Share this video
“Thoughts on discoverability from the perspective of machines, humans, and all the rest of nature that’s between them.”
The CRTC Discoverability Summit has explored discoverability of content and distribution strategy from all angles. In these closing remarks, Kevin Slavin, of the MIT Media Lab, sums up by defining discoverability as a phenomenon and explaining the science behind it. According to Slavin, discoverability is actually a fundamental biological, psychological, and psycho-social principle. His explanation starts with birds – a flock of birds, which are all doing the same thing, without a boss bird or conductor or orchestration. This is an example of ‘limbic resonance,’ the wordless harmony we see everywhere, including between humans, which is based on the group or crowd. Slavin uses this phenomenon to explain why a movie that is disappointing in the living room is electrifying in the cinema. Watch the closing remarks, and find out how the success of multi-media platforms is based on this science, and how to use the science to handle context collapse.
Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CRTC
Director, Playful Systems Group, MIT Media Lab
“It’s the crowd that releases story telling magic. The essential, communal, multiplied wonder.”
“This is a game where you play a shark researcher. You’re in the Pacific Ocean, and you’re looking for sharks. You can see your ship there, and you’re looking how to intersect with the kinds of sharks. It’s all real time. It’s going to take about four hours for the ship to move 50 pixels, which if you sat and watched it, would the dullest video game in the world, which is the competitive market…The thing that was more interesting than sharks with GPS transceivers stapled to their fins, was the fact that we could interrupt your day to alert you to that, and bring you back into the game…It led us to an overall fascination, and interest, and engagement, with the dynamics of broadcasts in real time.”
“There are a couple of Harvard psychologists who framed this thing, and called it limbic resonance. They said limbic resonance supplies the wordless harmony we see everywhere but take for granted, between mother and infant, a boy and his dog, the silent reverberations between minds that’s basically invisible to us.”
“The Tumblr that we run for Dr. Who is the second largest branded Tumblr on Tumblr, after Beyonce. Let me be clear that Beyonce spends a lot to promote that in ways that we don’t. It’s all earned, what we’re doing. It produced, for example, the largest TV numbers on Tumblr. The 50th anniversary of Dr. Who was larger than the Super Bowl, the VMA’s, and the Grammys put together, on Tumblr.”
“What people are encountering when they hit the ‘everything is going to be fine’ gif set on Tumblr…because actually there’s a bunch of laughter, or sadness, or just fundamental, authentic human emotions, and then, looking to see, well, where is that directed? That, for me, that’s what discovery should be, can be, must be, and will be.”
“What these ants are doing is basically building a straight line. If you’ve ever had ants, you know they’re really good at this. How do they do that? There’s no leader. There’s nobody in charge, and they figure [it] out…This is discoverability.”
Anne-Marie: All right. We are ready for our last keynote of the day. How are you guys holding up? Okay, now we know. How are you guys holding up? There you go. Everybody’s going to get their flight out, and everybody’s going to grab that last bit of knowledge, and information, and data into our brains. It’s going to be so great. For this last conference, we are very, very lucky. The assistant professor at the MIT Media Lab. Kevin Slavin is, and was, an entrepreneur. He has successfully integrated digital media, game development, technology, and design. He’s a pioneer in rethinking game design, and developments of brand new technologies, and new platforms. He’s about to share his thoughts with us on discoverability from the perspective of machines, and humans, and the rest of nature that’s in between them, bots. I don’t want to give up any more of this fascinating topic, so without further ado, please join me in welcoming Kevin Slavin.
Kevin Slavin: All right, so I just thought of joke to make about being between you and cocktails, except some of you have cocktails already, so I don’t need to worry about that. Okay. I’m going to talk the next 45 minutes. I’m going to leave very far in between pretty highfalutin theory, and pretty concrete practice. If you stay with me, I promise, whenever it feels like we are totally lost in one of them, I will bring you back to the other one.
I’m going to be wearing two hats for this talk. One is in my role at the MIT media lab. If you don’t know what the media lab does, we [crosstalk 00:02:37] things like eating, the little actuators in your seat belt, optogenetics, and Bluefin. Just out of curiosity, how many people are familiar with what Bluefin is? Okay 1, 2 … It’s really interesting, because it’s a … Well, I’ll get to it. It was developed at the media lab. It was acquired by Twitter as the single biggest acquisition, I think it was about an $80 million acquisition, just around television and social media. We’ll talk about that a little bit.
The other hat that I’m wearing is at Everybody At Once, which is a company that I started with my best friend, and business partner, Kenyatta Cheese. The types of things that we work on, typical types of folks that we work with include BBC Worldwide, IFC, Google, and football teams like AS Roma.
If you are wondering, at this point, why you are looking at birds, which is that … I’m going to be bringing in, actually, a lot about what discoverability actually is, kind of, as a fundamental, biological, psychological, and psycho-social phenomenon. What you see in these birds is … This is one of the best examples of emergence of a bunch of birds that are all doing broadly the same thing, without a boss bird, without any conductor, without any orchestration. They’re only responding to one another. We’ll come back to that.
It’s an example of what I’ll be referring to as context collapse context collapse, in general, around media, which is catastrophic if you are, for example, a broadcaster. But Maybe it’s, sort of, the best thing that can, kind of, happen to you. We’ll take about the house, and also the why’s and the where for us.
I come from this really weird, eclectic background that doesn’t make any sense to anybody, including me. It’s only to say that I have spent quite a bit of time on all the different pieces of the puzzle that I’ve heard here today, including game design, including advertising, I’ve made TV shows for FOX, and so on. At the media lab, what we focus on, we don’t take anybody who only does one of these things. We don’t even really take anybody who only does two of these things. You have to be somewhere close to the middle on these four approaches to life to spend time there. That’s, sort of, the approach that I want to bring to the discoverability question.
I should say that I came to thinking about broadcast media in a very long arch that starts here. I had a game design firm that started in 2004. We made, sort of, the first games that ever used pervasive technologies, whether it was GPS, or optics, or even genetic material, for the games. This was 2004, this was over 12 years ago.
This was the first game that used a city as a board. This is the board, these are the pieces. This is in Minneapolis. This is the first game that ever used live GPS, in 2005. These are people who are playing the game. The way they would play the game was by moving. These are people who are being pursued down the street by something invisible. These are the kinds of things that we were interested in doing.
We started to get contacted by more and more TV folks. Everybody from the Discovery Channel, to Disney, to CBS, to MTV. Everybody was sort of interested in what we were doing. We ended up doing something. The first TV thing that we did was for the Discovery Channel, and it was for Shark Week. We did a game called Shark Runners, which I did it 10 years ago, and I think it’s still running.
This is a game where you play a shark researcher. You’re in the Pacific Ocean, and you’re looking for sharks. You can see your ship there, and you’re looking how to intersect with the kinds of sharks. It’s all real time. It’s going to take about four hours for the ship to move 50 pixels, which if you sat and watched it, would the dullest video game in the world, which is the competitive market.
The way that we designed it was that your ship would move at this incredibly slow pace, and if something happened, we would call you on your 2006 phone. We would call you and we would let you know that there was this event, and you would have three hours, later shortened to half an hour, to get back to your computer and execute a dive, and get information about the sharks that you had intersected with.
The headline, the thing that most people remember about this game … Anybody who played it or knew about it. The headline is that all of the ships in the game were controlled by players, but all the sharks in the game were actually controlled by sharks in the Pacific Ocean that had GPS transceivers that were stapled to their dorsal fin. This was a very sexy headline, you’re playing tag with live sharks in the Pacific Ocean.
What I want to say, is that this was actually the moment where we realize that there was something that was more interesting than that. The thing that was more interesting than that was this part. The thing that was more interesting than sharks with GPS transceivers stapled to their fin, was the fact that we could interrupt your day to alert you to that, and bring you back into the game. The game was happening all the time, and that we could actually say that it exists outside of you, and that you could dip into for just a little bit, just for a moment, and participate in this thing.
It led us to an overall fascination, and interest, and engagement, with the dynamics of broadcasts in real time. We made … This was before the phrase ‘second screening.’ I think this was probably 2007. This is, as far as I know, the first game that was designed for the second screening, was done for A&E, for The Sopranos. This is a game that’s actually responding to the real time live broadcast of The Sopranos.
It was sort of something we’d never seen before. It made it clear that everything that came before that moment was pretty weird. This was weird, to make a game that was synced to live television, but what was much weirder was that up until this moment, and up until the moment that we live in now, you would have these experiences that millions, or even tens of millions of people, would all be participating in.
All these people, all at the same time, all the same thing, and they would be doing that alone. That was actually a really crazy idea that we just pursued, culturally, for, I don’t know, 70 years or so. The minute you can start to connect people around that, any idea of doing without that just falls apart.
We ended up doing some games for MTV. We were hired to come up with a game for the show called, “The Hills.” It’s not to my taste, the show, and we were trying to figure out what is it about the show that people really love. We spent a lot of time with the people who really loved the show. What they really loved about the show was talking trash about it. We actually … This was just as Twitter was launched, long before Twitter found its legs in television. We actually built, essentially, a game around trash talking on live television, which was sort of a precursor to the kinds of conversations that you see around live TV these days.
We built out this company that just did this kind of thing, got eaten by a dog, it became Zynga New York, and then it just turned in to dust, because that’s what happens. Right as all that happened, this was happening. This is Dennis Crowley’s apartment, who was one of our partners. Dennis, who is now with Foursquare. If you’ve ever used Foursquare, this is his place.
He talked about it back then, and this is, I don’t know five years ago. Dual screen Super Bowl party, one for the game, one for the tweets, created a back channel for ads. This is the future. You could look at it and go, “Duh. That’s the future that we live in,” but it’s way, way better than the past. Because, if you think about it, the past that I grew up with, and roughly speaking, I think most of you grew up with, looked and sounded like this. Let me see if this works. Yeah.
Video Clip 1: “I’m right here Scoob, but where are we?” “I don’t know.” “Hey, there’s a flashlight. Zoink!”
Kevin Slavin: Okay. So What’s weird about this clip is not that there’s a flashlight in the middle of a dark cave that they could somehow find. The weird part is the laughter. I remember, even as a kid, hearing that, and thinking, “What live studio audience was this filming in front of? What sorcery is this?”
The laugh track was added to all cartoons, the ones that I grew up with, It was notably absent from contemporary cartoons for reasons that we’ll get to, in part because we’re afraid of something that doesn’t have people in it, bottom line. If you look at … I don’t know if you guys have ever spent time with this, but on Youtube there’s a whole sub-genre of shows, mostly from the 80’s and 90’s, that have had the laugh track clinically removed. This is a funny part from “Friends.”
Video Clip 2: “Ross, thank you. Hey, do you guys want to go see a movie?” “Oh yeah, why not?” “Phoebs?” “No thanks, I’ve already seen one.” “I’m going to go get my sweater.”
Kevin Slavin: Not funny. First of all, you realize how much energy, and craft, and infrastructure is required to accommodate an audience that’s not there. In fact, the craftsmanship of acting, waiting for real people to laugh later, or real people who have laughed to be inserted later, actually gives you greater appreciation for the craft of “Friends.” It’s also, you realize how what we’re responding to, when something is funny, is that other people think it’s funny. That’s what all that was about. It’s what all of that was about. It is that way because of how we’re built.
Reptiles, basically, get that bottom little bit of the brain that’s just above the vertebrae. All mammals have a limbic system, right, so you have it, your dog has it, your cat has it, and humans have the neo cortex. The limbic systems is really, really special, and it’s in anything that has an expressive face, like your dog, or your cat, or your spouse, or your child, or whatever. It means that we are actually hardwired to take our meaning from the world, not from the things that we see and see and experienced, but from the experience of others around us, in relationship to that thing. That’s what the limbic system is doing. It’s saying, it’s funny if other people think it’s funny, it’s depressing if other people think it’s depressing, it’s a happier room if happier people are in it.
There’s a couple of Harvard psychologists who framed this thing, and called it limbic resonance. They said limbic resonance supplies the wordless harmony we see everywhere but take for granted, between mother and infant, a boy and his dog, the silent reverberations between minds that’s basically invisible to us.
The limbic activity of those around us draws our emotions into almost immediate congruence. That’s why a movie viewed in a theater of thrilled fans is electrifying when its living room version disappoints. It’s not the size of the screen or the speakers, as the literal minded home electronics industry would have it, it’s the crowd that releases story telling magic. The essential, communal, multiplied wonder.
If all this sounds like weird highfalutin theory, or science out of the Harvard psych cloud, or whatever, it’s actually a really important sense that it’s the crowd that releases story telling magic. It’s not the size of the screen. It’s not stereo optic vision. It’s not better eye tracking. It’s actually the crowd. That’s actually what makes things meaningful. For 50 years, we faked this.
This is the laugh box machine that Charlie Douglass constructed, which was used all the way up until pre-[inaudible 00:16:00], where Charlie Douglass would go around, from show to show in Hollywood, and yield this around on a gurney, and basically play the laughter of dead people in order for us to feel something about what we saw.
We don’t have to do that anymore. That’s what I’m really interested in. That’s what all of this is about, is that basically, what the technologies that have grown up around television have allowed us to do, is to build a legitimate limbic system around everything that we experience, at a planetary scale.
This is, like, 2010, I suppose. This was the first time anybody had done this. This is the New York Times actually visualized, over time, what the most common words people were tweeting during the Super Bowl, geo-located. Really, it’s the first time. This was like six years ago, where you could actually feel what America was doing. Then, they did the same thing, and they just geo-located all of the people who were watching the game, who were just using the word ‘go.’ It’s amazing. It’s really beautiful. This is the thing that we’d never really had before, even though we were hungry for it. Even though, before that actually arrived, this was the season finale of ‘Lost,’ which all over New York City people would gather to watch together. Why? Like, you’re way more comfortable in your living room, right? Your TV is probably better than the one at the bar. What people wanted was to experience that together.
The thing that changed, a couple of years ago, is that what it means to experience it together could be this. It is still this, but it could mean this, right and that sometimes the room that you’re in to experience that thing is Twitter, or Tumblr, or Facebook, or Snapchat, whatever it is. When you understand that, you realize, this is really one of the greatest things that we’ve been able to do, because without all of this, right … The Super Bowl is just 22 dudes, and some of your thoughts. That’s all it is. The rest of it is the crowd. The rest of it is everybody else.
Being able to actually sense one another, as we experience the things that we’re experiencing, that, to me, is by far the greatest technological revolution related to media. Far bigger than VR, far bigger than air. All those are basically extensions of, essentially, optical trickery. This is actually something different. Something different to feel the audience around you, for real.
Here’s the get. It’s that technology basically shaped two trends at the same time. First, it made it possible for us to experience this sort of planet scale, super synchronized, limbic resonance, which I was just sort of talking about. At the same time it was doing that, for different reasons, it also completely de-synchronized all but a few collective experiences. The trend towards synchronous 8pm viewing of the same show … We can argue about the scale or velocity of its decline, but it’s definitely going away. Whether it’s slow or fast, we can talk about it, but it’s going away.
It’s this very weird thing that on the one hand, we built these technologies that allowed us to synchronize in this really radical way, and then we built these other technologies, related, that made it possible to de-synchronize all of ourselves from one another. If you work in biology or luxury bits, you can talk about this as sort of flocking versus differentiation. The thing that is interesting to me in all of this, is that it’s starting to produce these weird forms of media entertainment, and engagement, that you could never have anticipated, because they’re not really what you’re supposed to do. They are meeting these two things at the same time.
This is Twitch plays Pokemon. How many people are familiar with this? Only a few. All right. This is Twitch Plays Pokemon. This is Pokemon being emulated on a machine … If I could get some water I would be grateful. This is Pokemon being emulated on a machine somewhere out in the world, that is being played by everybody on Twitch. Basically, there’s just these narrow windows opened up for a second, and whoever presses the button gets to make the next move, which is why the name of the Pokemon is ‘A-A-A-B-A-Ares,’ or somebody.
What you see is everybody playing, and everybody talking about a game that is most decidedly a single-player game, and, by the way, non-super interesting game to watch. It’s fun enough to play, not compelling to watch. What people were showing up for, here, is one another. By the way … The average concurrence here, average concurrence was 80. 80,000 people. Up to about 120,000 concurrences at its peak.
Now That’s not an insane number, that’s a good number. We’d all be happy if we have 120,000 people looking at the exact same thing at exactly the same time, except that … Keep in mind, that’s over a 16 day period that this was running. This is something that over 16 days, night and day, 24 hours a day, had an average of 80,000 people at any given moment.
People, they weren’t just showing up for the Pokemon. They weren’t really showing up for the Pokemon at all. They were showing up for one another. That layer, that sense of the world, is something that we obviously need, because as it got taken away from us, as linear, synchronous TV started to fall apart, we are inventing new ways to find that for ourselves again.
The thing is, is that it’s not just the humans that need all of this … Thank you. It’s not just the humans that need all of this, it’s also the Pokemon. Who will speak for the Pokemon? I will speak for them. It’s not just us, it’s them. It’s all the stuff that we make that need that layer. The reason that it all needs this layer, it’s partly the de-synchronization effects, but it’s really a larger set of ideas that my friend and business partner Kenyatta Cheese calls context collapse.
Context collapse is basically a derivative function of this, sort of, unprecedented and the insane amount of content that is suddenly being produced. Let’s say, you’re scaling it over the last 10 years. What happens when that much content is being produced is that the context for that content falls away, because it’s no longer arriving right after that last show. It’s no longer arriving at 8pm. It’s no longer arriving on Fridays. It’s no longer arriving with that special guest star. It’s arriving however it arrives, because that’s the only way this much content could possibly fit in to our lives.
Context collapse, it arises when the means of engagement with content is, sort of, de-laminated from the infrastructure that delivers it, whether it’s this network, this day, this time. Think about … The reason that the tower was built … All of that was just to laminate the content with the delivery. It was just to make sure that that was high enough to get that signal to everybody at the same time. That is probably the least relevant idea, in terms of what we want out of our media. On the other hand, it’s exactly what we need out of the world. It’s this strange tension.
The way that Kenyatta talks about this context collapse, he says there’s basically three pieces of this. First, it’s the change in signal distribution architecture from discreet unidirectional channels like the tower right outside, to a nodal network model, which is the fiber optic cable just below us. Two, the diminishing value of the broadcast channel infrastructure, as both a signal processor and a revenue stream, partly as Ann was just talking about.
Three, the expanding paradigm of consumer choice, because when hierarchical context falls away, we start to demand and look for context elsewhere. We start to look for it wherever we can find it, because it’s not coming out of the tower anymore. It’s not coming with the network attached to it. It’s not coming with the time attached to it. What we do, not everybody at once, which is the consultancy that I have with Kenyatta, is that we don’t build content. It’s just not what we do. What we do is we add context to content that’s being produced.
Probably the most significant work that we’ve been doing over the years is really with BBC worldwide, with Dr. Who. I should say that … For example, the Tumblr that we run for Dr. Who is the second largest branded Tumblr on Tumblr, after Beyonce. Let me be clear that Beyonce spends a lot to promote that in ways that we don’t. It’s all earned, what we’re doing. It produced, for example the largest TV numbers on Tumblr. The 50th anniversary of Dr. Who was larger than the Super Bowl, the VMA’s, and the Grammy’s put together, on Tumblr. That reflects years of really careful thinking and engagement, not just on our part, but with the community that built up around Dr. Who, which is of course, by now [inaudible 00:26:13].
This is where it gets to a good period. This is a phenomenal episode of Dr. Who. There’s this great scene.
Video Clip 3: “He’s got himself shot.” “You know grownups tell you everything is going to be fine, and you think they’re probably lying to make you feel better?” “Yeah.” “Everything’s going to be fine.”
Kevin Slavin: That’s a good show. Good scene. That little scene, which is a nice scene, was roughly within 15 minutes of its original broadcast on the BBC in the UK, was turned into a gif set on Tumblr, that looked like this. Okay. Now, I didn’t make this, Kenyatta didn’t make this, BBC didn’t make it. Some fan made it. Just some dude. This is his profile, here. I have no idea who he is. He made that. That then went into Tumblr, and then five hours later, when Dr. Who was broadcast on the east coast, we had that come up right at the moment during the broadcast that it was asynchronous to.
First of all, let me just say that, mostly, like 95-96% of what we’re doing with Dr. Who, we don’t make it. What we do is we curate … I mean curate. I don’t mean collect. I don’t mean, like, “Oh, this is good,” I mean really curate. Really, thoughtfully, engage with the people who are making things, to figure out how to lift that up, and make sure that they understand that that layer, that fan layer, is inseparable from the show. It is the show.
This particular gif set was reblogged on Tumblr by 7,000 people in three days. If you think about what 7,000 people means, that’s like high millions, high, high millions, of people who are going to be, then, exposed to that. But The 7,000 people who reblogged that were not doing that to promote Dr. Who. They didn’t do it because we asked them to. They didn’t do it … It may not even have had anything to do with Dr. Who, but it spoke to them. It was that little piece of Dr. Who that spoke to that many people.
The reason that they reblog it is to have a conversation in their native language. It is that ‘everything is going to be fine,’ that phrase from there, became shorthand on Tumblr way, way beyond even any references to Dr. Who, although, most of the time, carrying some of that with it. Again, it’s that, what we can do is we can lift these things up, and spread them further so that they can mutate. That’s nature. That’s how we got to where we are, is basically the things that really thrive are promoted.
If you really go down this path, this is either the single most effective discovery path in media history, or it’s copyright infringement, or it’s both. Maybe you don’t have to choose, I don’t know. What these reflect are sometimes enormously … Sometimes, they’re super basic. Sometimes they’re crazy, but sometimes they’re really kind of rich. They’re often these sort of crossovers between characters, movies, and shows, and they’re doing this to express something about themselves. They’re not doing this to promote their shows. It’s not really about the shows. It’s really about their own identity, their views, their politics, their desires, and this can get extreme.
Anybody know what this is? One person, okay. A couple of people. These are the episodes of Sherlock. Sherlock is fan subbed in China, and at a certain point, you know as long as you’re translating everything in Sherlock, and as long as you’re collecting all this material, if they’re not producing enough Sherlock for China, they’ll just make their own.
Here is an excerpt of an episode of Sherlock that doesn’t exist, wasn’t made by Sherlock, that’s for sure. In fact, what you’ll notice is that some of the shots of Martin Freeman, the actor, are not even from Sherlock. They’ve actually gone in and found other movies and shows that he’s in, because the character of John Watson will hold.
It’s amazing, it’s beautiful, and it’s your worst IP nightmare. What you see is, just think about the amount of work and love that goes into that. Even how many people had to be involved just to even source all of the material. The audio … It’s a lot of work. The thing is, is that even at far lower levels than Chinese Sherlock, what people discover, when they discover these things, is first the laughter and then the show.
What people are encountering when they hit the ‘everything is going to be fine’ gif set on Tumblr, or whatnot, it’s not that there is the show with the fake canned laughter, because actually there’s a bunch of laughter, or sadness, or just fundamental, authentic human emotions, and then, looking to see, well, where is that directed? That, for me, that’s what discovery should be, can be, must be, and will be.
There’s a good example of this. Did anybody else talk about this in the conference? I wasn’t here yesterday. The Twitter re-targeting experiment around Empire? Was this part of it? No. Okay. So This is a good example of how to work with it, although I would do it differently. Using a technology that was developed at the MIT media lab, called Bluefin, which does sentiment analysis, you can basically tell Twitter, now with internal, it can tell, basically, what are people saying about shows. What do they like? Is it good? Is it interesting? Has somebody just hijacked a tag or is this actually a meaningful expression?
What they did was … Fox partnered with Twitter, and said, okay, what we want to do is find everybody who has been organically exposed to tweets about Empire, from people they’re following. Not from FOX, not from the studio, just authentic tweets. Anybody who has been exposed 10 times to that … Which of course is easy to track if you’re Twitter. Anybody who hasn’t been exposed, then drop in a promo for the show, so that they know when and where to tune in.
This … Although to my taste the idea of dropping in a formal promo is not fair, in a way, it’s not authentic all the way, but this is a very savvy move. It’s saying what people encounter is first the interest and then the show. The bottom line is that whether the point of entry for the shows that we work on, or the shows that you do, or whatever … the bottom line is that whatever the point of entry is, whether that’s search, or social, or programmatic, with context collapse, all three of these means of entry all rely on social proof. They all rely on … If you just had ads for Orphan Black that were just following you around on the internet, and you never had the sense that anybody that even cared about it, cared about it, it’s just a nuisance. It’s just surveillance. What they all require, bottom line, is some sense that somebody else cares about these things. That’s what makes us human, and that’s what has always made entertainment work.
The writings that we’ve been working on for Orphan Black for a couple of seasons now. The writers, the clone club … I’m assuming you’re familiar with the show. The fans made hashtag, clone club. Clone club, the hashtag, became the identity, not of the show, but of the fans. And It became the community in real ways, in meaningful ways. I don’t have time to get into all the amazing behaviors that they went into, but quite amazing. What we did was worked with the Orphan Black team. At the end of season one, production thanked the fans with hashtag thank you clone club.
Now It was not that big a deal to do. It’s not that hard to do, but holy crap, if you have invested into this community and into this world, and there’s any dialog back, that’s a totally different world. If this feels like it’s just an update of what it means to be in a fan club, then you’ve missed some of the really salient points of the 21st century. There’s something really important that happens when you speak out, and something speaks back to you, in a public way. There’s something really, really powerful with that.
It has led to, sort of, startling numbers. It led to an Emmy for Maslany, the primary actor in the show. It led to two worldwide trends. Not US, not Canada, but global trends. That’s not bad. We started the ‘wear a watch’ campaign as soon as season one ended, as Orphan Black was actually a way for fans to engage with the talent, and really, in a way, the characters. When we needed a key art inspiration for season two, fans made it for us. Not because there was some giveaway, but because they knew that … They cared because they knew that we cared, and they knew that the Orphan Black cast and crew cared. They know and they can feel that. That is an authentic.
And so It has led to Orphan Black as the first show in America to double its audience season, on season, on season. That is the result of [inaudible 00:37:06]. First of all, it’s a really good show. Second of all, it’s a lot of our ambitions. It’s partly the result of a focused campaign to support, the establish fandom, the grow the fandom, and really just support the fandom, and the help the fandom recruit the new members during the offseason.
To grow an audience, you sort of have to understand the where, how, and why content and conversation spreads within a network. I think it’s very tempting to think of this as viral marketing. You just make something that’s really good and then people spread it. That’s not really what’s happening. What’s really happening is that people are responding, not just to the fact that somebody has pushed something up, but how they pushed it up. Would it carry with them? It’s a proper virus. It’s not just the thing itself, it carries some genetic material with it. It’s about creating digital experiences that are actually directing audience energy towards specific goals that support both the creator and the community. Again, not supporting the community in terms of raffles, but like giving something back.
The bottom line on all of this, is that social is not promoting something else in all of this. All forms of media, whatever it is, whether it’s games, or music, or TV, or film, whatever it is, their terminal point is not the thing. Their terminal point is the conversation about the thing, and then, because that thing is then what leads other people to discover it.
The opportunity is stronger than ever to build audiences around the things that people love. But I think the main thing that has changed, and has to change to way that we practice around us, is that what people will discover is not the things first, but the love. I think that’s what I really urge everybody to prioritize, is to figure out, what is it that they love, and how do you lift that, rather than the thing?
One … That’s basically it, but one final and quick lesson from my other hat at the media lab about context collapse and discoverability. So A lot of what I’ve been working on lately is kind of hard core science stuff around energy [inaudible 00:39:30] and bees, which would be very dull in this context. Super exciting if you’re a bee keeper.
But In case you were sick of looking at those birds, these are ants. This is super, super interesting. These are ants that are finding food. The ant colony is down at the lower left, the food is at the lower right. When they find food, they secrete a pheromone, which is made visibly, you see them in ultraviolet light here. They’re secreting a pheromone that just says, “I got food. I got some food.” Every time there’s an ant coming back down, they’re leaving a trail behind them that says, “I’ve got food.” Any time another ant smells that pheromone, it follows that trail until it finds food itself, and then the trail become stronger, and stronger, and stronger.
This is, by the way, also how your brain becomes your brain, which is a whole long thing. What these ants are doing is basically building a straight line. If you’ve ever had ants, you know they’re really good at this. How do they do that? There’s no leader. There’s nobody in charge, and they figure out … This is discoverability. This is it, raw. How do all the ants know where the food is? They’re not following each other, most ants are blind. They’re just following the scent. Not the scent of the food, the scent of other ants that say, “I got some food,” okay? Nobody in charge, and one of the most efficient animals on Earth. Way more efficient than humans.
This is the story that has been told about ants, is that nobody is in charge, this is perfect emergence, and that they will find the perfect system. The queen does nothing. The queen ant, seen here … The term queen, according to Wikipedia, is not particularly apt, as the queen has very little control over the colony as a whole. By the way, you all are the queen ants in this scenario. The queen ant has very little control over the colony as a whole. She has no known authority or decision making control. Instead, their sole function is to reproduce, therefore the queen’s best understood as the reproductive element and fully irrelevant leader.
Thanks Wikipedia, but actually you’re wrong. Wikipedia is wrong sometimes. That’s not true. It was proven just two years ago, which is that the queen is doing one other very important thing besides making new ants. What the queen is doing is secreting another pheromone. All the other ants are leaving a pheromone that says, “I got something here. I discovered food here. I discovered danger here,” and all the ants are basically only responding to one another. They’re not listening to the queen, but it turns out they are.
The queen is creating another pheromone that is just doing one thing, which is producing cohesion. It’s just doing one thing that says to all the ants, “We’re all on the same team. It’s cool. Keep it together.” They know that now, because if they suppress that pheromone, the whole colony collapses within three days. All the ants … In fact, many of the ants start to exhibit queen-like characteristics and go to war. So What the queen is doing, is she’s not telling anybody what to do, she’s just making clear that what everybody is doing is right, and is okay, and it’s cool.
This is what happens if you pour molten aluminum down into an ant colony. This is the structures that they make. These are way, way more efficient than your marketing plan, than your communication plan. But This is your new communication plan. This is what I urge you to consider, is that the way the ants move through the world, the way that they understand the world, which is that they are responding to one another, and that what the queen is just making sure that they all do that, is a powerful, very different, idea of how we discover things, how we care about things, who we listen to, and how. Here is your new communication plan, here is your new org chart. This concludes my lessons from the first 120 million years of discoverability, and thank you Canada, I will see you in November if the election goes sideways.
Anne-Marie: Now it’s on. Thank you very much Mr. Slavin. That last slide will stick with me. That last slide will really try to make things happen. Exactly, the colony. Excuse me. This ends the summit on quite an inspirational note, but it’s not just over yet. I want to invite our co-host to come say the final words. They started the event, now they’re closing move.
Mr. Blais, Mr. Joli-Coeur, please come up on stage,
Claude: Thank you, thank you.
That was a great two days. As I’m sure you will agree, we have just started. It’s been so enriching learning from each other during those two days. As we have discovered, discoverability is a continuous journey, to be renewed by new ideas, new technologies, new data, and most important, new partners.
Jean-Pierre: I want to thank you for your interest and engagement. These two days have allowed us to explore new avenues and have really pushed our reflections. It’s a strong demonstration that we need to work together. I want to thank the CRTC for organizing this event which was extremely fruitful and particularly Jean-Pierre.
Thank you Jean-Pierre for your leadership that you took on that important issue. You really championed this fundamental challenge, and you made of this event, something great for all of us, so thank you very much.
Thank you very much, that’s nice but it’s a labour of collaboration.
I know some of you just need to get home. It’s been a long two days, and you have to fly out, or perhaps ride trains, or anything like that. I just wanted to say a few final words. First of all, I want to tell, you everything will be just fine. You know I do a lot of formal speech making at my job, and if you want to know where the CRTC’s heading, read those speeches. When I make formal speeches, I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.
Now in hearings it’s a bit different. I listen as if I’m wrong, but when I speak, I speak as if I’m right. I gave one of those formal speeches in 2013 to the CMPA. I had brought in some consultants in that speech, they were through video. I love exploiting young children like kittens to have impact when I give speeches. In this particular speech, we had some grade school kids. I think it’s worth … Because not all of you have seen the little mock-up we did of the innovation, the youth summit we had, a week ago. I’m going to queue folks to play that, and I think it’s worth looking at.
Video: “How you doing today? Good! There we go! We’re so excited to have you all here! ”
“So what is technology? And… somebody once said technology is something that was invented after you were born. For me, what’s technology? Well it’s the Internet, because when I was born, that didn’t exist. But for you folks the Internet and all the applications and the way you interact on your phones, it’s a completely different way of doing things. So you’re a perfect group to help us think about the issues we want to think about.”
“I’m at the National Film Board. It’s an organization, it’s a National organization that has been there for, it’s an old one, more than 75 years and we create and distribute content. But of course we want our content to be seen and the new, the new tools, the onlines and all the access ways to get it is so key for us. So to have a group like you with us today is something that is so important because not only you create content, you know how to get it and how to see it.”
“You know people ask us: “how do you go viral?” Well if we knew the answer everybody would be viral. Everybody would be like all over the Internet. We don’t know the answer to that. The only thing that we did is we put out funny, friendly, safe content. We never sold out and put out bad material or things that would be questionable. We stayed true to our morals and our values, and our idea of, you know, what goodness is into the world. And people loved it. And we got the attention of brands, you know. We have our choice of which brands we want to work with now and so that’s what we have done.”
“Who wants to get crazy for Mondays!!!!!! (scream). Where’s the dab? Who’s got a dab? I saw a dab! Oh my goodness, dabs everywhere! WOAH!!!! ”
“What content do you love viewing, watching and sharing? Go, 5 minutes guys.”
“Since your generation is trailblazing the communication sector, experts and leaders want to understand how you connect with friends and families. How, you know, how you get informed of what’s happening around you and the world and what makes you click in an app or in an online community. We have tremendous opportunity to influence the future of our creative Industries and of our society.”
Jean-Pierre: So as much as I described those 2013 kids in my speech as being our consultants, these are the people that are the new consultants we’ve got to pay attention. I want to thank each and every one of you for seizing the opportunity to exchange, and innovate, and share your points of views, and just being present at this summit.
A number of folks asked me whether I was happy with the event. It’s a bit of a false question, because success will be defined by whether those folks, like you, who participated, are happy with the event. I thought of some of the indicia of success. Some of the most cynical members of the media industry said to me at this event that it over-delivered on their expectations. So coming from an industry you regulate, that was high praise indeed.
The other indicia of success, and it goes back to my opening comments when I referred to the youth summit and the fact that we were referring to this summit as the adult summit, apparently the success, in part of this particular event, is that our discoverability hashtag was indeed discovered by the porn industry, and spammed our Twitter feed. In a very real sense, it did become the adult summit. We were cleaning it out as it as it was coming along. It just shows what kind of a world we live in.
I’d like to remind you one last time that the summit did not have as a goal to establish new rules, new policies.
We do not see a follow-up hearing, or regulatory action on discoverability, or putting regulations in place. If you think this was what it was about, it was not. This was about sparking conversation. Conversations, actually. As my philosophy has always been about shared leadership. There is, indeed, no leader on this issue. We all have a bit of it. Our goal was to initiate a discussion, to foster ideas, which paths to maybe follow, and … I didn’t even see the video of the ants before I wrote this, so perhaps we can follow, as we explore discoverability.
It may not lead to a regulatory action, but please, nothing prevents you to let the ideas that come from this reflection, to spark suggestions at future hearings of the CRTC. We’re very open to innovation. I think this event has proven that. We certainly hope the discussion here at the summit will continue among yourselves. As you know, the first part of the study of the discoverability financed by the CMF and Téléfilm, with the support of CBC Canada, Radio-Canada et l’Observatoire des technologies médias, has added to the learning on this, and will be a second phase, so keep your eyes open for that.
For the CRTC, what will we do next? All the videos that we … As you may have noticed, there are a few cameras, will be put online. And we’re working on making that very rich and wonderful discussion discoverable. If anybody wants to partner with us … That one media company that keeps saying to us that they missed the opportunity to be sponsors, well here’s an opportunity for you to help us tag all these videos so they’re discoverable by everyone.
I would also like to thank our master of ceremony. I very much like the fact that the word, master of ceremony, because she really did master it, Anne-Marie Withenshaw. Thank you very much, Anne-Marie. The staff of the Thompson Hotel, the minister Melanie Joly, all our panelists, the people from Fifth Element Group, who we affectionately just call the Jareds, thank you very much folks. The National Film Board of course. Claude, I think you know that I have always mentioned that you are the innovators in the panorama of audio-visual in Canada and so, it was really important that you be with us. Of course, the CRTC staff that worked very hard at putting all this together, which was not normal course of our business activities. A lot of people worked on it, but I will give a special shout out to, what we now affectionately started calling our three musketeers, Dale, Annie, and Céline. Thank you very much.
Thank you everyone for your devotion, and participation and I hope you’ve all enjoyed the discoverability summit as much as I did, I certainly did, and thanks again for being there. Go off and discover, and help us figure this out together. Thank you very much. Thank you very much.
Please log in above to submit a comment.
Jump to comments