able to co-create a system that defined what capital is and can be in terms of value through the collective. Here's what was reinforced as we did the work:

Collective intelligence is an actual science that bridges conscious thought with conscious action.

There are a number of collective intelligence camps around the world that are advancing the notions of how we cultivate and manage information, and this was the first time I had experienced 'CI' as a real science. Part of it was the methodology applied in bringing conversational data from the web into the physical space, and coordinating a relationship between the 'outside' and the 'inside' information (in essence, making the 'big data' accessible, relevant and collaborative). Another very important aspect was making participants aware of what is happening 'out there' and what is happening 'in here' -- here being their own consciousness and a relatedness to others, especially those in the room (or in the field).

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Storytelling is at the fore of product and system design -- it feeds off of heightened awareness through concise mental and physical play.

As various groups got deeper and deeper into developing a new perfume ecosystem, their interactions -- emotions, touch, communications, understandings -- went directly into their thought processes. It was as if they didn't have to think about what they were doing... they were just doing it, creating it, manifesting it. As such, their storytelling capabilities were amplified and they were literally able to express their insights in incredibly inventive ways. And when I talk of story, I really do mean the telling of it through agents, actors and archetypes... Which was omnipresent throughout this experience.

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Creativity, and thus innovation, is truly collective.

This might seem obvious to some, but in an executional realm it isn't, nor should it be. Truth is, we still ascribe much of our creative powers to some form of ownership ("I came up with this idea, not you..."), and innovation tends to be thought of as some 'special practice' that happens 'somewhere else'. For all the participants it became abundantly clear that they could remain in their specialty areas (executive management, R&D, production, sales, etc.) while wearing multiple hats. As one participant shared with me: "I always knew I was an interdisciplinarian!" Another participant astutely pointed out that owning the process of creation is counterproductive and counterintuitive to building a market: the more you give away the more you get back. This led to some fantastic explorations of commons practices and shared IP. 

There will be lots more to share on this (we're making a documentary film of the experience because it was that transformational), but it seems that we have a whole new territory to explore in how we reimagine corporate and social ecosystems... and how we can peacefully bring them together.

Until next time... 

Consumer Activism in the Social Era #innovation #networks #change

What does consumer activism actually look like?

 

Well, for starters, if you can accept that people (consumers) do have some control over their commercial behaviors and outcomes, then we’re getting somewhere. Purchasing behaviors themselves are sort of like a tug-of-war between personal ideology, mass messaging, crowd wisdom and the bottom line. And consumer culture tends to win these battles with institutions.

 

But let’s look at this from a more refined angle, which is that a new kind of activism is already in play, and I don’t simply mean the counter-institutional behaviors associated with Occupy or Wikileaks.

 

Don Tapscott recently gave what I thought was a terrific talk on how new global non-state networks are offering powerful new solutions for cooperation, problem solving and governance.

George Por wrote a great follow-up piece that goes into further detail on the nine types of global networks Don refers to in his talk, and lends some insight on how these networks manifest themselves through super-structures like cities, or more agile structures found within them.

 

So what does this all actually mean?

 

I’d maintain that people (consumers, brands and institutions) have developed their own ways to create positive change through resilient structures, and it is only a matter of time -- a relatively short window -- before we see these disintermediating solutions become a predominant part of the social, economic and political fabric.

 

I call these “networks of vigilance, responsibility and reciprocity”.

 

In research and analysis I did some time ago on the retail banking industry, I created this graphic which represents the cultural dynamics driven by technology and globalization, as we move from centralized structures to more networked structures.

As the graphic explains, there are four main elements to this shift: movements, archetypes, cohorts and industries.

In a more liberalized market -- one that affords us a system of choices, false, dichotomous or “other” -- economic empowerment is achieved through the wisdom of friends, or what some might consider to be “collective intelligence”.

In this process, the traditional archetype has shifted (kicking and screaming, I might add...) towards a more engaged and empathetic role.

So, you might ask something like: “Have bankers really become better people?” Probably not quite the right question to ask. The better question would be: “Can banking really make us, or allow us to be, better people?” (The short answer is “yes”.)

As archetypes change, we see a distinct supplement of monetary capital gains with intellectual capital or currency. This simply means that exchanges of goods and services are not only social contracts -- those fortified by trust and transparency -- but they change what money means because the information associated with those exchanges is more valuable.

What all of this creates is a dynamic ecosystem of non-banking institutions and disintermediary businesses, whose sole purposes aren’t necessarily to replace the banking super-structures themselves, but to complement them, and in some cases, buffer them. Some argue that super-structures are collapsing under their own weight and corrosive natures altogether, which only amplifies the position.

What’s interesting about this shift in particular is how disintermediation degrades the verticality of industry, renders it “flatter”, and provides more profound efficiencies through collaboration. Some have described this as “disruptive innovation”, but I think the term tends to relegate these efforts into a corner. I also think that this is less about innovation as an output of products and services, and more about the mindset of adaptation -- seeing shifts, preempting problems and reacting to changes in a far more agile fashion.

Granted, it’s difficult at times to see all of this really happening, especially as mass media channels fill our heads with doomsday scenarios and the like. Conspiracy theories also don’t help to keep us focused on these shifts. But the truth of the matter is that resilient communities are everywhere... And this kind of change will happen whether institutions like it or not.

Within these contexts, do you see yourself as an activist? How so?

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

A while back I wrote about moving beyond the browser, as well as the implications of a rapidly evolving memetic web

In short, these technological advances are phenomenal, and intend to induce all sorts of qualia, sensoral cognition, as well as support a host of anticipatory, participatory, sensemaking systems.

But in all of this, you have to wonder if we are simply brushing right past our genealogies.

I'm talking about losing grasp of the human element.

And in terms of what have now been deemed as mere legacy systems, we seem to be turning a cold shoulder to our own stories, sacrificing richness and lustful meaning and empathy for expediency, accessibility and satisfaction.

And so it goes. Yet, life is full of experience.

To put this all in perspective, I have a little story for you.

My father recently turned 80 on November 9th. I'm quite proud of what he's done, you know, as a human being. He's been through a lot -- wars, the Holocaust, a heart transplant and several marriages (perhaps inextricably linked ;) -- and recently he teetered on the precipice of losing his medical practice. His own fiscal cliff, if you will.

One of the main reasons? Technology. Perhaps not so ironic.

The hospital where he is on staff called him in one day, cryptically delivering a message to him and several of his peers that they'd better learn the new "system" or else...

... No personal training. No evaluative criteria. No adaptive methods for reciprocal learning or intelligence sharing, or even a means to provide soild feedback, save for a form that requires too much time for signatures and obsequious stamps of approval.

Faces dropped, looks of awe and wonder and confusion took over. "This is the end of our days" each man and woman in the group wondered. 

And like the others standing next to him, how was it that a man who has dedicated his life to helping people, despite all odds and unsavory circumstances, was in a snap of a finger suddenly relegated to obscurity, stripped of the very thing that drives him to stay alive?

Well, there's a happy ending to this short tale.

My dad decided to take it on the chin... By raising it.

"This is nothing", he said. "If I can't figure this system out, if I can't teach IT something, then it isn't worth the time I'd be punching its keys."  

And so he hopped on the console and began the challenge. Mind you, this is a man whose word processor sat on his desk for nearly 15 years.

For a good two months, he constantly muttered expletives about the hospital administration. Some of it was wickedly funny, so I decided to go visit him while he doing his rounds. I was curious. And besides, as a kid, I used to go with him to do his rounds on Sunday mornings... My parents were long divorced, and that was quality time for me, watching him in his element. 

I also wanted to talk to him about some deeper life stuff, as I was leaving for Israel the very next day.

When I got to the hospital, this is what I saw.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

And this.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

And this.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

And this.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

And this.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

And this.

 

Gestural and Generational: A Personal Story About the Operating Systems of Our Future

Boy, did he school the system. He owned it. He even mentioned that he'd thought of an annotation system for patient-doctor charting. He was going to talk to the hospital CIO about developing a better training regimen for the senior doctors on staff. 

Why?

Because, as he put it, they know more than everybody else about how to take care of patients, and how to make more tempered, thoughtful decisions. How to use the eyes and hands when handling tough, emotional situations.

After all, lots of people complain about poor bedside manner these days.

One of the admins wasn't having it. So my dad told him a tall tale about saving an entire troupe of soldiers in Korea by developing a system for keeping records and predicting outcomes to avoid mortality rates based on their personality types.

All that we can learn from the old school. 

And imagine all the preconceived notions we've had about previous generations, the antiseptic ways of dealing with things... The resentment we've built up at times because we think we've got it all emotionally figured out. Because we're the empathic ones. Because we've got the thick skin. But at what cost?

Well, intelligence isn't owned, it's shared.

Our stories drive that intelligence, provided we have a chance to share them.

And our data are expressions of knowledge, understanding and goodwill. When we allow them to be.

The operating systems of the future?

Lessons from the past, recontexualized as better stories, and better actions, for the future. 

At least that's what I've learned. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accelerating Human Growth Through Participation #K5Launch #startups #accelerators #venturecapital

Tom Taulli was kind enough to run a tiny piece on K5 this week in Forbes (thank you, Tom). I wanted to tell more of the full story of what we're up to here, because I am very proud - and also very humbled - by the work we're doing with the accelerator.

For starters, K5 is not your typical accelerator. There are a number reasons why this is the case, not the least of which is the fact that we approach the investment process in a very unique way.

On K5's differentiation:

It is no great surprise that the worlds of technology, investment, business and culture are converging. In some ways, they are colliding. We are transacting in an economy of relationships, and this challenges our notions of scale and scarcity. It means that the way we incubate, build and invest in businesses must take into account the dynamics of a flat world, one that puts the needs of people, and the markets in which they play, first. It also means that the way we invest must be reinvented through critical elements such as time, attention, goodwill and social relevance. In short, we need to make smarter, measured investments in human capital.

So here’s our charge:

1. To build a networked system that places collective import on participatory reward, with all the compensatory arrangements to boot (salaries, equity, etc.), but those that align investors, mentors and entrepreneurs to cultural values first and foremost;
 
2. To socialize that system in the form of both commercial and non-profit uses, such that innovation becomes as pervasive of a mindset as the decision to invest in the “latest and greatest startup”;
 
3. To grow this system as a platform as our name K5 suggests -- 1,000 companies (or projects) in 5 years -- in a manner that allows the system to grow its own independent systems nurturing ideas relevant to local markets, and to which those respective businesses flourish by the terms and conditions of those markets.

What we look for in a company...

First and foremost, great people. Every investor will tell you about the importance of great management and great company culture, but beyond that, we invest in the good intentions of entrepreneurs by helping them to understand how they can impact the world, and by helping them translate their intentions into businesses and markets of cultural scale. If a company exhibits that level of desire and that kind of ethos, we support it. If it starts with a good idea, even better.

It's simply not enough to accelerate an idea or a business for the purposes of positioning a company for an exit. We have to look at how that company fits into an ecosystem that can actually create change -- predicated on real market needs and values that are important to the average person.

The stages of the program...

Acceleration -- clinically defined as a process of moving an idea to the next level of business investment and formation -- is just one cog in our approach. It's a mechanism, not a solution. Without giving away our proprietary IP, it involves cultivating values that are tied to human development as they relate to the participation in an idea, and what comes out of that participation.

The values are many, and exist in varying degrees as the core to fundamental human business relationships, but are mainly these: trust, transparency, empowerment, connection, purpose, membership, exclusivity, accomplishment.

Connection and accomplishment, to our mind, represent the pillars of participation. And the primary mechanism for participating in a way that discovers talent unbound -- the outliers of our business and cultural circles -- that happens through experimentation. 

So, in short, our approach looks at how experimentation fosters individual and group growth, such that the investment in time and attention produces a return on hard (transactional) and soft (transformational) values.

Selecting candidates...

What we look for in an applicant are primarily the qualities openness and resilience. Openness allows someone to be receptive to direction, but also allows that person to want to participate, even if it is determined that his or her role might be different in the program or within the company going forward. Resilience is something that tends to show up in all entrepreneurs, but speaks to how someone can actually deal with adversity, how he or she can pivot to a new model, or how he or she can effectively manage people within the company.

The tendency of most accelerators and incubators is to think that if a candidate is given the right set of tools and the right amount of money, that he or she will succeed, but that's clearly not the case. A lot of candidates have experienced backgrounds, but we focus more on their aptitude for failure rather than their past achievements or accolades; it is critical that they understand how to fail forward because this process is about breaking down ideas and building them back up. This experience -- what we try to recreate in our process -- resembles the lifecycle of any successful business.

A bit more detail on our process...

Here's a graphic that encapsulates the nature of our process:

At the idea stage, essentially the entrepreneur is asked to "bare all"; he or she presents an idea in all of its merit as well as in all of its weakness. The way the candidate presents the idea actually speaks to his or her level of commitment, and how much he or she is willing to sacrifice for its betterment and that of the group. The way the group interacts around that idea starts to reveal its benefit, and the true characteristics of the team.

Then we enter a prototype stage; this can entail everything from coding a piece of software to developing an experimental model. When this happens, the group starts to coalesce and we see a learning dynamic take place amongst the members of the group. It's also a point at which group members start to make a stronger connection with each other, and with the mentors.

Once that happens, we can test the market. This could mean that the startup acquires a small group of beta testers and conducts a multivariate run on an application or a feature set. It also means that as users react and provide feedback, the roles within the group become more defined and refined in response to that feedback. The group starts to develop a sustainable, shared vision.

From there, the revenue and growth opportunities become clear -- and what we establish is a crucial relationship between what is being offered to the marketplace, and how that offering is being supported by a team that truly believes in the business idea. It also paves the way for membership in that business, and the values that each person exudes as an exclusive member of the business, and the K5 network. Essentially, meaningful participation affords you that privilege.

So, in sum, we go from the rejection of an idea, to an opportunity built around what's really possible.

All in all, we believe that company and individual growth must be symbiotic. Without it, startups are simply doomed for failure. And most of them do fail by design. We endeavor to buck that trend.

 

Moving Beyond the Browser #UX #CI #digital #experience #design #imtech

Moving Beyond the Browser #UX #CI #digital #experience #design #imtech

Ishan Shapiro and I had the fortunate pleasure of speaking on a panel for The Era of Experience event held by Immersive Tech just last week. Among the attendees and speakers were folks from big companies like Disney Imagineering, to smaller players like Social Animal, all of whom shared deep insights around our future as interface designers and creators of sensory experiences.

John Underkoffler (the former M.I.T. wunderkind who created the amazing interfaces from the movie Artificial Intelligence and turned them into real-world applications) capped the evening off with words that really struck me with their power and simplicity; in an attempt to paraphrase:

“The most elegant, illustrative device in the world is the human hand. Why is it then, that we choose to wrap it around a mouse or confine it to a touchpad and render it sedentary and practically useless?”

He went on to say (something akin to)...

“Browsing was initially designed for connectivity, yet it has evolved into a barrier between people. For one, it makes us choose one path over another. For another, we typically get lost on the paths we choose.”

He concluded his speech with some very positive and inspirational thoughts about our evolutionary stance as intelligent beings, and how we will move past a dependency on browsing as a function, but rather something already inherent in the interactions facilitated by humans and machines.

Here are some ideas he sparked, many of which are in various forms of development, but concepts no less that can be explored in great depth:

Interface as creator.

The notion that screens – haptic, gestural, or otherwise – and their respective relationships to human movement and interaction become “intelligence banks” that can generate new or extended forms of interface experiences... Games, media, music, art, math, what have you.

Think: finding the “search” through interaction (not just having things suggested to you or predicted for you by way of perceived relevance).

Sentience as sensoral emotion (emotive cognition).

The notion that we can recalibrate our senses and develop new dimensions of them. Through our current use of technology and media, we have abated certain aspects of our human processing that taps into the emotional nerve centers of the brain. Now we can not only rebuild cognition to align around those areas, but we can also create ways for new emotional languages to emerge, things that lie beyond semantics, logic and even intuition.

Think: exchanging information – such as the way we query things in search or correspond through email or tweets – in a way that represents our “true” emotional states and intentions.

Collective sensory experiences: enhancement rather than augmentation?

This concept also ties into the idea that our collective interactions actually enhance our realities rather than merely augment them. You could even go so far to say that we could create an actual “sixth sense” or tap into 11 dimensions of reality.

Think: the exchange of senses such that it becomes a new form of “social currency”.

Building sensory trust.

Building off of the currency concept, weak ties can become strong ties through trust that is built almost entirely off of sensoral affinities that align the emotional with the rational.

Think: you can willingly go with your gut when making decisions, seeking information, processing it, developing it and/or sharing it.

Enabling sense anticipation.

Now that you can use emotions and senses to dimensionalize and contextualize forms of trust (a new kind of sense-making), imagine having the type of compass you could develop that could self-manage anxiety, or depression, or anger, or sadness.

Think: a personal operating system!

Moving Beyond the Browser #UX #CI #digital #experience #design #imtech

The Merger of People, Technology & Ideas #analytics #storytelling #strategy #creativity #innovation

Early in my career as a creator of film and television content, I quickly found myself confined by what media allowed me, or didn’t allow me, to do. My transition into the interactive space alleviated some of these hurdles, but I soon realized that there was a much bigger issue at play, one that called to the reality that media ecosystems were becoming exponentially more complex, and that no one medium could replace or define our roles as marketers.  

I tell this story often because it is important that we understand the meaning and value of what creativity is, as well as what it can do for us when we look at it from a more holistic perspective.

To me, creativity is the process by which intent and action passionately align. It is a part of everything that we do well, and represents both the successes and failures of innovation. We are all creative beings, who, whether cognizant of this dynamic or not, constantly pine for the opportunity to connect, particularly through storytelling.

I started building social technologies because I wanted to acutely understand the ways in which we could help generate insights and empower the storytelling process. I suppose that I will always be a writer and an artist of sorts, but the more challenging proposition is how I can become a better sponge. The beautiful part about technology development is that it provides illustrative, colorful journeys into the unknown. The discoveries we make along the way are what give us a sense of accomplishment, especially when we can share our insights as “gifts” to others.

One platform I’m proud to be a part of that represents the power of community is eCairn. Its founders, Laurent Pfertzel and Dominique Lahaix, spent over 20 years at HP using various proprietary technologies to advance research methodologies for extracting and cultivating business intelligence, and were among the first to do what is now considered to be “social media data mining”.

While Laurent and Dominique are pioneers in the business intelligence space, the platform itself is not exactly “best-in-class”, nor does it have the sexiest or most intuitive interface. But that is not the point. The strength lies in our approach to data, and the insights we want to come out of it. We can always sync our technology with those that have complementary features and functions, and that is part of the plan to scale as a business. This also applies to how we think as strategic entities.

As strategists, it is imperative that we act swiftly and humbly in organizing intelligence frameworks that can move the needle of our business and our clients’ businesses. When you consider that most problems we are tasked to solve are of a wicked nature and are regenerative (meaning that the solutions we provide ultimately lead to new, more complex problems, and this cycle is ongoing), we must be interdependent in our thinking, the ways we create and how we utilize resources.

One of the things that I love about my job is that I get to learn from people. I have unique windows with which to observe their behaviors, and in various ways, I have opportunities to collaborate with them on a daily basis. These elements are also a constant reminder that anything we build must be adaptive; in other words, strategic methodologies must creatively inform technology functions and vice versa.

It is also critical that we think on the part of others – brands, agencies, audiences (consumer groups) and technology vendors must all be a part of the same conversation. This is a common issue I see with the start-ups and middle stage companies that I advise; all too often we build according to perceived “market value”, as opposed to understanding the needs and desires of people.

We’ve tried in earnest to apply this approach to Heardable, an online brand health platform I started co-developing about 18 months ago. Co-Founder & CEO, Jon Samsel, is a former marketing executive who has logged serious time building innovative solutions at Bank of America, Countrywide and Ford. Another co-Founder, John Sharp, is a seasoned entrepreneur and investor who also just happens to be a programming ace. The things I get to see and learn as an agency strategist by sitting in a room with these guys is invaluable. Here is our latest iteration of the offering:

Naturally, Heardable is still in its infancy and will continue to evolve. We plan to build more functional utilities around it and make the intelligence collective.

In a larger sense, technologies serve as organisms that help define, complement, refine and create human solutions. If you look at “platforms” as solutions that can leverage the amalgam of people + technology + media, then as marketers, we have social objects and ecosystems that are very special.

The “wicked world” forces us, even as competitors in the same space, to come together. Fact is, as marketers, we cannot afford to operate in our own, proprietary vacuums. Just look at the struggles of the automotive industry as one glaring example of this.

The bottom line is that there is room for anyone and everyone who is eager, humble and willing to expand their own piece of the pie and create new markets. Human needs are ever-present and ever-evolving. Needs are the new markets. Utilities are the solutions we can provide.

And there is also plenty of money to be made through altruism. But I suppose that is the subject for an entirely different conversation.

In the meantime, go forth, my friends, and innovate ;)

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.

Good stories are timeless.

So why is it that we are often confined by media constructs, such as campaigns, which have specific in-points and end-points in time?

Over time, we’ve argued over story. We’ve argued about stories. We’ve challenged our beliefs in them — just look at history. And over time, we’ve developed a sense of narrative by virtue of the channels we’ve created. Yet, ironically, we are bound to those channels by way of media and technology, and to a lesser extent, context. We always have been.

If we can look at time as simply the measurement of intervals between events, its relegation to manufactured thinking, or its basis in historical relevance, this was the initial impetus for what has evolved as transmedia storytelling.

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.

As with anything cool and unique, the notion of “transmedia” tends to be adopted in phenomenon and language, and often misused or misunderstood. Banish or change the term if you like, I don’t really care.

As a creative media and technology misfit of sorts, I’ve written quite a lot about “it” and spoken about “it” more out of a fascination with this notion of “transcendent media”, not so much as a discipline that can be broken down into best practices or methodologies and frameworks that can be serialized, but rather one that can’t. The beauty of what have been determined to be transmedia vehicles or platforms is that they are wonderfully unpredictable, reflexive, imaginative and kinetic.  

I won’t distill the point by generating a list of “transmedia examples”, nor will I go on a rant about how the various media markets are dying their own deaths (I sorta did that in my last two posts).

Quite simply, I gravitated to “transmedia” because it gave me an opportunity to liberate my ideas, and explore a narrative interdependency (versus a codependency) between technology and media, and more importantly, between people.

This doesn’t make me a subject matter expert, or a guru, or a futurist, or someone assigned to any other ridiculous designation. To borrow from the great William Goldman, no one really knows anything. It does, however, make me a student who can share his knowledge and experience in the pursuit of higher learning and collective intelligence. The confidence I have in my own opinion is borne out of this determination.

As with anything we’ve done or anything we do in technology and media, the tendency is to align oneself with a clique of one type or another. I don’t care what side or channel you’re in or on, what matters is that you can appeal to the best and the most curious in human behavior, and that you can use technology and media for what they can be... Platforms that can help us transcend our more traditional thinking.

Furthermore, whatever we choose to call “it”, “it” should not only influence behavior, but endeavor to change behavior.

A good number of folks who have helped pioneer or develop “transmedia” in various ways – people like Jeff Gomez, Stephen Dinehart, Mike Monello, Scott Walker, Robert Pratten and Ivan Askwith – will all tell you that “it” has this power. And power, of course, is something that we already possess, it just needs to be cultivated in ways that are meaningful.

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.

In other words, once we can get over our technology and media hubris, the real work has yet to be done.

So, I don’t think it’s really a matter of what transmedia is, what it has done, or necessarily what it does in the context of now, but rather what it represents. Which is, quite simply, possibility.

Now, to get a bit more specific (and a bit less lofty), I think it is important to make a significant distinction between technological and cultural disruption.

Fact is, technology will continue to evolve, but the real evolution culminates in the iterative cycles we undergo in our relationship to narrative. Story has an undeniable and somewhat impermeable place in our own genealogy, and I think the more obvious manifestation of this resides in historical debate, and the less obvious dynamic resides in our attraction to fiction. Clearly, what has given rise to the narrative adoption of fantasy elements (such as comic books) is a relatedness to things that are a part of our own history, and most likely things about our history that we cannot comprehend, yet things that define us quite formatively as human beings. This, at least in my mind, is fascinating.

If we can accept story as genealogy as a precept of our faith in the unknown, and an opportunity to transcend through media, then we have something very special that we can call our own. And, as we are discovering more and more, we can cultivate it through networks of people.

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.

Where does technology (ala platform) then play a vital role? In audience delivery and participatory appeal.

Here's what I mean.

Aside from the narrative prospects, I believe that most media companies (and by “media” I mean any entity that produces and/or distributes content) fail to understand that convergence is a matter of understanding and extracting the anthropological elements of participation, from ontologies to folksonomies to emotional mapping and geo-spatial integrations. Further, things like AR & ARG extensions provide new perspectives on the realities we already share. What we share in the way of context, consensus and relatedness is precisely what makes our media more sustainable, our products more resonant, and our identities more powerful.

This, in my humble opinion, is the true value of what transmedia storytelling can afford us: the ability to synthesize narrative and platform in ways that are self-revealing, regenerative, altruistic, and ultimately, scalable.

This is why gameplay can be so appealing: it allows us to collectively (and individually) explore our notions of what we value, whether we are duly cognizant of them or not. The point is not if games can change the way we look at the world, but rather how we look at the world when we play them. Big difference.

We can also ascribe sentient and empathic value to gameplay, but that of course depends on the types of games we choose to play. Or does it?

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.
Winning a game is a subjective experience (Faulkner would argue that the battle only reveals to man his own folly). If we liken this to the challenges we face with media in general, we can come to the quick realization that we must make our own meaning. However, if we can deliver audiences (which we can), the sky really is the limit as to what is transformative with respect to our consumption. Then, maybe, we no longer consume, we own and we share.

But of course, we have the old media mavens to contend with, the gatekeepers that are stuck on controlling the gateways, as opposed to liberating them, despite the fact that transmedia vehicles provide more opportunity to actually sell more media.

Then again, what does “selling more media” do for us anyway?

Put it this way: we’ve commercialized our ideas for centuries, why not break the patterns that clearly don’t work?

So, perhaps it’s time we stopped bickering over name and process, and put our intentions to good use. Again, the real work has yet to be done.

On the meaning of #transmedia, perhaps what it is not, and, what it can be.

A Map of the Media Ecosystem & The Notion of Platform #socialCRM #Platforms #NarrativeEcosystems

Platform: A horizontal surface or structure with a horizontal surface raised above the level of the surrounding area. A body of principles on which a person or group takes a stand in appealing to the public; program:
            The Fabians developed an all-embracing platform promising utopia.

A Map of the Media Ecosystem & The Notion of Platform #socialCRM #Platforms #NarrativeEcosystems

All things being horizontal...

Perhaps Magellan was onto something when he asserted that the world was indeed round. Thomas Friedman would certainly concur that communications have globalized our need states through a round lens. Communication streams, and certainly the ways we have “consumed” media, have not only given us a more holistic purview of our behaviors, but the attitudes we share around purchasing. Look at the way networks of all types have evolved – they’ve become horizontal by their very nature.

I am no longer a “car buyer”, an “insurance policyholder “, a “clothes shopper” or just a “loyalist” or an “adventurer”. My lifestyle choices are my own, they often change, or they take on new meaning. My search for meaning is reflected in the attitudes I exhibit and the interactions I have with my peers. All of my behaviors reach across verticals. My life, and my purchasing patterns, are representative of a constant need to connect and be validated on some level. Sure, we can segment (or “microsegment”) my behaviors and develop attitudinal attribution around them, but those insights are the result of conversation and real world interaction, not mere assumption.

The promise of utopia (hint: it is formalized within the mind of the individual).

Spiritual rants aside, it’s interesting (and even oddly comical) to think that all of these media types exist, yet media companies, at least as we’ve come to know them, are dying out. All things not being perfect, the need for control is more fleeting than ever.

Viewed in many media circles as a saving grace of sorts, there has been a lot discussion around the notion of “platform”, and we wanted to expand on the idea that a platform can be anything that ties people, experiences and relationships together in a thoughtful and truly actionable way. So, if a platform is borne from a specific technology or technology need, so be it. If it evolves out of a specific relationship dynamic, so be it. If it reveals itself by way of some social or cultural meme, that can be even better. If it is the culmination of all of these things, fantastic.

As Linus Pauling stated: “The best way to get a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” Sounds like a good starting point.

Platforms are the drivers of change.

Regardless of its nature or respective features or functions, a platform only exists as the sum of various substantive parts. It must inform, inspire, shift and create new cultural paradigms. It is by its very nature scalable, and must be carefully and continuously fed like any other organism or ecosystem. Most importantly, a platform allows for cultural and media transcendence. Ideally, it can entertain, delight or make games out of things we do.

In other words, a platform, unlike a campaign, provides an ongoing narrative that can live across channels (even those considered to be unlikely) and can be remixed through dynamic storytelling. Further, it motivates people to act in meaningful ways. And as far as ads go, the more we do develop a platform, the more campaigns we can run, the more media we can offer, and the more money we can generate without having to “sell” anything at all... Sort of, you might say, a form of social capitalism, or maybe just good ole’ media responsibility.

Semantic intelligence needs room to grow.

One might argue, and with reasonable evidence, that the intelligence we gather through media and technology is no longer artificial. Perhaps it never was. The “social web”, for example, seems paradoxical. Beyond media and technologies themselves, as networks of people, we are growing. We are evolving.

You’ll notice that we’ve left out “campaign”, “initiative” or “project” within this platform mix. Call it a “meme farm” if you so wish – the point is that platforms can become whatever we want them to be, or however they reveal themselves to be.

By the way, narrative is the sustainable, non-linear “thing” that allows us to maintain and nurture relationships, generate new insights and co-develop new products and services with people. It also affords us the ability to see how people share and evolve, with whom, and why. It gives us a profound understanding of the human condition.

What storytelling asks of us: to make art out of good business (and vice versa).

Narrative also presents a curious challenge for agencies and vendors: it forces us to learn, or relearn, how to co-create content much in the same way (or exactly as) filmmakers, artists and/or journalists do. Storytelling, as you’ve probably come to imagine, is an art form, and good art requires an open mind and balanced thinking. Whether we use three acts or ten (depending on their creator), the human condition is as unpredictable as ever (thank God for that, right?) and we must think of ourselves as curators of conditional or circumstantial information. This means that a message or a touch-point can be contained within a medium, but we must allow each medium to serve as a touchstone for people to unfold their versions of a story.

And just as the famous Warhol quote suggests, good art is good business. (He actually said moneymaking is good art, but considering these implications associated with the current state of the world, e.g. abject greed, I thought we’d leave that out... But I digress).

Above all (and even if they’re not saying it outright), clients are asking us to curate, and to provide business solutions, not just marketing solutions.

In short, platforms transform the way we do business. This is the single most important thing that any agency or vendor can embrace.

Put the power back into people.

You’ll notice that we’ve described this illustration as a “map of the media ecosystem”. Ecosystems in this sense are just that – living, breathing networks of people that interact dynamically. You’ll also notice that there is no mention of the word “consumer”. The thinking here is that we also want to try to blur the lines between paid, earned and owned media in order to focus on customized experiences. Further, data and collaborative insight are an integral part of the adaptive framework that constantly regenerates itself, is recursive, and feeds the constituent parts.

And of course, people are at the center of everything (well, at least when it comes to media). We’ve narrowed the human element down to the individual at the core, but we can just as easily liken this construct to groups or tribes or communities or hives or whatever we want them to be.

The other aspect of the ecosystem is this: while we have acknowledged specific social disciplines, the real goal is for social communication, and more importantly, social action, to permeate all forms of media and outreach. This we feel is absolutely critical, especially as we endeavor to create sustainable products and services.

All media are inherently social (really).

So, not to beat a dead horse (or create a limping donkey), all media are inherently social. Without fail, media should provide social nutrition to communities of people.

And so, people + platforms = brand innovation (and at best, human innovation)

We’ve done this purposely to demonstrate that ecosystems are ever-present, scalable, interchangeable and perhaps even omniscient (if we consider them to be more than just social objects) – the specific channels and disciplines are secondary, and in some ways, almost irrelevant. We’ve left many out. There are many others that will materialize and evolve. In today’s media world, people aren’t interested so much in consumption, rather the desire to create, recreate and/or cultivate new experiences. An experience has far more impact than a message or a channel. In fact, if we are to take a cue from Marshal McLuhan’s thinking, the experience is the message, or at least serves to procure those messages that are realized by way of collaborative thought.

Transformation must be cultivated.

The linchpin for brands and agencies is to invest in collective intelligence. From there, the opportunities are boundless. It’s time to go beyond producing donuts, and start generating intellectual IP that is shared and can be productized.

It’s a challenging environment we live in, but if we’re smart about it, vigilant and convicted enough in our beliefs, and we can motivate each other to operate outside of silos, the results can be quite powerful.

Examples of platforms:


[Special thanks to Sheena Warmin, Nina Ribbeklint and Jessie Kernan for being my co-pilots in this exploration]