The Democratic party hack and Pokemon Go are both battles for the mind. They both demonstrate that there is no reality, only multiple perceptions of the world that we in turn perceive as a reality.
Pokemon Go is a location-based game that overlays onto the physical world a fictional world populated by cute monsters. While our mobile phones act as a portal into this parallel world – allowing us to see the previously unseen – it’s our imaginations that allow us to believe monsters are out there.
Of course many will proclaim that they know the monsters aren’t real but large parts of the population are acting as if they were real – maybe hundreds leaving the safety of the couch to venture outside to enslave virtual pets.
So do players believe those monsters are really real? It actually doesn’t matter too much if players are acting as if they do. Physically real or virtually real we are all becoming more accepting of worlds that can’t be seen. Worlds that are uncovered and revealed to us through technology. Sometimes we are more trusting of technology than what we observe first hand in physical space – such as when we witness a conflict between Google maps/streetview and a city block that’s found to be unexpectedly demolished. We double-check the technology-offered reality with our physical reality and at first don’t believe what we see in front of us.
The DNC hackers and those responding to it also want us to believe that there are monsters out there: Monsters that can’t be seen but are revealed to us through technology. Regardless of whether the hackers are State-sponsored or not, this hack is an example of an aspect of cyber warfare to influence negative opinion towards an adversary. Opinions and actions are driven by beliefs and beliefs come from interpretations of the world. If someone can change the interpretation of the world – to overlay or replace the old reality with a new reality, then they can get others to act through this “soft power” without ever physically coercing them.
This is why storytelling matters and why transmedia storytelling matters most. We make sense of the world through stories – connecting this event with another and imagining the relationships between them and the implications. Positive stories influence us in positive ways, giving us self-belief and adherence to behaviours that may have otherwise faded sooner. Negative stories hurt – even if they’re not based on fact because there are no facts, no reality, there are only beliefs.
Storytelling is about controlling information – who has it, who doesn’t, when it’s released or when it’s withheld. The DNC hack is a beat, a plot point in an adversary’s story – a “counter-narrative” to combat the Democratic party narrative. Pokemon Go is both a framework for player-driven narratives born of their scavenging activities and a mechanism to re-see the world and it’s stories via points of interest.
Storytelling is powerful and transmedia storytelling is more powerful still, because it’s about building a story around the audience so that it fits into their world, around their world such that our narrative becomes pervasive, unavoidable, multifaceted and reinforcing.
When you’re next creating a training exercise or health programme or entertainment experience, consider how you might influence someone’s perception of reality through transmedia storytelling and the benefits it might bring, the behaviours it might change and the outcomes it could deliver. Let your story become the seeds for someone else’s story because the only reality is the story we write for ourselves.