Emulsional Primer


Assumption #1 – analog and digital are completely different ways of being. In other words, humans are not digital, and digital is not human. Digital representation can approach “analog humanness” but cannot attain it (e.g. asymptotic). Another way to describe it is that analog and digital are orthogonal to each other.

Given that relationship between analog and digital, there is no way that you can combine the two and create a solution that is homogenous. No matter what you do, they are so fundamentally different, they cannot evenly distribute. At best, analog and digital can only form an emulsion, not a solution.


(from blog.ionanacolor.com)

If you bring together oil and vinegar, they don’t mix but when shaken, they form an emulsion that when done right, makes a great salad dressing. But if you wait a bit, they will separate. This is a great metaphor for how humans interact with digital content and experiences. Developers create digital stuff and humans are “shaken” with it, and can have productive moments, but over time things will fall apart unless constantly agitated.

But then consider the miracle of the egg yolk. In this food situation, it serves the role of emulsifying agent, or binder, allowing a stable emulsion to be created. In the case of oil and vinegar with some egg yolk, you get mayonaiise.

So extending that to the analog and digital worlds, if you try to mix you get an emulsion, but what is the binder? That is where story comes in. Humans are hard-wired to respond to narrative. A good story can make up for poor graphics or experiences, while great CGI and the best hardware in absence of a story often provide only fleeting engagement.

The power of this model is that stable emulsions (experiences) aren’t dependent on the technology. That can swap out as things change. As can the particular humans. With story as a binder, the other ingredients can vary as things change and you’ll still get your tasty mayo.

Which brings us to BINDER – Bivalent Immersive Narrative Design for Emulsional Realities. The focus needs to be on bi-valent elements that can connect to the tech and also to the human. These can be apps, visualizations, or narrative tools – the key is that they need to have aspects that interact favorably with both digital and analog entities. This enables emulsifier-like behavior, and can create the stable experiences we’re looking for.

Two other binders that go along with story – play and policy. Play is how we learn and stay engaged, and policy is how we put ideas into coherent and (hopefully) equitable action.