An interview with Joe Pine: The Multiverse and Media Convergence

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MultiverseMy first introduction to Joe Pine ( B. Joseph Pine II ) was during my study years when I read The Experience Economy: Work Is Theater & Every Business a Stage, essentially about the superseding of the service economy by the Experience Economy. It was a refreshing view on the changing business landscape, and how companies can add "new" value to their economic offerings. Mr. Pine is futhermore known by his works at IBM, MIT and his other two books Authenticity: What Consumers Really Want and Mass Customization: The New Frontier in Business Competition.

I had the great pleasure to interview Mr. Pine about his new model, called the Multiverse in relation to media and TV convergence which will be an interesting read for our readers on and marketers/strategists in general.

Before we go ahead with the interview, a short elaboration on the concept of the Multiverse. As described perfectly here, the Multiverse:

Consists of 8 different worlds in which people experience their lives. The most simple one being the world in which you are immerged when you are playing a computer game and the one you see when you look up: real life. Pine defines 8 worlds in his Multiverse. A great framework when you are working with digital and on digital customer experiences.

The eight worlds are:

 Joe Pine - Multiverse

(Note: names of the worlds are changed by mr. Pine since the early presentation, which you will come across the video as well)
1. Reality (used to be Physical world)
2. Augmented reality
3. Alternate Reality (used to be Augmented virtuality
4. Warped reality
5. Virtuality (used to be Mirror world)
6. Augmented Virtuality (used to be Alternate reality)
7. Physical virtuality
8. Mirrored Virtuality (used to be Virtuality)

Below a video where Joe Pine explains the Multiverse and the eight worlds.

The interview with Joe Pine

Why did you develop the Multiverse model?

Interesting that you should ask that. With all my other models -- on Mass Customization, the Experience Economy, and Authenticity -- it has been a matter of pattern recognition. I see what is going on in the world of business, then make sense of it through a framework that enables others to see it too, and then move from description to prescription by helping them figure out what to do about it. The Multiverse is the opposite case, with the model coming first and then the recognition of what companies were doing out there to create economic value from digital technology coming after.

I study some cosmology in my spare time, and understood that the very Universe we exist in is made up of three dimensions: Time, Space, and Matter. In re-reading one day Stan Davis' book Future Perfect, his chapter on "No-Matter" just struck me one day as the negation, or opposite of Matter -- bits were the opposite of atoms! Then I realized that virtual (No-Space) was the opposite of real (Space), and, finally, autonomy (No-Time) was the opposite of actual (Time). Thus was the Multiverse born. Of course, that was about 10 years ago -- it has taken that long to figure out what it meant and how companies could apply it!

Where does the Multiverse fit in with your views on Mass Customization, the Experience Economy and Authenticity?

Everything is a part of one worldview, a single viewpoint of what is going on in the world of business. My initial work on Mass Customization led to the Experience Economy, as I realized that customizing a good automatically turned it into a service, and customizing a service automatically turned it into an experience. That led to Authenticity (after, actually, thinking of the Multiverse model) when my partner Jim Gilmore and I realized that in a world filled with staged experiences made me desire the real, the authentic, all the more.

Now, the Multiverse recognizes that tremendous shift in value that can be realized by using digital technology to create authentic experiences that fuse the real and the virtual. Here, real and virtual have a different meaning, of course, than real and fake; real experiences may be inauthentic and virtual experiences may be authentic! And I also realized that one of the realms, Physical Virtuality, fits squarely into Mass Customization, as both concepts are about designing something virtually and then making them physical in the real world.

A model is a simplified representation of reality, proposing eight parallel worlds could complicate the playfields of marketers and strategists, how can they start using the Multiverse in their business and its further development?

Yes, well, it's true that the Multiverse simplifies things, but being a 2x2x2 matrix, it also is a rather complicated model to keep in mind! But it will reward those who delve into its depth and breadth.

What my co-author, Kim Korn, and I recommend first is that companies start with whatever realm they currently focus on -- usually Reality or Virtuality -- and then methodically progress through the other seven realms of the Multiverse, one at a time, starting with the adjacent realms. This approach keeps the complexity to a minimum, focusing on one realm at a time to see what customer value could be created.

Once that's done, there are of course richer, deeper explorations that companies can make. We introduce the Experience Design Canvas that encourages companies to forego the eight realms and focus instead on the six variables that comprise them (and all experiences): actual and autonomous time, real and virtual places, and material and digital substances. Then they can design experiences that encompass any and all variables, making them richer and more robust.

How can the Multiverse model add insights and value with regard to the convergence of media?

Media convergence results from one and only one dynamic: digitization. All media can represent content now in terms of zeroes and ones, on any device. And that means they can be enhanced through Multiversal thinking. Companies in particular should not think of them as communications media but experience media, and turn their interactions with people into engaging encounters.

Which world describes Social TV the best?

Television itself lies squarely in the realm of Virtuality, made up events autonomous to what's going on in the real world [No-Time], in a virtual place [No-Space], now using the height of digital substances. Happening on a screen, it's not a real-world experience like, say, going to a play. Social TV then amps up each of these core variables by essentially colliding this Virtuality experience with another from the same realm, that of social media, turning an inherently passive medium into an interactive one.

What's a present challenge of that world?

There are many challenges to every realm of experience, but I think for Virtuality in particular it is how to expand it into the other six realms to create a Third Space that fuses it with Reality in ways that create value for customers. How can you use material substances, as Nintendo did with the Wii, to augment the Virtuality experience? How can you use that experience to design something that you can then make physical? How can you tie it into real time, mirroring Reality in a significant way? And how might you even extend it into Reality, using the real world as a digital playground for the virtual experience, creating an alternate view of reality?

Do you think qualitative and relevant experiences/concepts can be created in the Social TV space where fragmented, time-shifted and on-demand content is fused by (real-time) interaction or are we facing a paradox between the two?

The greatest difficulty seems to be the aspect of time-shifting, for that makes conversation more difficult. But we're already becoming so used to that through social media, plus with millions of consumers, there will always be someone else making the same on-demand choice, don't you think? So we'll be talking live, plus asynchronously.

You've also made me realize that there are no paradoxes in the Multiverse, since all possibilities are possible, as all permutations are represented somewhere!

From a Multiverse point of view, how can the cumbersome television industry reposition itself facing the further digitalizing of the medium and convergence with Web and Mobile?

That sounds more like the subject for a dissertation than an interview, but I think you already indicated the key aspect: interactivity. As we shift as consumers from TV to the Web, we are simultaneously shifting from a passive to an (inter)active experience, so we are going to come expect that more and more from our TV viewing.

TV manufacturers are already doing a pretty good job of amping up the technology curve -- I've seen the latest Samsung 3D TV at the Samsung Experience in New York City, and it is truly amazing -- but how is the industry taking advantage of it?

Finally, the industry also need to look toward Mass Customization, shifting from a mass to an individual medium. They need to let me watch what I want to watch when I want to watch, how and where I want to watch it. As discussed above, that doesn't mean I can't connect with others, even many others; that's another part of Mass Customization!

Can you explain what you mean by transversal storytelling?

It's based on Henry Jenkins' concept of transmedia storytelling, where one "story world" can be imparted across many different media, at different times for different people. Similarly, one can take a story and impart it across many different realms of the experience, transversing the Multiverse in a compelling set of experiences, even one robust experience.

Do you think the television medium has a unique position within transversal storytelling, if so how?

Actually, I think it is the opposite.-- iit's behind, and falling moreso, because of its passive nature, and that all the best sources of transversal storytellling happen in the movies before they reach TV. But the medium can certainly be an important element in any transversal story, for its reach is still far and wide, greater than the movies, if no longer ahead of the web.

Therefore, I do encourage TV networks and producers to use the Multiverse to determine new ways of creating value for consumers on the digital frontier. It is their last, best opportunity to maintain their cultural primacy.

If you want to hear more about the Multiverse by Mr. Pine, check out @TEDxSanDiego on Monday, November 8 -


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