Justin Bolognino is a jack-of-all-trades. The visionary entrepreneur has led marketing campaigns, produced documentary films, designed an environment for creative artists, and crafted inventive art pieces from some of the most unlikely, unreal materials. He does it all through the evolutionary gizmos of social media. The ‘Synchronicity Architect’ sketches his blueprint around making the hidden connections of the digital world a true manifestation in the physical world. Bolognino is the founder of Learned Evolution – an establishment that powers design, events, and social media marketing to clients who want tech-savvy experiences – and The Meta Agency – a home for imaginative designers and artists. Through these ventures he has made Brooklyn Bowl a Google keyword and redefined the SXSW experience through #FEED powered by Twitter. Bolognino’s enterprises and ventures have been sponsored by an array of big name supremacies – Twitter, Samsung, Vimeo, Android, and Ralph Lauren to name a few – but he maintains small business is key to keeping up with the evolving digital landscape. In the interview below, he chats to one small seed about interactive social media art, finding the right language and tinkering with online instruments to create real world experiences.

Image: readmyego.com

From Learned Evolution to The Meta Agency and #FEED, your work is strongly tied to social media and the physical space. Lots of people assume different identities online. How do you facilitate interconnectivity in the physical world from online interactions when people behave differently in the two dimensions?

I tend to look at things in terms of evolutionary metaphysics:

we all have varying degrees of self that manifest in different vehicles at different times within different environments

So first, it’s best to understand the possibilities and limitations of each and design within those parameters. It starts with intention of the ‘feeling’ – the emotional resonance is the core mission – and builds from there. Waving your hands and making things move is cool for a few seconds, but without the feeling it won’t leave a lasting impression be it physical or online. But over all else it has to be FUN!

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

Social media works through Internet access. Less than half of South African households have Internet access. How do you respond to the challenge of building communities and experiences in the physical word using online media when so many people have limited online access?

Wow, that is quite a question that I’m afraid has to start at the political level and how they define basic needs.

Can Internet be considered as fundamental as food, clothing, shelter, electricity?

This leaves more responsibility in the hands of those that do have access to fight that much harder and find creative ways to get access to those who don’t. Information is power… a dangerous fundamental need from a political power standpoint.

Technology is constantly changing, but Twitter and Facebook have been hegemonic of social media trends and behaviors for a while now. What do you think will be the next evolution or wave of social media?

Every evolving system will eventually face this challenge, and eventually the large hegemony will bifurcate into smaller more niche entities. The next evolution will find more action based tools that drive people offline into definitive action, then back to online to share their results so we can them optimise that data. We call this the ‘self perpetuating feedback loop’. The more we can create a ‘positive hall of mirrors’ the deeper the impact will be.

Soon we will look at social media channels as a vast toolbox for action: be it social, cultural, personal, political, entertainment, etc.

#FEED powered by Twitter: Day 1 – “Generating Synchronicity” from #FEED powered by Twitter on Vimeo.

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

#FEED was an experiment in ‘generating synchronicity’. In this context what’s the difference between synchronicity and interactivity or interconnectivty?

Synchronicity is the subjective/internal ‘meaning’ based side of interconnectivity, while external/objective side of the same coin is interconnectivity. Blurring this line of duality is at the heart of everything we do.

Between the subjective and objective is where the meaningful, resonant magic is made

The majority of South Africans access online content through cellphones. Do you think mobile phones can have the same level of community-based connectivity as computers?

Even more connectivity… they are better for action based platforms that drive the self perpetuating feedback loops. They are more active tools, rather than passive resources.

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

Social media interactivity seems to be primarily geared to younger audiences and users. Are you interested in using social media in relation to older generations?

Absolutely! I think it is more about stage of conscious evolution than age. I know some pretty interconnected older folks who are incredibly self aware. Thus, the focus needs to be how to raise awareness levels. Doing so will by default get more people into interconnected social media platforms. This is focusing on creating tools that advance internal, subjective mechanisms. Focusing on the causal influences rather than on the bandaid solutions that perpetuate the problems.

You say interactive social media art at #FEED was about capturing social media and putting it into the physical form of art before it became lost. Do you think there other ways to use the user generated content of social media before it floats away in a cloud?

Of course there are. The field of predictive data analytics is incredibly fascinating, if a bit Big Brother.

Using social media to predict and foster positive change is going to become more and more prevalent for applications in medical/healthcare, cultural and social action, politics, entertainment, etc

We like to say we’re ‘making Big Data FUN’. But of course there are infinite ways to use Big Data.

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

A lot of the #FEED installations were based on visual integrations. Online media in general is focused on images over the texts. Do you think people are too lazy to read or are images just that much more exciting?

Visual images are the carrot, but at the other end of the stick the content still has to be meaningful in order for quality change to occur

The visual content is a Trojan horse, but you have to get past the wall before the warriors can jump out and make change.

Laziness is likely a factor, but I think it has more to do with how our brain processes patterns of information more than any other factor.

#FEED was incredibly successful at SXSW. Do you hope to evolve it beyond festivals and maybe move it beyond American borders?

YES! Now that we’ve done two years of successful events, it’s time to scale the model to other events around the world. #FEED can’t exist in a vaccuum; it has to ‘feed’ off other enviroments to work. We’re planning on Art Basel, Fashion Week(s), Cannes, and similar events. Ultimately, we can be doing #FEED somewhere on Earth all year round.

It’s a meta-linear platform that can exist as a permanent installation (think: #FEEDnyc – a museum that just feeds manifests social happening around NYC) or in conjunction with another event. It can be a single installation, or a three-floor megaplex. It’s designed to scale and modulate as needed.

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

You say that simplicity and consistency are crucial in using and building a brand via social media successfully. You need to ‘carry the same voice across all media but understand the different nuances of each’. How do you make this voice appeal to a variety of different people with different interests?

One of my favorite quotes of all time is Heidegger’s ‘Language is the house of Being’. So it all comes down to creating systems of language that are designed for simultaneity, rather than myopic targeting.

Again we find the Trojan horse scenario.

Certain words have loaded meanings for certain stages of consciousness, and if you choose these loaded words you’ll in effect scare off a certain market

Sometimes that is a good thing, but most if not all of our projects, from Brooklyn Bowl to #FEED, are grounded upon inclusivity and integration, so creating language systems that reflect simultaneity and inclusiveness at their core is the first step to success. Or, so I ‘say’.

Image: ©Jenny Sathngam, facebook.com

Images: facebook.com, Jenny Sathngam, readmyego.com

Questions and introduction: Ra’eesa Pather