Augmented Reality, Mythic Media and the Product of Becoming

Media, as everything else, is changing. Lately with the uprising of Augmented Reality many people asked me what my current view is on this topic. That inspired me to write this post. It challenged me to get my wild thoughts on paper and somehow articulate what I see happening. So in this post I will summarize my thoughts on media as a whole and implicitly the role of Augmented Reality inside it. It is a summary of relevant trends and principles I see that interlink with eachother in a yet undiscovered way.

The lack of growth and the inability to exploit in this world.

As the pace of change is only picking up people are more and more are unable to “play a game” on earth. A game references here to any “play” you do with a certain anticipated or expected outcome. Like doing a project, building a company or planning a career. The main reason why this becomes increasingly dificult is that both the rules and players change before you end your game. The moment you enter the arena to play your part the audience is already moved along. This continuous interruption in “gameplay” removes the feeling of accomplishment and reward, as that moment is never reached. A VUCA world makes preparation an almost impossible task. A VUCA world requires someone to act on impulses. This is an extremely difficult environment to grow and develop skills. It is extremely hard to feel fulfilled, purposeful and part of something. The lack of result is separating mind from body. The body is getting the “hits” but the mind is slowly becoming empty. It draws people into media, into a digital realm. It draws people into games where a experience of success and result can be achieved.

Make money in the expression.

It also becomes increasingly hard to exploit manifested products. The moment we launch a product to the world, the next hero is already organizing it’s launch party ready to follow up. Products have shorter and shorter lifecycles, making it more and more difficult to maintain the two-step mindset of an explorative phase and a exploitative phase. We see this again in education where it becomes increasingly hard to exploit your precious education in the (near) future. Many things we learn are irrelevant the moment we enter the workspace.

This requires us to reframe our own story about these topics. I found that a way forward is to “make money in the expression”. This means the expression is both the investment and the reward. They mutually arise in the same moment. Something we see happening on social platforms with Youtube and Instagram stars. But also the interest in “Hollywood model” production set-ups show that there is this temporary moment in which things come together and deliver an output that is immediately transferable. The further implications of this model deserve a separate post which I will write about soon.

The Expression Economy

The product of becoming

In a VUCA world everything starts questioning it’s purpose and longs to become something. -Raimo van der Klein

Joseph Pine, the writer of the book The Experience Economy, already shares with us that the next phase after the Experience as a product we move to an era where the product are experiences that have a transformational effect on people. To have a transformational experience people will become part of the experience. They will act in it instead of witnessing it. Where the last decades we provided experiences to witness and participate in, the current decade will be about experiences that can only be experienced when we act inside them.

Technology is the key facilitator that provide people with the possibility to act inside designed digital universes. Immersive technologies like AR, MR and VR allow to adopt roles in for example games. But also in companies as Uber and AirBnB people play active parts in a designed universe with clear rules.

Also when we look at the future of work we see more indicators that identity, roles and becoming are crucial principles. In the current dynamic workplace we see that more and more people are independent workers who freelance or are part of the Gig economy. Many have multiple roles in various teams or environments. Somebody can be for example a freelancer and also be an AirBNB host. Some are for example member in various project teams at the same time. Such a relationship to work requires somebody to rethink how to define once self and be flexible with taking on roles. But it also requires people to shed roles and be reborn in new roles. This changes the process of identification dramatically.

The unstable real world and the stable digital world.

The irony in all of this is that same technology that creates instability in on our physical(real) world also is able to create stable digital universes where we have well controlled experiences. In a digital plane we can design the rules, we design the chaos and the stability, we design the tension, the engagement levels, we define the roles someone can choose, we limit complexity. This makes it a very attractive space for growth experiences. It is a lot less hostile than the physical world we live in today.

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players” - William Shakespeare

The era of Mythic Media

Myths differ from stories in such a way that the myth feels real yet a story is either created(fantasy) to entertain you or it is told to you through someone else who was a witness(news) as such. A myth lives between the real and the fabricated. It has a visceral component. It has presence unlike a story you see in your media box. You can recognize and encounter the myth. Media starts to get these qualities that for long we have attributed only to myths. Social media, technologies like Augmented and Reality and our connected world creates a media form that is real and fake at the same time. They have attributes of both worlds. I call this Mythic Media. Popular examples of mythic media are Pokemon Go and The Kardashians. Mythic Media creates a new ambiguity about the truth. The truth becomes less relevant. Questions like “is this acted?” are becoming increasingly difficult to answer. Or “Is that Pokemon really there?”. ”Can the Kardashians live without their audience or have they become dependent of it?” All very interesting questions that operate on the borders of our current belief system of media.

“Myths are clues to the spiritual potentialities of the human life,” Joseph Campbell

Once we start building experiences inside our real world this border between fantasy and news becomes grey. The digital can start to feel real and the real starts to feel digital(see fake news). It is all contributing to blurring the lines of what media is and what reality is. Myths are a key constuct that offers us guidance in how to adapt to this new reality. Myths are as old a humanity itself. It can help us give meaning to media again in a moment in it’s evolution that requires us to rethink what it is.

Reality and digital media will converge and offer experiences that rely on both elements(fantasy and news) to be present. Imagine a media experience build on the foundation of reality with a storyline that has mythical elements like certain archetypes.

The renewed purpose of Media

Mythic media brings digital media into the physical world. Media is not just there to entertain us or to give us a sense of escapism. It is doing something much more profound. It is giving this dynamic physical world which we don’t understand a narrative that gives it structure and meaning. It is integrating storylines into the very fabric of reality. It is not a “fairytale” we are watching in a “media box” but is happening now, here in real life. It is what happens when news, media and technology get a lovechild. As these experiences have a direct link to our own lives it also invites us to be part of that experience. It allows us to act, have an opinion and even have a role in the experience itself. We relate to it. We are no longer a passive witness.

From watching to becoming

Function of Myths and it’s guiding principles

Myths have been a key part of the life of people as long as we have looked to find explanations for phenomena. Myths are a key mental construct that will provide people with a foundation of life itself.

Myths gave us stories about creation, life, death, spirtituality, morality and ethics. Where science requires proof, myths do not. Myths can live in a sphere of mysticism. Joseph Campbell says there are four reasons for myths to exist.

  1. Awe and wonder (value):
  2. Cosmology and structure to life (understanding)
  3. A clear place in this time (social order)
  4. A reflection of yourself.(pedagogy)

Myths live on the border of history(reality) and storytelling(fantasy). It is on this same border where a new category of media will emerge.

The Foundation of Mythic Media is Data

Mythic Media lives on top of reality. Influencing it. It can only be activated by triggers in our real lives. It requires sensors that act once certain conditions are met. Actors wake up when certain data points are manifested. Monitored reality is therefor the birthplace of mythic media. Real-time contextual data like space, time, image(camera) and sound(microphone) are logical sources on which to build on.

Installation or intention space

Universe design and the relevance of Digital Dramaturgy (embedded versus emergent stories)

Just as with theatre in Mythic Media the audience influences the performance. This requires to set scenes in which the performance can emerge. A universe needs to be created. A systemic approach to a multi dimensional environment in which we can act and experience. It requires a mindset where you design a context in which the performance can be both played out and experienced. A craft that for now has been perfected in theatre through dramaturgy. A digital version of dramaturgy will be key in continuously finding the balance between reality and fantasy. It regulates the permeability of both reality and digital content into the experience itself. It is invitational.

The Call to adventure

“The Cave You Fear To Enter Holds The Treasure You Seek”. This is a famous quote by Joseph Campbell to show that adventures that make us feel uncomfortable are the once that have the reward that we are looking for. With mythic media we will start to feel this fear viscerally. Mythic media will trigger an element of sacrifice. You need to let go in order to participate. It will force you to show your loyalty. It requires you to make choices about your life. The sacrifice is part of the myth. “Do I want to sacrifice my time, energy and resources for this”. Mythic media therefor is something that is free to experience yet “paid” to participate.

Brands will live amongst us(spectator versus performer)

As discussed in some paragraphs above, content becomes less and less produced and played out and more and more generated in the moment(mutualyy arising principle). Therefor brands will need to provide “actors” that represent the brand. The first signs of these trigger based brand actors are conversational interfaces, chatbots and Personal agents like Alexa and Siri. Current personal agents lack the ability to fully manifest as they are bound to either space or time. For example Alexa is not mobile(bound in space) and Siri is not always active(bound in time). The next generation of agents will live in Augmented Reality free of time and space, which makes them full actors in our lives. They are always there. This avatarisation of brands will introduce new mythic characters that roam the world independently from us. In that sense Mythic media makes us all(including brands) performers in some way. In a sense it makes brands independent products in itself. They have become the product.

In summary media, in the widest sense of the word, is by far going to be the biggest market of our time. It’s biggest product will be that it will allow us to become somebody. It allows us to step into stories. It will help us grow and learn. Media will make us all actors and audience at the same time(mutually arising). We will have mythic media experiences where we get our reward in playing our part.

It is maybe important to stress that this is not the future I strongly desire or long for but it is a future I expect to emerge. Let me know your thoughts on mythic media and the product of becoming.