1: Introducing The Multiverse
The author begins with an analogy between the digital frontier and the geographical one. Consider the maps drawn by explorers, where an indistinct boundary separated the known world from "terra incognito" - they knew that there was more land beyond the known boundaries, but did not know what it might contain as they had not yet been there.
Consider, too, the phrase "beyond here be dragons" - the sense that there was danger for those who tread beyond the known realm, an ominous sense that you should avoid going into unknown lands. But those who explored beyond the boundaries of the known discovered more wealth rather than dragons. There was some danger, certainly, but also great opportunity for those who would take the risk.
The author then goes on to explain the obvious parallel to the digital frontier - there are undiscovered worlds, "beyond here be opportunity," but accompanied by danger. It's fertile ground for those who can overcome fear and leave behind the familiar and conventional ways of doing business.
Returning to a point made in the introduction, there is by definition no map of uncharted territories to guide adventurers and following in the footsteps of others will not lead you to anything that has not already been discovered. The digital frontier is much more fluid than the physical landscape: what lies beyond the known cannot merely be walked upon and observed, but must be wholly invented by the explorer.
The aim of the present book is therefore to provide guidance to the adventurer - it cannot provide a map. We know where the border lies, we can observe what gear others have taken with them to help them explore and chart these territories. We also know that there is no standard kit or universal practices - each makes his own way, as he sees fit.
The Known Universe
Before considering the unknown, the author will first consider the know, by whose borders the unknown is defined. He considers Stan Davis's business book 'Future Perfect," in which Davis reckoned that transformation begins with discovering certain fundamental properties, seeking to understand them, developing new technologies to exploit them, and ultimately configuring organizations to execute upon them.
The mind-set of companies whose business is mass production of the known considers time, space, and matter to be constraints and obstacles. The mind-set of companies whose business is discovery of the unknown considers these same elements to be resources and opportunities. The two perspective cannot be reconciled to one another, which is why innovation does not occur in a production-oriented environment.
One of the profound differences in the digital channel is the lack of matter. Manufacturing creates value by acting upon materials, and even the service economy sought to effect a change in the material world in which labor was a greater factor than the physical things that were involved. In the economy Davis envisions, our "product" is completely intangible.
As there is no matter, neither is there space. The interaction with the consumer does not tae place in a fixed location, but in a "virtual" environment with which the user interacts. While there is still the need for a physical device (computer terminal, mobile device, even a wristwatch or headpiece), the experience is not married to it: the consumer can use different devices in different locations to consume the same product.
As to the third element, time: while there is time involved in any experience, the consumer is not tied to actual time. A task need not be done at a specific time, it must not be done all at once, and it need not be constrained to a chronological progression. The user can pause, rewind, fast-forward, or skip about in time.
As such, the qualities of matter, space, and time that constrain experience in the real world are abandoned, at least to some degree, in the digital channel. But because they are not abandoned completely, they can be viewed on a continuum.
As such, the author suggests that experience can be considered along these axes" time or no-time, space or no-space, matter or no-matter, to create a create a categorization scheme that is likened to a cube, 2x2x2 in which there are eight sectors. Given that the term "octoverse" lacks a certain appeal, the author chooses to refer to this framework as the "multiverse."
The octant of the multiverse where time, space, and matter are linked to physical reality is fairly well explored. It's not completely worked out, and much innovation is still focused in this area, but the other seven realms are largely unknown at the present time, and our present use of the digital medium has made few, shallow forays, leaving much territory to be explored.
An Architecture of Experience
Considering the multiverse as the author has just described it, we can consider all experiences in terms of when (time), where (space), and what (matter) they entail. To make matters a little more convoluted, he also establishes the terms of event, place, and substance to deal with the same three variables.
- Substance (matter/what) - Describes the things a person encounters with their sense perception. In the virtual world, this includes both the physical device as well as that which it is used to depict.
- Place (space/where) - Describes the location in which a person is situated during the experience In the virtual world, this includes both physical surroundings as well as a virtual place.
- Event (time/when) - Describes a sequence of activities as they actually occur, rather than the way they are planned. In the virtual world, this considers the "real" time in the user's world as well as the place they happen to be in the context of the experience, which is independent of real-world time.
The term "augmented reality" is used for experiences that cross the boundaries between the virtual and digital worlds. (EN: It's a bit vague, though. Ordering a physical product online fits this notion, but doesn't seem to be remarkable - the ordering process is digital, the using process real. My sense is it's better reserved for areas in which the distinction is less clear, perhaps when the two are more closely interwoven. The next chapter focuses more closely on this notion and hopefully offers more detail.)
(EN: After this, the author gets a bit wistful and campy, speaking of "new galaxies" where you can "boldly go where no company ahs gone before" and "dream big." It's likely meant to encourage the reader to be innovative rather than making the digital world a mere simulacrum of the physical and eradicate the boundaries rather than carry them over ... but the point is lost when the prose goes purple.)