Apr 082010

What happens when the content cloud descends? Rocket science or people science?

Here is a really simple metaphor to illustrate the pervasiveness and societal significance of Augmented Reality. For the past 20 years humanity has been ‘floating’ its content (its personas, its information, life data, economy and social media) creating a distant, electronic cloud drifting, conceptually, way up above us. A cloud that is only reachable when we area able to connect to it via a variety of fixed and mobile ‘information’ screens, themselves connected to a veritable wormhole aka the global internet. (In reality hundreds of thousands of servers murmuring around the world with billions connected via hard wiring to receive richer media & experiences).

Up until now this ‘content cloud’ (different to cloud computing) has been abstractly disconnected from our physical lives – we read news about California earthquakes sitting in Australia, we view videos on the train of a concert three weeks ago at a local venue, we have personal social networks fragmented across time and space, play a game set in Hong Kong on a screen in London, Facebook groups comprised of half friended, remote avatars (the extended self ). 99% of the content in the cloud is not relevant to here and now (although a philosophical moot point if the now ‘is’ the participation and consumption itself?!)

In a near AR future, non geo-sensitive content will be perceived as incomplete

The Descending Cloud

But that cloud, has reached saturation, it no longer can keep afloat, there is just too much or rather just enough content to be temporally and geographically relevant. In other words there is so much ‘stuff’ up there that it now makes sense to access it, in a true Web 3.0 way, in real time, the present moment from anywhere you are. It will at its simplest level be Google Earth, slowly morphing out of your PC screen, growing to global scale and locking into place over the real world or Facebook mapping itself onto the billion users faces out in the street, advertisers reaching out to where ever you are, personalizing your everyday life with relevancy vs noise.

The always on cloud has now become very useful to a range of stakeholders. Marketeers, storytellers & users alike. Mists of information, media and experiences will engulf onto our cities and physical infrastructure, it will become a persistent fog that will coat everything in its path with layers of time and place stamped content. It will create a web of layers, of parallel narratives and realities and enhance our experiences.

OK fluffy intro over and this leads to some high level areas of a ‘consultancy’ whitepaper I did mid last year (which annoyingly I still can’t publish) but some key themes are explored below.

What does this mean on the ground, a ground covered in this fog of information. The transformative effect of our physical world being invaded by ‘cyberspace’ will make the current discussions about social network privacy seem like a children’s party. When the ‘web’ spreads into and permeates our real world will their be any hiding places. As portable screens become practical (think iPad with camera), pervasive wearable computing becomes commonplace and surveillance technology evolves to being ubiquitous and transparent – society will evolve way ahead of government and law, who powerless to stop the flow of information on connected screens will be even more powerless to stop this flow moving into real space?

“Augmented reality allows people to visualize cyberspace as an integral part of the physical world that surrounds them, effectively making the real world clickable and linked,” says Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and CEO of Qualcomm.

The videos below might give them ‘digital’ food for thought.

Beware: I would like to point out everything below has already happened or about to launch in the next few months.


From Eyetap.org (a wearable computing lab in Toronto) – “Stewart Morgan discusses Architecture of Information on the show Daily Planet. It is a visionary short film showing augmented reality, and the implications of it’s applications.” From 2007


What kind of society will it be when our personal profiles, details and content are available to anyone in the street simply by scanning our face. That person across the train carriage, are they really playing an iPhone game or finding out ‘everything’ about you, well at least that which you have placed on the open web? A short video that will shock forward thinkers…

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Apr 042010

Been heads down writing, commercial development, life & course dev. I am now lecturing on (and running one of) two Multi Platform courses in Sydney, plus just out the other side of a big personal move to a new part of Sydney. All this combined with other blogs I am group posting on (eg: transmediadesign.org) and lil old twitter becoming a good micro-blogging, link alternative means this blog is starting to be devoted to article, resources or richer content – when I get the time. But I have a back-log of 15 drafts that will be pushed out (excuse the pun) in the next few weeks! Also busy putting a book together called ‘Networked Media Design – Multi Platform Production’ – so some of the good stuff trickling out there, more distilled rather than the temporary stream of consciousness here – but that will all change very soon.


How much time do we spend with different media forms? I am with my partner’s family down in Adelaide, Australia for the hols and on Easter Sunday have just been part of a bizarre ‘new’ ritual. I say new because in the past Easter sunday may have constituted a quick morning choco egg hunt, followed by lunch, a film or two, some topical TV and even radio later in the day during meal times. How far we have come?

A family group of two pre 10s, three early 40s and two seniors have been gathered around the hot family PS3 playing Heavy Rain for 7 hours! Yes you heard right, from 10am to 5pm we played, talked about, watched, shouted, got emotional to a ‘video game’ – all the time discussing the next moves, ethical questions, plot points, social aspects and production value. The kids were doing most of the driving while the rest of us took the back seat giving them directions and choosing some more of the subtle ‘conversational’ or plot options. I tweeted this ‘social’ game event as Parallel Access Gaming – as in this new form of media consumption some of the family simultaneously experiencing the game as play, others as an emotional cinematic event (complete with film music & inciting narrative) with everyone cycling between, action and passive. Typical?

@garyphayes easter sunday revelation – Parallel Access game Heavy Rain – kids play/drive, moms/aunties strategize, grandparents discuss story arcs


This reminded me to do a post on another special demographic group who are often (anecdotally) associated with spending more of their daily time with cinema, the arts, TV or radio (traditional / heritage media). At several seminars I have been running over the past couple of years for traditional media creators/managers I have asked over 105 of them to fill in a little survey I devised – imagine a typical week or month and construe from that an average day spent with media & life events. So over the past week if you averaged it out, how much TV per day would you watch, how much on social networks, how much playing games and so on.

Two sets of questions:

Heritage media and life time – Sleep, Eating, Travelling, Books, Live TV, Live Performance, Conversation, Sports, Live radio, Cooking, Newspapers, Family Stuff, Cinema, Education, Pubs & clubs

Social, online entertainment – Email, On-demand music, On-demand video, Console games, Social network, Online games, Online video, Shopping online, Mobile – SMS, Uploading, Twittering, Collaborative writing, Writing blogs, Research, Forums

The purpose of this was to see how closely their life/media time balance matched the stats I was presenting from the likes of Nielsen, Forester and other ‘notable’ research who were obviously taking larger samples than my 15 at a time and what I publish here – 120 anonymous respondents. The results were rather surprising and the age ranged from around 19 up to early 50s across heritage aspirants and established creators. I start with a couple of charts at the Gen Y end, film foundation students which shows some detailed online time followed by my special aggregation that compares key groupings.

On-demand and online entertainment

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