The Future of Media is Content that is ALIVE.

Every piece of content humanity has created to date, every painting, movie, album, even monument to the gods, was and is dead. All of it.

But now for the first time we are creating content that is ALIVE.

Bear with me.

Game of Thrones doesn’t care who watches it. If you watch it, I watch it, and a million other people watch it, it doesn’t change. You’ll see it it today, tomorrow, in 5 years, and it’s STILL as alive as the chair I’m sitting in now. You could take it to the Arctic or the Sahara desert, and it would still remain the same shape and size, making no adjustments to its environment. The same can be said for all the content that has existed for the past 100+ years.

In cinema or television, the content was dead. All the digital platforms appearing over the past few years (Netflix, Amazon, Youtube, etc) have copy-pasted the old content paradigm onto their new platforms. The old content was consumed in a movie theatre or on television where the choice was binary: you either stayed or left, changed the channel or didn’t.

Now we are consuming our content on our phones and computers, where our interaction with media has expanded past simple binaries. And yet, interacting with the content has remained the same experience to us now, as it was from the heyday of Film and Television.

So all day I am engaging with my computer or iPhone, interacting with it, tapping, typing, swiping, talking to it until FINALLY I find the content I want, lean back and…do nothing? Yes that option will remain, no doubt. We still watch theatre, opera, ballet. The old forms will not disappear.

HOWEVER, there is a new content offering opportunity. I call it Interactive 2.0: content that is organic; alive. It has a mindset of its own and engages with the user on a one to one basis. Think a blend between computer games and film.

Think A.I. meets Art.

{THE AND} The Public Library of Human Emotions

Now. this isn’t some esoteric theory: It works and we’ve done it here at The Skin Deep. Our very first project {THE AND} is an Interactive 2.0 project that won the Emmy for New Approaches to Documentary in 2015 (selected over projects by the New York Times, the Washington Post, PBS’s POV, and Atavist). Our upcoming project The Dig, also just won the World Press Photo’s top prize for Immersive Storytelling in a class of projects created by the New York Times and The Guardian. So how are we, a small creative studio, competing with much larger, well funded, and highly resourced organizations? It comes down to our conceptual paradigm that I’m sharing here.

Interactive 2.0

Now hold on a second. You hear “interactive” and you think choose your own adventure. That is Interactive 1.0, and not what I’m referring to. What I’m suggesting is the evolution of content beyond — Interactive 2.0 — and it has three specific criteria.

Interactive 1.0 versus 2.o.

My team and I define something as being interactive if its existence is dependent on the user engaging with it. Game of Thrones exists regardless if you watch it or not; so it doesn’t make the cut. Any film exists in the universe whether it’s seen or not. It doesn’t change. However, the experience you have on {THE AND} only exists because of your engagement with it. It creates content that is catalyzed by you, the user. That’s why we don’t use the term ‘viewer,’ because for us, there is no viewer in an interactive experience, rather, only the user or (as we like to call them) “the catalyzer.”

Hang with me a moment longer.

If you were to go to a carnival and had the choice of watching the sword swallower or visiting a tarot card reader, which would you choose to see? I bet that the chances are a 50/50 split. But what about the second time you come to the carnival? Which would you choose then? I would assume that a majority would choose the tarot card reader over the sword swallower. Why? You’ve seen the sword swallower already. How often is that experience going to change? However, returning to the tarot card reader, is a different experience every time you go back. Why? Because the reading is about YOU, and you are constantly changing and thus your experience is never the same.

This fulfills our first two criteria for something to be Interactive 2.0.

First, it’s user centric. It’s about you, the user. It’s not you making choices for some other protagonist (as in a “choose your own adventure”), but you are making decisions that are based on who you are and reflect you. So in the case of {THE AND}, the promise of the setup is that it will create a customized film that reflects how YOU experience love in a relationship. Not, what love looks like in the 21st century, or what happens to the characters’ sense of love. Being an Interactive 2.0 experience, it’s all about you and your own exploration.

Self reflexive. User-centric.

The second criteria is that considering you are constantly changing, so too does the content. You can never dip your toe into the same river twice right? Same thing with an interactive experience; it’s never the same. Every engagement is different because the user, the catalyzer, is different.

The third and final criteria for an experience to be Interactive 2.0 is that it must be a tool for the user. It must be something that improves the life of the user. The results are, a user experience that is highly shareable, and one that increases return engagement for the users to the experience. In this world of social media, where we are sharing everything, how likely are you to share something that is an effective useful tool with someone? Very.

In the case of {THE AND}, after getting a customized film about how you experience love in a relationship, and viewing a library of relationships in conversation, you can have the experience yourself. You can grab a partner and have a discussion using the questions the site provides. Thus it is a tool, creating the space for honest intimate conversation in your own life.

A great Interactive 2.0 experience is your iPhone or Android. You say “Call Mom” and it’ll call your mom. Not someone else’s mom, but yours. It reminds you when your friends’ birthdays are. It changes every day, and every moment you use it. It’s a wonderful tool, maybe even the most useful tool you have, but most importantly, it is shaped and built for YOU. Now, what happens when I take my iPhone and give it to you? What is it then? No longer an iPhone: it’s a frisbee. You can’t log in. You can’t access anything, and if you do, it’ll be my Mom you end up calling, not yours. The iPhone is built for me, around me, about me.

Now what if content was the same?

Well, it will be. That is the future of content. It’s Interactive 2.0 and here at The Skin Deep, that’s what we do.

Topaz Adizes, is the founder and creative director of The Skin Deep. The Dig is their next experience launched in April 2017.