In late January of 2016, we sent out e-vites to the attendees of the Filmgate Interactive conference inviting them to join us poolside at the opening gala for the conference at the Deauville hotel. The kickoff event was called "Engage Your Desires", and was described with the vague yet enticing language below:
"Engage Your Desires is an invitation to explore the richness and nuance of your personal tastes and impulses. It is an immersive evening of light and ephemeral stimulation under the stars, seasoned with titillating costumed performers and dazzling visual effects. Your experience with Circumplex will be intriguing and enlightening, and certainly delightful! Join us as we map out the focal point of your deepest desires, and dare with us as we delve ever deeper into the things that motivate you to live your life as you do."
They had NO Idea what they were getting into.
All we offered by way of further explanation was a short blurb describing the organization hosting the event. Our (fake) org was named "Circumplex", after Timothy Leary's famous psych research model, which of course nobody recognized. The org was described with these words:
"Circumplex is an engagement focused, interactive experiential performance environment, designed to elicit targeted emotional response. Love, loyalty, hunger and desire are among the many hues that our experiences are designed to evoke. Leveraging decades of psychographic research, unique applications of modern technology and elaborately crafted creative performance, we expose our guests to fascinating and provocative stimuli and incite a range of responses from mild curiosity to complete immersion. Circumplex uses science and technology to reveal the strings that connect you to your world."
The conference was entirely aware of our creative subversion, and helped us populate a few additional web sites with the 'fake' info, adding the illusion of depth to the thin veneer of propriety for those who chose to dig deeper.
We then wrangled 10+ actors, elaborate costumes, projection mapping artists and gear for a 3 screen video wall, photo booths, drones, and VR headsets and drafted a script that enabled us to talk a bit through these mediums about Targeted Marketing and Government Surveillance.
Our subtext throughout the story was that Circumplex was in fact a Shadow Org working for other Dark Corporations and Gov't Black Ops. They were presenting themselves as Modern High Tech Entertainment when in fact they were culling private data from all of the guests and participants of the events. We also created a 'hacker' character who worked for the Shadow org but had gone rogue.
Since the guests had all provided their phone numbers and emails when they signed in, we wrote script to crawl the web and scrape all pictures etc from social media associated with those emails and then used that media as a subtle layer beneath the projections, and used their phones to send several texts throughout the event, illustrating both the subversive marketing and the activities of the hacker behind the scenes.
As they mingled with costumed, fetishized performers (who seemed Very inquisitive) guests received a series of quixotic texts, ranging from "Welcome to Circumplex!" to "Trust No One", but found their confusion punctuated by lavish performances and strange glitches in the DJ audio and the video wall. The photo booth and VR displayed unexpected, cryptic warnings. Slowly, they began to spot their own pictures mixed into the video and wondered "how did That get in there?" as Men In Black' began pacing around, talking to their collars...
As the party and the narrative built to a climax, the guests received a text urging them to stay calm while a hacker was apprehended. Drones then emerged and floated around the crowd aggressively searching, until at last a hooded hacker was apprehended by militarized private security in riot gear. He let out a cry and delivered a plea to the guests that they protect their privacy, then broke away from the guards and escaped onto the beach, pursued by the drones.
No guests were harmed during this experience :) They had a Blast.