A conversation with Evo Heyning, CEO of Playable Agency and Executive Producer for Metaverse Media Series.

To me the future of the public commons is the metaverse. And so, if you’re hearing this word metaverse and you’re thinking, ;What is that?; It is a digital universe. It has many planets and solar systems. The ecosystems of the metaverse might be like a crypto experience, or it might be a virtual world, or it might be augmented reality or smart glasses. These are all places where we come to collaborate, where we come to find each other, and where we come to figure it out. We need these places to figure it out. So, that’s why I’ve been focused on building an open, interoperable, accessible, inclusive, and safe metaverse for everyone.”-Evo Heyning

In this episode of Control the Room, I had the pleasure of speaking with Evo Heyning about her extensive experience working with the metaverse, creating immersive experiences, and developing the spatial web. We explore what the metaverse is and how it is being used to bring collective action to a larger population.  We then discuss the distinction between collaboration and collective action.  Listen in to learn about the mechanisms of collective compassion, digital twins, and prototyping a more protopian future.

Show Highlights

[1:40] How Evo Got Started Building in the Metaverse
[5:15] The Distinction Between Collaboration and Collective Action
[10:40] Mechanisms of Collective Compassion
[21:50] Developing the Spatial Web[33:15] A Protopian Future

Evo on LinkedIn
PlayableAgency on YouTube
Playable Agency Website
Evo on Twitter

About the Guest

Evo Heyning has been creating immersive experiences that bridge real and virtual worlds for more than 20 years. As an interactive showrunner and production strategist, she has worked on media projects ranging from launching the Affordable Care Act to producing more than 500 hours of live streaming events during the pandemic. Her work focuses on metaverse media and the creative potential of volumetric and virtual production. Evo passionately shapes the future of the open spatial web to connect people through collaborative technologies. Through her company Playable Agency, Evo provides early-stage production strategy and creative worldbuilding that expand reality.

About Voltage Control

Voltage Control is a change agency that helps enterprises sustain innovation and teams work better together with custom-designed meetings and workshops, both in-person and virtual. Our master facilitators offer trusted guidance and custom coaching to companies who want to transform ineffective meetings, reignite stalled projects, and cut through assumptions. Based in Austin, Voltage Control designs and leads public and private workshops that range from small meetings to large conference-style gatherings.

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Full Transcript

Douglas:  Welcome to the Control the Room Podcast, a series devoted to the exploration of meeting culture and uncovering cures for the common meeting. Some meetings have tight control, and others are loose. To control the room means achieving outcomes while striking a balance between imposing and removing structure, asserting and distributing power, leaning in and leaning out, all in the service of having a truly magical meeting.

Thanks for listening. If you’d like to join us live for a session sometime, you can join our weekly Control the Room facilitation lab. It’s a free event to meet fellow facilitators and explore new techniques, so you can apply the things you learn, in the podcast, in real-time with other facilitators. Sign up today at voltagecontrol.com/facilitation-lab. If you’d like to learn more about my new book Magical Meetings, you can download the Magical Meetings quick start guide, your free PDF reference with some of the most important pieces of advice from the book. Download a copy today at voltagecontrol/magical-meetings-quick-guide.

Today, I’m with Evo Heyning, who’s the CEO of Playable Agency, and Executive Producer of Metaverse Media Series, events and features. She is a co-author of seven books, including Exponential Transformation, and Innovating Woman. She is currently working on Meta Movie. Welcome to the show, Evo.

Evo:  Thank you so much, Douglas.

Douglas:  It’s great to have you. Let’s talk a little bit about how you got your start in this work. It’s not every day that you run into someone who’s an expert in the metaverse, so how did you get there?

Evo:  I’ve been a creator and a producer, and artist since the 80s. Like many of us, I grew up playing video games, but I also fell in love with computers at a really young age. I started coding in 1981, when I was six. I did a code demo for my state legislature in Virginia and I showed them what computers could do, and then they put computers in all the schools. So, I was hooked. I was hooked on computers to connect people, computers as a capacity-building tool for everyone, and that I could empower the masses if I got in front of people with computers. And so, I learned that it didn’t matter what the story was or the domain, if it was sciences, or research, or just games and storytelling. There was this tool, this mechanism that I had in this lifetime to be able to bring people together, and to play, and to explore, and to figure out all that we can be collectively. Not just individually, but to do more than the sum of our individual parts.

Evo:  I didn’t pursue computer programing. I have a degree in religion. I am a chaplain. I have a background in business, in economics, in communications. I studied sociology. I did a master’s program at Singularity University, in technology and entrepreneurship, and specifically in how we meet the Global Grand Challenges around climate action, how we feed the masses, how we actually use our tools effectively to meet our biggest problems, to take care of our people. And, to make sure that we are all that we can be, in terms of being compassionate, in terms of being not just connected for no good reason but connected for many great reasons. “How can we make media that honors each other?” Is a big part of what I do today. But, much of that is informed by the work I did in college, understanding why communities form, and that’s communities of faith, that’s charitable communities and groups that do non-profit work together. Understanding why these niche communities are bonded helps us understand how we can do collective action together, how we can meaningfully bring people together and then achieve things. That can be anything under the sun.

So to me, the metaverse is just where that happens. The future of the public commons is the metaverse. And so, if you’re hearing this word metaverse and you’re thinking, “What is that?” It is a digital universe. It has many planets and solar systems. The ecosystems of the metaverse might be like a crypto experience, like Ethereum and NFTs, or it might be a virtual world, or it might be augmented reality or smart glasses. These are all places where we come to collaborate, where we come to find each other, and where we come to figure it out. We need these places to figure it out. So, that’s why I’ve been focused on building an open, interoperable, accessible, inclusive, and safe metaverse for everyone.

Douglas:  I love that. There’s so much goodness there to unpack. Let’s dig into something you said, and that was around collectively working or collectively creating. I think that underpins something that I strongly believe in, which is how collaboration should work, yet the word collaboration’s thrown around so much that I don’t even think people stop to think about what it means or how to show up and do it properly. But, collective work or working collectively, I think that’s a fascinating framing for how collaboration could be better.

Evo:  We could achieve so much, and we do achieve so much when we come together. I like to look at the examples where this shines. For example, disaster response or in emergencies when people automatically just come together, look out for each other, figure it out, in terms of very difficult things. You can see that people in the best of times, and in the worst of times, can figure out how to not just collaborate, but bring all of their tools together and do something really amazing. There are certain mechanisms, there are certain ways of working that make that easier.

I focus quite a bit on the live streaming portion and the 3D, the immersive portion. Those are two ways that we bring people together for collective action. There are many, many more. We look at COVID response and how many doctors and researchers had to come together to build vaccines quickly. An extraordinary collective action that happened in labs all over the world, that happened in a decentralized way in some cases. There were a mix of decentralized and centralized solutions, 2D databases and 3D modeling solutions. All of those things needed to come together, with the scientists and with people who care, in order to achieve something meaningful for everyone.

If you’d look at those kinds of use cases, we can apply the same dynamics. What is often missing is the open space to do that safely. We’re used to collaboration in things like Google Docs, where we see the anonymous rooster in our document. That doesn’t necessarily help us figure out how to collaborate, that just gives us a sense of, “Okay, there’s other people in the room who are also looking at the work with me.” There are great tools coming together for how we do collective work, how we do meaningful, collective work where everyone can see what others are bringing to the table, where the fruit of that labor are very easy to sort out. And then, you can actually go from a plan, into action, into realized impact, and measurable impact, in a very short period of time.

I like to think of this like game shows. We understand a game show. We understand the format of game show. It has rounds and by the end of the episode someone wins and something has been awarded, and there are these structures that get us there. There’s a format. And so, now we’re unpacking the same kind of format to collective action. Whether it is playful and experimental, or collaborative and in the public space, or whether it’s happening all through YouTube and TikTok and these asynchronous video tools, there are lots of ways we’re learning to play with our media to achieve meaningful collective effort. This is activists, and this is teenagers, and students, and community members. This is happening in virtual worlds, and it’s happening in Snapchat, in augmented reality, in all sorts of places where we’re learning to add layers to our world that give other people context or that bring art and joy to people’s lives, that makes us feel like we’re connected to something bigger than just ourselves.

Collective action takes so many different forms that, for me, I’m always looking at, “What are those format tools? What are the mechanisms? What are the ways in which we need to work together?” When I think of the future of 3D, 4D, 5D spaces, the future of immersive virtual worlds, the metaverse, augmented reality, Snap Glasses, and all of the different smart glasses that are coming our ways, when I think about that future, I tend to forecast something and put something forward that’s extremely protopian. Because, as a creator, I want to create the world I want to live in. I don’t want to accept the narrative handed to me. That default narrative is dystopian, it’s including lots of broken systems that are really hurtful to people and to other beings. We’ve been just atrocious to the beings on this planet, that’s animals, that’s all sorts of life. And so, I’m always looking for, whatever the collective action or the activity might be, how can we be better to each other? How can we create a regenerative world that works for 100% of all life? As my friends at the Buckminster Fuller Institute would say. How do we design a system that works for everyone?

Douglas:  It comes back to your point earlier around this notion of compassionate connection, it’s not connection for connection’s sake. That compassion, from what I understand from your earlier comment, really drives the meaning. And so, I’d be curious to hear a little more about how that shows up, specifically in mechanisms? Are there ways that people who are organizing meetings, or gatherings, or moments where people are going to take collective action, how can they bring that compassion piece in more intentionally?

Evo:  It’s a great question. Early on in creating events, I worked with the Wisdom 2.0 for a decade or so, creating an unconference. One takeaway from that experience of creating 10 years of wisdom and mindfulness-related gatherings with professionals, is that it helps to take one minute at the beginning of a meeting or a session to just drop in together and to do it without words. My friend and I, who organized the unconference, we started calling this just one mindful minute. We talked to a couple of tech CEOs, leaders at major companies, about this, about how to socialize the concept of just sitting in presence, taking a moment, honoring the people in the room with you, making eye contact, taking a breath in, and then starting whatever it is you’re here to do. But, just taking that moment to reset in the room physically, can also be something that transmits tone virtually.

This is something we can do in our Zoom rooms, this is something we can do anytime we step into a virtual meeting as well. It’s a matter of, “Hi, how are you, Douglas? It’s great to see you?” And then, dropping in and just being present with each other, and then maybe asking one question that is heartfelt. It could just be, “How are you today?” It could be, “What’s moving for you?” Or, “What do you love to do, Douglas?” Something that actually asks what’s important to you. Not the, “What are you doing?” But the, “Why?”

Douglas:  I love this idea of the embodiment. Even before the pandemic and we were all experiencing all of this isolation, people could still show up at events in person and just be mentally isolated.

Evo:  I think that’s our default, isn’t it?

Douglas:  Mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. It’s like those layers of protection, right?

Evo:  Yeah.

Douglas:  To your point of checking in, my friend [inaudible 00:13:14] has this really awesome activity he calls a team breath. He’s like, “Okay everyone, we’re going to take a team breath.” He just counts it down, everyone breaths together. [inaudible 00:13:25] interesting because you’re connecting physically in this temporal moment together.

Evo:  Yes, exactly. That one breath synchronizes everyone in the room. And then, that synchronization effects the collaboration, and the flow, and how easy it is to go from idea into actualization. So, if you’re finding that your group is very contentious or frustrated, sometimes just coming back, taking a deep breath together, and then doing something that synchronizes each other. That can be just taking a stretch. Anything. Anything that actually synchronizes the people in the space. This is, just again, in virtual spaces, 3D spaces, 2D, doesn’t matter. If you synchronize people, they’re more likely to come back into their humanness, and see each other, feel themselves again. And, if there’s something in the way, it’s a lot easier to let go of it after you can see it.

Douglas:  This notion of synchronicity is really fascinating, because one of the things we found during the pandemic was this notion of… Of course, the isolation you mentioned in our preshow chat. One of the ways we combated it was to send everyone physical things. We could play around with, “Did everyone get the same thing or were there slightly different things?” People could compare and contrast what they had, even if it’s just supplies. I’ve got the same pen as everyone else. So, I never really thought about it from the perspective of its synchronicity, but that’s kind of what that was creating.

Evo:  Yes. You’re designing for those amazing, connecting, synchronous moments. I create virtual conferences, and sometimes we put together a box, and sometimes that box is a game, sometimes that box is more like an escape room at home, or a way to share an experience. A red carpet event, like an awards show, might have just wine, and all the snacks, and all of the things that you might have enjoyed in the backroom at the awards show. While, a conference might have a way to do some networking or some fun activities. Where, again, what you described, you might have a piece of a puzzle, someone else halfway around the world has the other piece, you then collaborate on an activity together. You’ve never met, but these physical objects… We’ve seen this done in both ways, but using the tools of immersive theater in the virtual space. This is things from escape rooms, this is anything that comes out of movies, and theme parks, and storytelling. This also happens in game shows, if you’ve played Jackbox Games, or Among Us, any of these synchronous games on the web. These are really fun ways to build a tribe and to a community see each other and to feel connected. And, to just do something fun, to get out of our heads, to get out of our agendas and our to-do lists, and to just maybe explore.

I am producing an event coming up next month, and we’re designing a number of different game elements to go into a fundraiser. The reason we’re using game elements are because people are isolated, people are hurting, people are feeling the effects of longterm depression. We need to figure out how to address that. We need to figure out how to address it safely. So, for that particular event, we’re all going to be in avatars. You don’t have to be on a video camera to be connecting with people because you can create the avatar you want and we can go and have a fun show and a comedy club together. Having the ability to think out of the digital box and to be very experimental in how we put these things together. We live in a wide open metaverse, universe, whatever you want to call it. We live in an opportunity space. It’s extraordinary what we can do, in terms of using the tools already in front of us, the games, the ways we play, to bring people together to do meaningful things.

I would encourage all of you, if you are into gameplay, think about how you can apply that to the causes you care about. Let’s say you’re way into a particular charity, you’re into climate action. I’m particularly very into some climate action and how cities can design now to improve our outcomes. That’s creating solarpunk futures inside game worlds. That might seem strange or counter-intuitive, but I love playing games. I go inside a game called Cities: Skylines, and then I design the solarpunk future cities I want. And then, I make videos of them, and I run around as an animal in them, and I explore, “Does this future work for all of human life and all of animal life? Are we building the kinds of places that I want to share with people 20, 40, 60 years down the line?”

Douglas:  What’s striking me is that is essentially a prototype. We often talk about how prototypes will transform meetings or gatherings, because if we create something together collectively then we’re all going to be more jazzed about because we’re co-creating it and it’s this emergent thing that no one had to sell somebody else on. But also, we’re learning so much more because it’s visualizing, we’re seeing what works. And so, you’re simulating these future environments and exploring, “What would it be like this?” That’s a prototype for this new world. That’s taking it to a whole new level. I hadn’t thought about prototypes being used in that way, but that’s super fascinating.

Evo:  Yeah. We call them digital twins. When we’re talking about a prototype of a city or a country, where you can actually model out the IoT, connect it to that physical layer. For example, a city can create a full, not just prototype, but a working digital version, a digital twin of their city, and then they can run disaster simulations. They can do that collectively with their universities, their students. They can model out different futures and say, “Okay, how are we going to deal with rising waters in our [inaudible 00:19:45]? How are we going to deal with the effects of climate and the climate changes that are coming for us?” I think these are amazing tools that we’re just starting to get our head around. And so, I love making videos inside game worlds as a way to begin exploring this, and as a way to turn on your average 17-year-old who’s already thinking this way as well. I think we just haven’t necessarily empowered each other to do the design [inaudible 00:20:10] through game worlds that we know we can do. We haven’t seen it done out in public, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. All of the tools are there.

Douglas:  This is really touching me, because I’ve been saying for a long time now, after watching my nephew play Minecraft some years ago, that I can’t wait until people who grew up playing Minecraft are actually in charge of things. Because, what a crazy way to think about the world, of just building these things. In a way, it’s similar to the Legos, but wow is it so much more… The depth is pretty impressive.

Evo:  Right? The first world builders are now not just in college but are graduating from college. I started creating virtual worlds in 2005, in Second Life, and then found my tribe. I found my people that way. I had been involved in other types of interactive media, but creating virtual worlds gave me a sense of purpose that I had never fully found before with others. I had this group called Better World and Better World Island, and we were creating genocide education camps in Second Life, making comic books about those, and then taking teachers around the world through the experience of genocide and understanding refugee experiences. And so, that hooked me. It hooked me on a way of thinking, that you can use virtual worlds to tell the stories that we can’t get to in real life, that are maybe too painful, but that are also pivotal to who we are. Whether that’s climate action, or refugee and displacement, we do have these open sandboxes, and Minecraft’s a great one.

Now that we see the Club Penguin kids who are in college, we see 10 years of Minecraft… I work with the Open Metaverse Interoperability Group, and we started this community this year to specifically work on the connections between these worlds. Because, there are great creators in Minecraft who’ve built extraordinary spaces, but that isn’t necessarily portable or accessible for everyone. And, you can’t necessarily walk from one world to another. We don’t have the addressability in virtual worlds and 3D spaces the way you do in a 2D website. So, the same way we have a URL here on a website, there is a whole mechanism for addressing the spatial web that is being developed right now.

I would encourage any of you who maybe love Minecraft, but want to think about interoperability, to join us at OMI, at Open Metaverse Interoperability. We’re an open group, we’re on GitHub and Discord. That community in particular has many folks who are looking at, for example, Minecraft hacks and interoperability between the worlds. So, “Can I maintain my identity as I walk between worlds? Can I maintain my creative works and my assets?” There are a number of different solutions coming, whether that’s crypto suitcases that you carry along with you across the. The language and the tools are both being actively sorted out in places like GitHub, Twitter, and in standards groups right now, because it is this sort of forming space.

What we know as the metaverse, it came out of a Neal Stephenson book Snow Crash originally, that word. But, we’ve been talking about these immersive digital spaces for decades. The movie Tron did this. My uncle worked on Tron, and so I got hooked very early on. He had built the computer that made the computer graphics, and so I saw that, “Wow, you can build worlds, and those worlds will turn on the masses to what they can build. That’s exciting.” And now, the kids who are building Minecraft worlds can do the exact same thing. This is the best part of the metaverse, is it is created by all of us. It is not just user-created, but it is community-centric. It is really designed by the people for the people. If you think about digital ways of working and governance structures, there are a handful of these tools that are extremely democratic, or are extremely almost anarchic. They are just open spaces where you can create anything, you can publish anything. And, in some cases, you can share it. Minecraft is pretty wide open, which is wonderful for a creative sandbox for kids, but it’s also wonderful for experimentation and being able to figure out what might work between the worlds.

I am talking next to an amazing doctor who’s working on interoperability from the Minecraft perspective. So, it’s not just a game anymore. For many people, it is almost like building blocks in a lab. All of these building blocks in this giant lab that we have are fitting together in different ways. Some people are using high definition, and some people are using very low poly models and voxel art, and we aren’t in agreement necessarily about what it should look like. Actually, the only thing we’re in agreement about is that it’s going to be extremely diverse, and pluralistic, and potentially very fluid as we become more fluid. We are less stuck in our ways than ever before, and more willing to embody, let’s say, a different avatar every day, or to go run amok in a place like VRChat and try on 100 different embodiments just for fun. I think that way of thinking will continue to change how we see ourselves. How we see ourselves as far more plastic and fluid than we realized. As far more capable, not just in the interactive space, but in the physical space, to build things.

Once you’ve built in Minecraft, you get hooked on it. You get hooked on, “Oh, I can design stuff. I could be an interior designer. If I can build an interior in Minecraft I can build an interior in my house.” And so, that way of thinking informs how we go into the world. Interactivity is a way to give agency. And, anytime we’re designing an experience, the interactive choices you give to your audience empower them. They get hooked on that feeling of agency and they take that out into the rest of their lives.

Douglas:  I want to touch back on the VR element of the metaverse, and specifically the mechanisms you were alluding to around collective work. What tools and resources have you seen out there that might be helpful for facilitators or people wanting to run meetings or hybrid meetings in a virtual reality setting?

Evo:  There’s a number of 3D spaces that have it all baked in one. I would say spatial is at the top of that list. I use Mozilla Hubs, which is open, and on the web and available. Very easy to make a room, and that is infinitely configurable in their tools. So, spatial hubs, framevr.io, is another web-based, very simple solution. I made an art gallery there for my housemate who passed away. Honestly, the way I’ve been using these spaces is for galleries, memorials and funerals, weddings, events, anything where a community needs to come together, especially if it’s web-based. We also do VR experiences inside places like AltspaceVR, Neos VR Chat. These are far more immersive virtual worlds

The immersive virtual worlds, there are many of them. There are many more coming as well. Some of them are very specific to education. So ENGAGE, for example, does high quality simulations and great meetings. Whereas, VRChat is much more social, it’s extremely playful, but it isn’t necessarily a professional environment, let’s say. So, there are these wide variety of experiences. Right now, we have the second year of Burning Man happening inside what they call the multiverse. Their multiverse is, I believe, five or six platforms. Some of them are very rich, like Altspace, which is BRCvr, where you can go and explore over 100 large-scale art installations and camps the same way you would at Burning Man. Or, some of them are more 2D, lo-fi, low poly, and really accessible, and designed for a different audience, maybe a lower bandwidth audience, or an audience that wants to connect via webcam instead of through an avatar experience.

And so, as we see these wildly different worlds proliferate, each of them is good at something different. Some of them are really great entry points into VR. AltspaceVR is a great place to get started, it’s pretty easy, you don’t have to do a lot to get in and go to an event, or to find a group, or to plug in with people, go to a theater show, for example. VR in the theater space has boomed during this pandemic. There are so many interesting performances that would have happened in Broadway theaters that are now happening inside VR. This is a great opportunity to go hang out with maybe 10 or 20 people only and have a really extraordinary experience that very few people are ever going to get, and to do something that might take you way out of your comfort zone or way out of the box, but also give you something that will stick with you.

There are a lot of VR theater groups out there, immersive theater groups, VR performances, VR concerts. Obviously, the other big space we’ve seen booming this year has been the virtual performance and concert space. Again, these are a great place to go find your tribe. Even if you’re not the performer and you’re just in the audience, you can sometimes share art with them if you’re in Wave VR, for example. I went to a couple of shows this year where we’re all sharing art. The artists are people like [inaudible 00:30:29], who does great NFT art too. So, you’re buying a piece of art that you’re also sharing with the community. And then, they’re popping fireworks above a show. So, you feel like you’re a participant in the audience, but also adding to it. Your energy is adding to it. That’s when it starts to build on to each other and the energy grows, and the excitement grows. That’s where you start to see, for example, 10 million, 20 million people participating in the same events at the same time.

This isn’t happening as much in VR, in terms of large-scale concerts. Because, realistically, the numbers of people going to a VR experience might be in the 1000s, generally not the millions. However, when you’re looking at something like Fortnite, there’s a number of amazing concerts that have happened this year, Lil Nas X for example. We’ve seen a bunch of them across different game worlds, led by groups like Epic and Sony, figuring out how to make it really fun and playful to bring 10 or 20 million people together at once. The mechanism is often something like Twitch, where a Twitch streamer is running a charity stream. And, that Twitch streamer running the charity stream is the sort of community room. That community room is where people are actually talking and feeling connected, and they’re in a more engaged audience.

What we’ve seen is that we fully made the leap from passive media, like television in the 50s, to interactive media, video games. And now, we’re moving toward active media. The audience expects to have an action and to be involved in some way. They don’t just want to be in the audience anymore. And so, producers, creators, designers, network heads, we’re all thinking about, “How do you make participatory media experiences? How does metamedia fit together? How are we inviting collective action? How are we inviting playfulness that builds upon the energy of the experience?” That can be adding these side quests, or making an immersive zone, like Stranger Things and a lot of the Netflix shows will give you a physical opportunity to get together. In some, it’s a VR experience. Lovecraft Country last year used VR very effectively with Janelle Monae and did a super cool VR concert, where she looked epic. Epic. So, you can really just get playful and think outside the box. You don’t have to be HBO to do that, they used VR Chat. So, anybody can use VR Chat, create their own world, and create their own concert, create their own experience.

Douglas:  Wow, really great resources out there, thanks for sharing. As we transition to our close, I’d like to just hear your thoughts on where things are going, what’s the future of all this? It seems like there’s a lot capable now. You’re doing work on interoperability, we need ZIP Codes for all these places. Even peering out a little bit further, where does this go? Is this Ready Player One, where we’re all strapped into the OASIS? What’s your vision of how this unfolds and what the future’s like?

Evo:  Let’s hope we can do better than Ready Player One, or Snow Crash. I think we’ve seen a lot of dystopian ideas of what the metaverse can look like, but it is the future of the public commons. It is the future of public media. And, it is where we go to collaborate. So, it really is what we bring to the table. It’s all about our mindset, at the end of the day, if we believe that we can create more protopian futures. I would encourage everyone out there to go check out Monika Bielskyte’s work on protopian futures. She has outlined a tremendous working roadmap, and that includes honoring ritual, honoring communities, honoring diversity, and really getting to the heart of what brings people together, and making sure that we are honoring everyone in the mix. So, I believe we can create a positive way of working together in these spaces.

Interoperability is the first step toward that. We need easy places to work together, that are accessible, that are safe, inclusive, and appropriate, and that invite participation at the right junctures. This is where we have media folks and technology folks coming together to solve a very interesting problem, which is interactivity. Interactivity, as a fundamental concept, is an invitation. It invites wide open spaces and all sorts of opportunities, but it also invites risk, and risk is scary. Change is scary. And so, what we’re seeing in traditional media is both an embrace of the new media modalities, but also a fundamental fear of giving too much control. Giving too much interactivity. Giving too much opportunity to maybe change the direction of the commons. And so, there’s this very fine line that we’re going to continue to walk for the next decade as we figure out, especially in smart glasses and all sorts of new interfaces, how much is too much? How do you get the right amount of information at the right time for you? How do you make that accessible, actionable, meaningful, sharable to the people you want?

Some of that includes things like self-sovereign identity and being able to control your own data. Because, 100 different platforms are going to keep trying to sell the data of every experience you are having. How much control you have over that data is very important, and the communities that care about that are the ones that deserve your energy and attention. So, I think we’re going to see these sort of dividing lines, as some platforms are clearly more extractive and maybe aren’t respectful to the creators. And, other platforms understand that we’re the media, that we’re the value, and that by honoring creators, honoring producers, honoring the audience of participants, and inviting that participation, you can build something extraordinary.

We’ve seen this in social media, obviously. TikTok is the cumulative value of millions of people dancing on their cellphones. What else can we do when we bring 10 million, 100 million, one billion people together on real issues? Whether that’s water conservation, climate action, it’s infinite. We have our sandboxes, we know the system breakdowns now, we understand systemic AI bias, we understand how many systems around us are broken, and why we need to apply our tools effectively. Now, it’s time to do the work. It’s time to apply the tools effectively and to show others how it’s done. So, I’m excited, honestly, because I see so many of these stories emerging of creators, collectives, communities, platform cooperatives all over the world coming together, figuring out how to share, how to move past ideas of ownership, or even getting caught in ideas of money and capitalism to really get down to, “How do we get things done together? How do we actually effect change in our communities? How do we go from prototype, and play, and experimentation, to, ‘I have my trusted community of people. We have an idea in motion. We have made it happen, and look at the results.’?”

So, I’m excited. I think the future of the public commons is bright. I think as we empower ourselves to be all we can be, in terms of creators, we are going to continue lighting each other up. That’s the energy we need. That’s the protopian future. We’re the media. All of these metaverse media opportunities are within us. It’s not outside of us. It’s not about a technology, it’s about who we are as people and what we decide to create together.

Douglas:  I’m excited too. It’s infectious, I’ll say. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you and thinking about emergent theater and how it could play a role in the experiences we create. Also, synchronicity and how important that is. And, digital twins and world builders, how cool. How freaking cool. Want to just give you an opportunity to leave our listeners with a final thought.

Evo:  I can’t wait to see all of the worlds, and the opportunities, and playful spaces that you create. I am always here as a resource for you, whether in terms of interactive media, metaverse media, thinking about the future of participatory media networks. I would love it if you hit me up. I have videos on YouTube at Playable Agency, if you’re interested in the world builder side of this, or if you’re interested in virtual events, interviews with producers and creators, and general fun art things. You’re welcome to hit me up anytime on any social channel at Playable Agency. And, as we begin to think about collective metamedia, I am working on a larger feature, Douglas, and I can’t say too much about it yet. But, if you are a metaverse media creator already, if you’re out there making this kind of media, I want to hear from you. There will be a form available on my website, and I would love to see what you’re working on. As I begin to create the collective story of how we fit together and how the last 20 years have formed, I believe we all play a role in that.

So, I’m excited to see what media we create together. Whether that’s across the metaverse or deep at home just between the two of us. So, Douglas, thank you so much for having me here, this has been a pleasure.

Douglas:  Evo, it’s a pleasure having you, thanks for joining.

Evo:  Yeah, have a great day.

Douglas:  Thanks for joining me for another episode of Control the Room. Don’t forget to subscribe to receive updates when new episodes are released. If you want more, head over to our blog, where I post weekly articles and resources about working better together, voltagecontrol.com.