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Uninhibited by traditional assumptions and conventional thinking, students are natural “out-of-the-box” thinkers. In March, a group of university students from Ryerson and OCAD engaged in a one-day Design Jam to explore new ideas and propose creative, evocative solutions to overcome discoverability challenges. Explore the possibilities through their eyes in this dynamic session.
A design jam is a kind of brainstorming, similar to a hack-a-thon, except that instead of writing code to design a product, you focus on generating ideas that will evoke conversation about your topic. In this case, the ideas were about the future challenges of media and discoverability, and the participants were a community of students from different backgrounds – digital media, cultural communications, design strategy, interactive entertainment. In the CRTC design jam, the organizers, from Ryerson U, called on the participants to create a media artifact that embodies discoverability, imagined as having content developed in 2026. Rather than attempting exact predictions of the future, the brainstormers tried to understand the range of things that the future might disclose, diversifying the images of future media content. Watch the video to see how they developed a media artifact that illustrates a possible aspect of the discoverability of content in 2026.
Director, Transmedia Zone and Transmedia Research Centre; Associate Professor, RTA School of Media, Ryerson University
“It’s really tough to try to predict what’s going to happen in this [media] space of course. We frequently get it wrong, that’s the hardest part about it. Looking at today’s technology, trying to make a business immediately about something that has its basis in social practice that may not have been developed in the main stream yet. We’re trying to predict maybe edge-case things are going to become dominant but we’re doing it with today’s business model and that’s really hard to launch, because if you get it wrong you’ve spent a lot of money and you focus on something that isn’t going to actually going to take off.”
“Design jam is aimed at focusing some of that same intensity and energy [as a hack-a-thon] but not on solutions, necessarily, not on developing a product. The idea is to use the same kind of social dynamics to focus on generating ideas, and the point of those ideas is to evoke conversation.”
“In the case of design jam we had people make media artifacts. The point of this design jam was to imagine ten years from now with the lens of discoverability of content, and we invited participants to make some piece of media as if it fell through a time warp from ten years in the future. The point of these are not to make products, the point is to spur conversation.”
“We had them form random teams, again they didn’t know each other, we just numbered them off, and then we guided them to a couple of brainstorming exercises. They discussed and [found] an idea they wanted to work on. They worked over the course of an afternoon, making media, doing 3D animations, doing after-effects, going and shooting things, whatever they could. And then we had them not do a presentation, they had to show the artifact they made first.”
“We used the same kind of process but with a different orientation for a jam at New York University the summer before last, creating a series of artifacts that street vendors of the future might sell. And so again, at the end of a whole day’s work we had a whole array of strange objects that sort of invited storytelling and investigation, using just materials that we found lying around or picked up at the dollar store.”
Richard: It looks like it’s sitting on my chair. Hi, everyone, thanks we’re going to get started. Thanks for coming. I hope you’ve been enjoying your time here. So, this session is around something called the discoverability of design jam. It was kind of an innovative type of consultation process that we engaged with. I’m from Ryerson University, my name’s Richard Lachman and student candidate from OCAD-U. We put together a different process in consultation with the CRTC and a couple other partners to try and engage with populations who may not come out to public consultation ordinarily by the CRTC or by media broadcaster.
We want to try to engage with different population for a number of different reasons. We’re going to explore a little bit about the process that we did for this event that we were in about a month ago. The basic motivation of this is predicting the future is home. We are all in this room, we’re attending events like this. You’re trying to come up with, I know some of you are broadcasters. Some of you are media organizations, some of you are regulators, some of you are independent design people and it’s really tough to try to predict what’s going to happen in this space of course.
We frequently get it wrong, that’s the hardest part about it. Looking at today’s technology trying to make a business immediately about something that has it’s basis in social practice that may not have been developed in the main stream yet. We’re trying to predict maybe edge case things are going to become dominant but we’re doing it with today’s business model and that’s really hard to launch because if you get it wrong you’ve spent a lot of money and you focus on something that isn’t going to actually going to take off.
We try and do this advanced prediction but again even when we have a platform that we know becomes dominant in any of these things, sorry about the lines between these, we frequently get it wrong. What can we try and do to engage to inform our process a little bit better?
Just as an example again when we focus on the technology we almost always get it wrong. This probably is the type to actually show your great grandson because they haven’t made any more after this. But the focus on the technology always seems to be the greatest risk. So, you can focus on it by trying to predict what people will do with that technology or what else might come out. You become myopic in this way. So, one of the process, and there’s lot of ways to try and engage with communities in different ways.
The one we’re talking with here is called the design jam. How many of you have heard a hack-a-thon before? Ok, hack-a-thons again gather a group of people together maybe you have an API, you write a lot of code, you drink a lot of red bull in 24 hours you come up with some product, that’s sort of the design idea behind a hack-a-thon.
A design jam has some similarities but it has a bit of a different focus. So, when we look at what are the outcomes of hack-a-thons frequently, when we study what predictable things come out of trying to measure ROI in one of these it often isn’t the idea itself because the idea you have in 24 hours frankly isn’t always the best idea.
I mean all of us work for long periods of time of things we’re trying to hammer around the fact that you would run on caffeine doesn’t make the idea better. What hack-a-thons can do is they can bring different people together who didn’t already know each other. You can form a community of people who weren’t in the same industry perhaps or have different personal backgrounds, they have a different kind of content they’re into a different angle of something.
Design jam is aimed at focusing some of that same intensity and energy but not on solutions necessarily, not on developing a product with the idea that you know, we have to wait with some code and then tomorrow we’re going to launch it and we’re going to get investment and we’re going to get bought by Google, that’s not the mentality.
The idea is to use the same kind of social dynamics to focus on generating ideas and a point of those ideas is to evoke conversation. Right now I’m showing you a PowerPoint presentation and waving my hands around, I mean not around not on this but the instance that stops it’s the conversation you have outside of here that’s the real take away. This is the moment where you weigh your perspective on something with someone else. Maybe you talk to the person next to you, we’re part of the same experience and then from that you weighing how do I make this useful to me?
That’s so much easier to do when we have something tangible to look at, not just hand waving and a Ted talk. When someone has made something, it could be a physical something or in the case of design jam we had people make media artifacts. The point of this design jam was to imagine ten years from now with the lens of discoverability of content and we invite participants to make some piece of media as if it fell through a time work from ten years in the future. The point of these are not to make products the point is to spur conversation.
So, make some piece of media that imagines what gaming is like cross-generationally in 2026 or imagine what sport is like in 2026, not with a business model in mind but to look at the problems, look at some of the questions and say, if I made something tangible for you to look at well now we can talk about community access or now we can talk about race and gender or now we can talk about a lot of practical ideas because we all looked at something evocative.
In the same way if I show you a film about something with a story in it maybe you’d have more to talk about than if I gave you a PowerPoint slide deck about that same topic, to be evocative. It is engaging collaborative ideation and the diversity of participants, again this in one of the goals we had.
The CRTC was incredibly open and incredibly interested in saying they’re doing public consultation in a way that’s well understood and very representational and travels across the country. They were also interested in experimenting with other ways we can get maybe different people and different kinds of suggestions. The design jam we invited groups of people to one place over a day, we gave them… I’ll talk about the schedule in the second but the basic idea is we brought people together who didn’t know each other, we said you have an afternoon, make some piece of media that imagines a piece of content from 2026 that problematizes or talks about some of the ideas of discoverability.
Again just making a tangible artifact that can cure a conversation rather than solving a problem. If we can see a video of documentation of the events.
Women: The main task was to sort of place us into 2026 and really give us an idea of what the media system’s going to be like in the future.
Men: Then we played this game, we played this crazy game where we had to come up with all these different scenarios and basically what’s going to happen in the future when these huge data companies, these data brokers know so much about us and how is that going to impact our daily lives in one point or another.
Women: Just the model itself was so innovative and exciting to participate and watch.
Women: I cannot say how amazing the experience the design jam was. It was such a great opportunity to bring concepts that I was learning in class to a real world experience.
Women: Congratulations to Ryerson, OCAD thank you very much for the partnership and the opportunity and we hope to do the same thing again.
Richard: So, I’m just going to talk to you a little bit about what, how we structured the design jam and then Stuart is going to talk to you a little bit about one of the tools we use for brainstorming in this, I call thing from the future which was really great and then we’re going to talk a little bit about the outcomes from this.
We have a few of the teams here who can talk a little about it and we’re going to sort of talk about some of the issues. Just a brief idea of what the schedule was, we had some briefing papers ahead of time. This is based on learning of having run hack-a-thons before having run design jams and trying to get the best possible outcomes from these.
One of the questions is if I bring a random group of people together in a room they’re going to make the most basic surface ideas because they haven’t spent the amount of time digging deep into these topics that all of you probably have. Why are we just reiterating all of this? One of the ways we try to deal with this is we said okay we don’t want to restrict people’s ideas we want them to bring who they are, their own background, their media consumption profile, what they are, their professional background to this but we gave them some briefing notes.
Here are some of the big topics that we think you might be interested in because this is some of the conversation going around. Similarly on the day of the even we had lightening talks, 10 minutes a piece, just a few talks to try and say we want to push you guys. We don’t want you coming up with the cooking show that’s going to be cable access 10 years from now.
You can but maybe that’s not interesting. Let’s push on some real hoarded questions around this. We have them form random teams, again they didn’t know each other we just numbered them off and then we guided them to a couple of brainstorming exercises which Duke will speak to.
They discussed and go find an idea they wanted to work on, they worked over the course of an afternoon, making media, doing 3D animations, doing after effects, going and shooting things whatever they could. And then we had them not do a presentation, they had to show the artifact they made first. You made something let’s look at it. Before you explain to me what it is and what it does you’re just going to talk if, again this thing felt with time work.
We have some evocative piece of content to look at and then we did have a chance to take a little bit about that but no PowerPoint done. So, maybe Stuart can speak to the tool we use for brainstorming which a project was called think from the future.
Stuart: Thank you Rich, thank you all for being here. So, while we have a little changeover of platform here the, if we just start the slide show. Yeah. All right, 10 seconds of technical difficulties, that’s well below average. Thank you very much Matt.
I want to rather than just hearing about this event as a great thing that happened that was exciting because that can be a little bit about a party that you weren’t at and it was a lot of fun but let’s dive under the hood a little bit and talk about some of the thinking that went into the tool that we used because that may prove to be of interest or use to some of you.
The thing from the future is sort of the game I’ll introduce to you in a few moments but first let’s zoom right out to the fundamental problem if you like which Rich began with as well. But predicting the future is hard. It’s particularly hard if you have a linear conception of time which I find most people in western culture do. The past is back here and the future’s out there and therefore our job is just to try to figure out what’s going to be, predict it and then we can prepare for it and we can get out in front of it and then we’ll be wildly successful at whatever we’re trying to do.
Well, I would say the first problem and it’s also an opportunity in the space of foresight is to diversify the images of the future that are available to us so that we’re not just trying to figure out what the future is going to be but rather to understand the range of things that the future might disclose as time goes on.
Now having a theory, you know, having a scenario at your disposal I think X is going to happen is great. That’s a really good start. But it’s sort of much less good than having a range of alternatives available to you because that positions you to be flexible, to be resilient in the face of the inevitable surprises that will come up along the way.
So, the second problem however and maybe the kinds of schematic nature of what I’ve just shown you in the last minute hints at this. The second problem is not just to conceptually befriend the future but to deepen ones sense of it to the point where these become real prospects that one might have to deal with or benefit from while navigate change.
So, to deepen the idea about the future you’re not supposed to read this, this is an image from the international panel on climate change executive summary for policy makers trying to get the world’s decision makers essentially to take 100 years looking forward of climate change seriously. So you know, in text and in diagrams but meanwhile this is what’s at stake, these kinds of experiences more or fewer of these. More severe or less severe.
You know and the particular experiences of people on the ground inside these futures that we so kind of bravely gesture towards with diagrams and text are really not taken into account. I would say that the problem kind of right under the hood here, the ultimate reason to have processes like these is to bridge what we call the ‘experiential gulf’. That’s the gap between the way we usually represents futures to ourselves for serious purposes as opposed to for entertainment, science fiction film and so forth and what’s it’s actually like to inhabit a future like the one we’re in right now.
The experiential goal must be narrow I think in order to improve how we navigate change. We need to think and feel that way into it more compellingly and more granularly. The solution or a solution to this dilemma lies in a practice that my colleagues and I call experiential futures and over the last 10 years what we’ve tried to do with experiential futures that’s the design of situation and stuff ostensibly from the future to catalyze, insight and change in the present in relation to those potential futures.
What we’ve done over the last 10 years is bring all sorts of futures to life and all sorts of different media to try to navigate them more effectively. That can look like immersive experiences from the future, that can look like future artifacts left lying around in the streets. It can look like post cards sent out to people and left in their mail boxes. It can look like proposals like this one for a gift from the Chinese government to the people of Hawaii in the year 2026 commemorating the harmony between the two locations.
I did my graduate studies in Hawaii so a number of my examples are Hawaii inflicted. But while these things kind of require explanation in Toronto, in Honolulu they are in the idiom of the local culture, language and history which is sort of the point in a way that these granular notions of possible futures need to be tailored to the places, the people, the context and the ways of thinking that they’re actually intended to shift.
Now this was a project we did with the California academy of sciences in San Francisco for the 100th anniversary of plastic which coincided with the 100th birthday of Jacques Cousteau, the hero of the oceans. And so, finding ways to make ideas about the future visceral is what this form of work is all about. Now if we turn our attention to the problem and or opportunity rather of scaling this work, so there isn’t just the alkane and perhaps eccentric activity of a handful of professors and artists and designers and technologists, how do we make this something that anyone can do?
One way that we’ve attempted to do this over the last couple of years is with a game, a card game that my colleague Jeff Watson who’s now at the University of Southern California and I came up with in order precisely to tackle this challenge and this opportunity. To create a card game that makes it easy and also relatively fast for anyone who wants to, to imagine particular artifacts that the future might disclose as time goes on.
We refer to this sometimes as scaffolding for the imagination because there’s a sort of multilayered set of descriptions of change that sit under the hood. We’ll come to specifically what that looks like in just a minute. There’re four kinds of card, I’m going to introduce this game to you in a second and they each describe a different aspect of the thing from the future that one is imagining when one plays the game.
There are four millions combinations roughly in the deck of 108 cards and you can also customize it to whatever you’re dealing with. When we played the thing from the future at the discoverability design jam the first order of business was to have people play the game, the second order of business was for them to come up with the terrains that is the themes or locations and the objects in this case the design and media outputs be they podcasts or cooking shows that they wanted to try to prototype and create from the future that same afternoon on the day that they played the game.
We’ve used this all over the place and it turns out to be kind of fairly flexible as a tool for thinking about possible futures and making them more fun and approachable. If you want to download the game it is freely available, the downloadable version that’s a URL for it right there. We do have it available in a sort of high goals finished as well. But if you’re interested in experimenting with it tinyurl.com/printfuturething you can get it there for free. We’ve used it as I say all over the place, this was at the UNESCO youth forum in Paris last October.
Rich asked me to say a word or two about other kinds of activities where it’s been done before. Well, at OCAD university a year and a half ago we held a design jam where we filled this vending machine with future artifacts all created in a day by participants at the design jam. And again, it’s not necessarily that any of these particular future artifacts are the most brilliant ideas that anyone has ever had.
As Rich says and as you’ll appreciate when you’re doing this thing kind of rapid fire format a lot of them are going to be fairly sketchy but the point… the point is this makes it possible to have that conversation and for it to result into something tangible and sharable in very short order. This is the same thing that we sort to do and I think worked very well in terms of thinking about the futures of media discoverability can use.
We used the same kind of process but with a different orientation for a jam at New York University the summer before last and creating a series of artifacts that street vendors of the future might sell. And so again, at the end of a whole day’s work we had a whole ray of strange objects that sort of invited storytelling and investigation using just materials that we found lying around or picked up at the dollar store. That was actually [inaudible 00:19:30] and that was his daughter’s bike helmet that he donated for the cause and it ended up as a tinder receptor which I think is one of the more interesting things that’s ever happened to a discarded bike helmet.
Taking these objects down to the corner of Canal Street and Broadway in Manhattan and putting them for sale for people to interact with. The third and final kind of previous example of the same sort of democratizing impulse was at the University of Southern California last September we set up this free hotline, 1-800-futures and ahead of the day people could call that, leave a message describing a dream that they have and with, and accompanying that dream which could be I have a dream or it could be a dream I had last night leaving a valid postal address for anywhere in north America on it, on the message as well.
We went out and bought a bunch of weird feed stuff for this process and then 60 or 70 people came along and the first thing I did was retrieve those messages and listen to the voice of the person leaving their dream message then figure out how to turn it into an object, do that then record a message to the person who left the message, record a video sort of here’s what we did with your dream and then boxed it up and sent it to the person whose name and address was left in the message.
That’s kind of some background and I want to take the last couple of minutes with you just to play a quick round because again we should make the party happen rather than just talk about all this stuff that happened before. I have a deck with me here and as I say there’s a lot of possibilities in the deck because all you need is one of each color, one of each kind of card to generate a thing from the future.
So, I picked out four about thirty seconds before we started this session and the arc card will tell us what kind of a future we’re imagining in. In this case it’s a collapse future, I’m sorry that’s just what came out. It’s a collapse future a decade from now. What that means is that in a moment we’re going to be imagining and object from roughly the year 2026 but a context a kind of scenario context in which society has collapsed or perhaps the economy has or maybe the zombie apocalypse has finally happened. We all seem very impatient for that to go down.
That’s the kind of future that we’re going to be imaging in. The second card is the terrain. There’re two on here. We have the sea and we have family as a terrain. What that mean is we’re imagining a thing that relates to a collapsed future 10 years from now, relating somehow to family. Now, the third category of card, I’m running out hands. The third category of card is an object and given that this is a media discoverability event the object is going to be a show.
To recap, in a second you’re going to turn to your neighbor and have a chat and come up with a concept for a show that relates to family in a post collapsed future 10 years from now. In order there’s sort of given an emotional connection, the mood of this show is going to be dismay. Dismay, horreur, concern, yes that’s the prompt. A post collapsed future 10 years from now 2026, you’re coming up with a family show that leaves you with a feeling of dismay. Take a moment and see what you can come up with. Chat with your neighbor.
Okay folks, folks I’m sorry to, I beg your pardon. This is clearly much more fun that listening to me. Boy what have I done? I just want to ask, may I borrow that? Can I ask, did anybody hear our concept of our show from the future or come up with a concept for the show from the future that they want to share? Yes, please.
Women: We have a dramatic show where all parents in the society are targeted to be able to raise children of a certain age. Let’s say I’m able to raise children from ten to twelve. I only get children from ten to twelve and when they get to twelve I have to pass the children to somebody else.
Stuart: Very nice. Very nice. I don’t know if you, well done. It’s amazing where you can get in ninety seconds. I don’t know if you were inspired subliminally at all by the child sharing kits that was in the future vending machine. Do we have another one? Yes, please.
Women: Ours is a world that has no music and so this family is a family that made guitars and now they can’t make guitar anymore because there’s no music anymore, it’s banned. And so, the object that would come out of that is that you can actually buy ears because you’ve lost your ears of course. You don’t use them anymore so you can buy ears so you can listen to music. Crazy world.
Stuart: Right. I sort of, enough said really, thank you very much. Wonderful please, round of applause for our, thank you. That was really all I wanted to share with you a bit of context. Sort of the some of the intellectual context and some of the… and an instance of the game in action so you can see it for yourself.
There was request during the game play for me to repeat the URL it’s tinyurl.com/ printfuturething. You can also find it if your dig around that situationlab.org where the cards can be obtain in card form also. But if you just want to download it for free tinyurl.com/printfuturething. That’s all from me, thank you.
Richard: We’ll just do a switch back. You can see what we mean when we say doing something tangible is better than waving your hands and doing a PowerPoint. It’s sad that I’m going back to waving my hand and PowerPoint right now but it is the point and again it maybe the idea you had in ninety seconds but it’s the conversation you could have after you’ve had the idea. Everyone who had the idea and they had something, you can imagine if you depict that rather than just the pitch too and that’s what we ask people to do. Make some evidence of that show idea and then we have, we can split that conversation in a number of places.
Just to let you know a little bit more about the things we primed them as and then some of the things they came up with. This was discoverability in general. We asked people to sort of question the institutions that make this content and discover turbidity of content, that’s one of the limitations. I mean, this Clay Shaki saying institutions will try and presume the problems to which there are solutions. We are getting different players in the encumbrance in this and they may radically change the business models because they’re not invested in business models.
It’s harder for the new changes to come from the incandescence because as long as everything stayed the exactly the way it was you keep making money or if it only decreases a little bit you keep making money in a totally different way. That’s one of the inciting events we’ve asked teams to think about. We asked teams to think about wider contacts to the business reality since this is David Burn a musician and not a luddite talking about the business models of course which may be true in digital environment.
This is a famous info graphic that was in the Gordian talking about if you are an independent band today and you want to make minimum wage and then have to live on, imagine you had a full time minimum waged job how many CDs would you have to sell to make minimum wage income. In the US if you sold 105 CDs you’d make 1260 month which is apparently enough to live on in the US. The number of Spotify players you’d need to have in order to make this 1260 a month is a 192, 308. It’s a lot harder to imagine in this digital world that the same business model exists of course. Again, not new to any of the people in this room.
One of the inciting events we asked people to think about is can you take ideas from other industries and apply them to a content industry around say media or storytelling. It was an example of the idea of a beta release. In the video game world you can sell a beta release and you can sell a beta release perhaps not in the same number as you’re doing the original but you’re selling a beta release of the game, a game that’s not complete yet to engage the audience in a different way.
If I download the beta I’m on board, my feedback is going back to you as a creator. I feel like I’m code of a conversation in a very different way than we’re used to doing for say television or film or music or other works that come out whole and then just like or not by engaging your audience in a different way perhaps similar to mine craft was released in beta for years selling a million copies in beta with people who are on board accepting giving feedback in a dynamic way.
Three of the top five steam game, steam the online game distribution platform were beta, were pre-leased in 2015 yet still releasing in numbers and getting better because of that audience involvement. Another example is sort of micro-transactions so buying other stuff. We don’t always think of this in all media forms but in the video game world league of legends one of the top video games, by buying things that don’t make the game easier, don’t make the game better but will change the way you look in the game or change the way you appear to other players in the game.
I’m talking about buying digital clothes, I’m talking about buying digital assets that make you feel, a design style you have. They made 1.6 billion dollars in these micro-transactions. In a game a world without changing the game place, you weren’t buying a cheat code that makes it that you’re going to kill everyone in an environment. It was identity connected to you media content monetized by the media maker.
I’ll just jump through a few of these. We talk about algorithms with sort of inciting argument to people. The idea that search is not identical in terms of being unbiased. Who controls the algorithms that recommend content to you, what are the ethics around this and what platform, who controls the platform? You’re releasing things on a single platform as opposed Kanye West’s album only being available on Tidal. Connecting a piece of content to a platform not because it has to be that way but because of the business reality, a connection reality, a subscription reality, there may be something we can learn from this.
So, again we invited the teams from imagine the year was 2026, our challenge for them was make media that illustrates some aspect of discoverability in 2026. Here’s some of the things that came out of the jam. Some of the ideas that we came up with while watching the products that people made and then talking about them afterwards.
One idea was the sophistication of digital content providers as opposed to traditional broadcasters. The teams there talked a bit about how the updated internal intelligence that goes into an Amazon show or a Netflix show or even YouTube content is very different than what might be there from a traditional broadcaster. They saw this difference in sophistication. The difference in the executive in the room deciding I know what people want in a data driven way.
They weren’t necessarily saying one is better than the other they were saying these are fundamentally different approaches what might that look like ten years from now and that was one of the things that people talked through. A lot of team came out in this idea that privacy rights they felt ten years from now will be eroded even more than they’re currently but that no one would notice and that no one would mind unless… Is that a fire alarm?
We had a door to ourselves so we’re good. Experiential future. The motivation that we got a house burning down and we have to solve this problem. I’m going keep talking I guess until someone tells us to go. Okay. So, the idea was people felt that in the same way that today privacy is may be a bit of a conversation but privacy is more abrogated than it would have been ten years before now, through Facebook, through sharing location information etcetera.
They felt like that would continue to be there but it will just kind of be okay because no one is going to make a big problem a big issue out of it unless there was some government acting on their behalf.
Women: There’s a fire alarm but we’ll continue as we were until they come and talk to me. We don’t have a fire yet.
Richard: If you see people over the glass window on fire running let me know, I will let you know. Here’s some of the products people made. This is one team that put together in their future from now Google and Facebook merge creating a data power house that owns a lot of information about you. One of the things they want to touch on is what happens if access to data, access to profiles is asymmetric?
We’re talking about media discoverability in this case they were talking about a few different options, a few different places where being able to track a load of data about you through mini consumptions through email, tracking etcetera. In this example if you were applying for a job and your employer by subscription has more access to data about you, what you might be interested in, what offer they might be able to make to you in terms of benefits or perks or the right dollar amount they might be able to give to you versus what you can search about the employer because they pay for subscription access to data, they pay for subscription access to profile information.
Individuals might be able to have access to different data. I can Google you right now and have the same access that you do about me and that’s maybe sort of more utilitarian if creepy. But that might not be true in a subscription based data tracking model. In this they bought through a bunch of kind of augmented reality instantaneous ways to track information about the real world. This is, that one seems worse doesn’t it?
We will stand by. This is another team that took a look at, in their imagined future they thought people are going to get disgusted with certain levels of reality television programming, of certain quality of content and there will be a trend, a move not over all dominant but a move for people to make content not in terms of making YouTube content. The idea is you get together with a groups of people and you start exploring, you start building.
They looked at things like drones and people buying their own drones with a camera equipped on them and though not shooting incredible new footage they’re just making things because it’s kind of interesting or parents downloading stop motion animation software with their kids and doing something and putting it out and sharing it with their Facebook feeds.
They took a look at this kind of macro-culture people actively involved in for a weekend they make a movie in a weekend there’s a film festival in Toronto about movies made by people who don’t make movies. You get together on a weekend with non-professionals and it’s kind of fun, it’s kind of interesting. The tools of highly democratized, very cheap, all of you with the phones in your pocket and the laptops on your laps can make a very high quality production.
In this idea they thought people might get together and make content, in this case they might get engage in exploration, they might engage in undersea. In this case we’re talking about space exploration but the idea is basically coupling things together as an armature group to actually take action and combination of citizen science and armature based content.
This is another team that was looking at predictive content recommendation. In this I’ve got my phone here all the time or maybe you have an Amazon echo in your house and always on speaker that’s listening to everything around, can that predict things for you? If I start talking, if I say thing from the future all of your devices just put that search up automatically because they’re trying to predict what it is you might need at any moment in time.
If I say, “Oh man I can’t remember the name of that film with Leonardo DiCaprio and Caitlyn Slim” it might be able to do a real time search and put up a clip of Titanic sure. But if we talk about a news even, if we talk about a person maybe there’s something that’s trying to say, “Hey how about this? Is this what you wanted?” Before you even have a chance to do search. Owning that access because again when I have access 10,000 searches on Google that feels highly democratized.
Anyone can put up something on the internet anyone else can find it. But the truth is we actually only go to the first two or three links on Google we never go to page seventeen, even though there are seventeen pages of links we only go to the first three. As we try and cut down on the complexity of the data we have to deal with in other words make it simpler for me to find, faster for me to find then there has to be a lot of control of what goes in that three, those three slots.
What is Google’s interest in that conversation as opposed to my interests in that conversation? One more, is Alexandra here or one of the medium people? We’ve got a few of the teams here so we’re just going to invite them up to talk a little bit about what they actually did. This Grantum and Jennyfer to the team members, maybe you can tell us a little about this and a little bit about who you are and sort of how you ended up with this kind of thing as well.
Grantum: I’ll start with what we built or what we discovered more so than anything because it was definitely a discovery. We took a look at what, we asked ourselves what’s pervasive in society today, what do we talk about? We realized that that’s all that matters what’s in our news feeds and what’s on our search results. It’s all a matter of the imprint we leave behind. The metadata that we leave behind and then we started talking about narrative and how narrative in our culture it’s dictatorial.
We have generally a group of content creators that create the narrative. They bestow that knowledge upon us. We experience their vision. It’s never a personal endeavor even though mediums may attempt to do that such as games things like that but ultimately we are just existing within someone else’s world. What we wondered was what would happen if we took the idea of a generative adaptive environment that exists on platforms such as Google such as Facebook, these kinds of things that happen with machine learning algorithms with narrow networks?
What would happen if we adapted that and we put that into the context of a narrative? We don’t know what it looks like yet whether it’s games, we don’t know whether it’s a movie, whether it’s a true story. What we do know is it’s more of an honest reflection of the people that are kind of consuming that product. The characters more closely resemble people’s friends. The narrative is told in a language that may more closely reflect someone’s actual slang or the manner of speaking.
Ultimately what we try to do is we try to take a broad approach not kind of prescribe that this will be the future but kind of say that in the future it’s very likely that the way we think that knowledge and narrative is imparted on us may quickly fall away and more closely resemble what currently exists within the technological world that we inhabit.
Jennyfer: Just kind of following up on that I guess the main word that sort of struck a chord for us was neuro-networks. We have our identity online how is it we share it, we obviously have the Google news feeds that tell us perhaps this is the type of news you want to see but after some discovery we realized, “You know what, we really don’t have anything that tells us what kind of music we want to hear at this point in time.”
Frankly if I were to move from my phone listening to the type of music and then I head over to my television I plop over and turn on Netflix but I don’t want to lose that mood if you will of perhaps I want to see something or I was listening to epic sound tracks from film scores and now I go to Netflix and all of a sudden I’ve got like Batman coming up in front of me. I’m just continuing that sort of mode and emotion. Again as Brad had mentioned we don’t really know what kind of medium will pop up but it’s just the fact that we continue to see our identity through these different types of mediums and it’s all being fed through the type of algorithm and data that we input on that present day and time.
If we happen to say something in Facebook, I’m feeling happy then something’s just going to jump right out in the entertainment world to us, speak to us.
Richard: Let me ask, have either of you attended a CRTC consultation process before?
Richard: Have you ever been invited to a CRTC that you know?
Jennyfer: Not that I’m aware.
Grantum: Not one.
Richard: Have you ever attended any government consultation of any, I’m going to?
Richard: Can you tell us a little bit what is each of your backgrounds and how did you end up at the event that made you come to this one and not sort of other kinds of adventure?
Grantum: Sure, I’m actually a graduate from the program which you teach, the master digital media program at Ryerson and I’m currently a design strategist, so I am interested in this stuff. My research in my master’s research looked at whether how we can use social media to predict elections and whether or not that’s strategically valuable for a campaign.
I’m super interested in the future and how we predict things and why we try to predict things. The second I saw this pop up in my inbox I was like this is going to be really cool and really fun and it was.
Jennyfer: As for myself I’m a start up in interactive entertainment. Essentially we create a lot of different platforms whether it’s web based looking at Canadian identity or an event program looking at merging three different industries like wearables, fashion and performing arts. For us it’s all a matter of trying to break down these 4th walls. Richard actually touched on it a little bit earlier just being able to just create new stories and find different ways of doing that. I think that’s kind of where my background is. I’m an idea person and I just kind of feel like we should keep exploring and mashing things together and see what happens.
Richard: Did you find this process different than other kinds of, do you have any critiques or discussion or what the process was?
Jennyfer: I have because I work in, inter-activity there’s often a lot of technology involved. I have had the privilege of being involved in hack-a-thons in the past. I don’t have the skill set as a programmer to do that but again if anything I’ve been part of the ideation or just the face of conceptualizing what could happen. When I found out about disco jam and project’s currently under trans mediate zone and that’s kind of how I found out about it. I thought this is perfect. It’s not just about creating a new tech product, it’s actually about creating a new, an abstract really.
It’s creating an abstract and just moving forward and seeing what happens. You’re almost like a puppeteer to society through the disco jam as I find.
Grantum: I thought this process was fascinating because I think a big problem with hack-a-thons in general is to get buy in for people. I think it’s hard to get people excited to do things in general. I think people generally want to do what they want to do and that’s it. With this I found it more democratic in a way and more immersive because it started with a game.
People love games, people love being competitive, people love being collaborative in that regard. The fact that it started with that it kind of all of a sudden all of our shields just went right down and all of our egos were kind of lost because we had to come up on the fly. It wasn’t ideas that we’d had held for months or years or weeks or anything like that. It wasn’t anything too close to the chest. It was things that we realized could be expendable.
We could kill our darlings as we went on and we could get something good and getting rid of that ego I think it’s huge in the process. I think the second you can do that you can actually start to see results whether they’re the right proper results or anything. You can at least like you guys said have the conversation and that’s the most important part as long as you’re having a conversation as long as it’s an honest conversation that’s framed in that manner.
Jennyfer: Can I do one last leg?
Richard: Go ahead.
Jennyfer: Actually on that especially with our group I was, I certainly felt at the very beginning as the outsider. I did not have this technical background or formal training coming out from OCAD or Ryerson. New media and media and general was just like I’m learning through experience. The conversation we had we had a very set amount to get everything from concept to execution we got about three fourth of that time just talking arguing and then we had the last little bit being like, “Oh we all get it, let’s do it,” and we did.
By the end of it we realized it makes sense. Disco jam certainly was just about being to have all of these different characters in a room really and just learn from each other.
Richard: I’m just going invite Amelia as well, Amelia was one of my judges. She’s a doctoral student in communication’s cultural program actually in New York. I don’t know if you’ve anything you wanted to add on and we’ll have some Q&A as well.
Jennyfer: Sure, I was a judge on this which was really interesting because judging these very unusual set of artifacts was an experience in and of itself. But another thing I was charged to do is think about the sort of policy implications that we can take away from the artifacts what were created during the disco jam. From a policy researcher standpoint, for me it was really interesting because it provided a very nice litmus test of the kind of thinking that was happening and when you bring together young, talented and educated media makers and coders designers, these are the people that are going to be designing the technology of the future and we often think about technology in a deterministic sense but it’s about humans.
Humans are going to be designing it. What it did for me is it sort of inflected certain policy issues it made me see them in a very experiential way and that helped to sort of, helped me see whether or not my thinking was in line with the thinking of everybody who participated.
Richard: We have time for a few questions if there are any. We have a mic that we can pass around. Sorry, at the back.
Men: Just a question about your game, you said obviously it’s a warm up session, do you also use it in terms of designing the future for a specific area for example in the game which is slipping the card that say there’s unlimited high speed data available and we want to figure out how people get their music?
Stuart: Well, I think you’ve sort of almost answered the question in your question. Absolutely because really what I use, the word I used earlier was scaffolding through the imagination and I don’t use that word causally. I mean there are sort, there’re four layers in the game. One is the kind of future or range of futures because you can fix that if you want. You could say all right well we’re only going to think five years out because that’s the relevant planning horizon for refreshing our product line.
There’s the arch, the kind of future and the time horizon in it. There’s the terrain which as you say could be predicated on particular assumptions or, I mean actually what you can do with the game is way going to IDA within a particular scenario. If your organization has gone through a strategy or scenario creation process, you could say, “Well let’s assume that we’re ideating within this particular world that’s already articulated in black and white in a planning document somewhere and then used the object cards to sort of pivot around that and think expansively about all the sorts of things that could exist that are concurrent with that narrative, with that overarching narrative.
It’s extremely flexible in that way. On Sunday I ran a session with a group of medical students from McMaster and they were all thinking about the futures of health care ten years out. The horizon was set and the theme or the terrain was set in health care and within that they were able to sort of, there was still this really exciting and interesting play space. But of course you can use it however you like.
That I think is part of the, there’s a couple of Meta lessons I think lurking beneath the service of what we’re presenting here. I mean one is government organizations and organizations in general are not condemned to stay with the same kinds of engagement mechanisms that they’ve been accustomed to and that have worked or now worked traditionally. There are other ways of doing it.
Then another maybe kind of Meta lesson is that there’re processes for thinking and feeling and prototyping your way into the future that are approachable and can be used by anyone who sort of is willing to put the time and effort aside to do it. Short answer’s yes absolutely.
Richard: I think that the key is that constraints are helpful when trying to come up with ideas. If you ever had total blue skies it’s really tough. Time constraint really helpful, having a scuffle having at some environment some way to, sure if we’re working on one particular area then we can bring in who we are. If we are idea people as we’re saying it’s someone with a midi-background someone who is not a professional in this but consumes of course or an avid gamer or they have a particular lens that’s where the interesting ideas come from. You can generalize after but it’s more interesting to go.
Women: For the team that presented how do you monetize your content? What’s the business model behind it?
Grantum: Good question. I think a lot of those questions are going to be answered when you see what Facebook’s going to do with Oculus rift or with virtual and augmented reality. I think it’s going to be more closely tied to something like augmented realities where you see advertisements and things in integrated into your everyday life in conspicuous manners that kind of resembles billboards and everything today. They’re more closely aligned rather than a passive engagement of UCHM billboard all the time as you go down the road. It’s more closely tied to the way that Google and Facebook operate within the realm of Meta data and that kind of thing.
Women: Right, but right now that’s branded content, I mean there’s a model for that. Companies are working with brands in order to place that brand in a kind of fore grounded way as opposed to bombarding us with advertising content in an immersive space which may also have its own questions. Just maybe to think in those terms like who are your partners in producing this content?
Jennyfer: If I could there’s a line of thought in terms of say revenue model that is just I personally see as immerging right now and I feel would definitely work with medium.
It’s a community partnership if you want to call it because of the fact that we essentially carry through our mood if you want to call it or our sense of identity through different sorts of mediums. Those mediums have to have had a collaborative discussion in the background beforehand.
It’s almost like a membership subscription base instead of having to subscribe to multiple different Netflix you have it as subscription perhaps at one point at some point we may have to subscribe to Facebook to reach certain, whatever things are coming up that sort of thing or Spotify, again another subscription. There may be in the background a solution in which Spotify and Netflix can come together talk to each other and say if someone is interested in exploring their superhero self.
I’m using that as an example again, their superhero self for that day because that’s what they feel like that day due to the data that we’re receiving then what’s to say that they don’t buy into one membership that kind of gives a piece to you and a piece to you too. Both of those different medium but really the consumer themselves are just purchasing this one subscription. It’s sort of, it opens up many, many doors and if anything doesn’t constrain that from having to decide between what would they want to subscribe to because not everyone is made with deep pockets but everyone wants to be able to share and experience things in many different platforms and many different ways.
Grantum: I think going back to something I was mentioning earlier in the presentation in that predicting tomorrow’s model using today’s kind of, it’s not the right approach. I mean if you were to tell me five years ago that the invention of a cell phone would result in the resurgence of jetnies which is essentially what Uber is then I would have thought you were crazy. Knowing what the model is going to be tomorrow I think its tomorrow’s question. I think today we need to worry about. We need to think about what the impact of our today’s technology could be not with prescript of solution but more so with kind of descriptive awareness of this is where we could go tomorrow. We don’t know where we’re going to get there for sure but it’s quite possible these are within the realm of possibilities.
Richard: One of the things I like about your project is question gets to this as well, as these are business plan pitch saying we should build this it’s about raising exactly these questions. When we look at mass personalization sounds amazing. The story will of course be better and better than if it’s prescasting for me. But personalization and content always means it’s an easy piece between what I want and what someone else’s wants.
The story I want, the characters I want, what the advertiser wants me to see or the politics or the network that it’s on that it may be there and it’s not just going to follow what I want. It is actually, it’s also other goals beyond the success of the story telling itself. It raises those questions. Personalization is complicated because who’s paying for that in addition to my personalization. Are there other questions? Okay. If there’s not then people will be around. Thanks.
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