Dr. Amrita Joshi
Communication Area, IIM Indore
Email: email@example.com; Phone: 0731-2439594
This write-up based on recently published work highlights the usefulness and application of Augmented Reality (AR) technologies and proposes change-driven usage of AR environments for social marketing. The study responds to a call for innovative possibilities in new intervention design for social marketing campaigns in India. For this, this paper proposes a conceptual framework grounded in insights drawn from ancient Indian literature, specifically Vedantic texts which contain dynamic illustrations of the augmentation of reality geared to the acts of persuasion and transformation. This study suggests that these propositional structures could be of potential interest to planners and developers in search of innovative design interventions in the wider domain of social marketing.
AR applications work at the point where the seemingly unreal can be interpreted as the real. The concept of the ‘hyper-real’ or the ‘augmentation of reality’ reflects a fundamental connect with the notion of ‘modality’. Modality refers to the reality status claimed by any sign, entity or event. When what is considered naturalistic is either reduced or amplified it results in various degrees of modality. According to this scale, an element that ‘absolutely’ resembles the ‘real’ can actually slip into the field of the ‘unreal’. See Figure 1 below. We look at the implications of lower modalities for visualization and how modality modification can be used for enabling persuasive conditions through augmented environments for contemporary social marketing campaigns.
Figure 1. Modality status of the hyper-real based on Kress and Leeuven’s (2006) scale for reading images
We have derived a conceptual framework by drawing from the ‘pre-digital’ era of Vedantic texts which demonstrate the strategic encoding of hyper-real modes to communicate, persuade and empower the decoder-consumer. This study also opens up the field of marketing research to qualitative paradigmatic analysis using a structural schematic framework.
We first examine key spatio-temporal concepts in Vedantic thought which can enable this discussion on augmented reality. These illustrative concepts are: maya, siddhi, avataar and divya drishti. These are all considered here as illustrative of the hyper-real, a point reached beyond high modality (HM) tending towards lower modalities (LM) as against a concept of the real tending specifically towards high modality (HM). The analysis of 4 Vedantic texts is motivated by the question: How would the modalities in Vedantic spatio-temporal constructs result in useful applications for social marketing campaigns?
The analysis recognizes a conceptual bridge between human sensory/transcendental ability and contemporary technology. It identifies five propositional structures (PS). These can be used to create behaviour-based applications in augmented fields. See Table 1 below. The study explicates how these could result in AR applications for social marketing campaigns.
The analysis is based on the Narasimha Avataar which is a narrative in Book 7, Shrimad Bhagavatam.
PS 1: Shape shifting
Proposed AR Application: Achieving/ developing forms (known/unknown) that are taken to achieve targeted behavioural outcomes
The immersive experience imparted by Divya Drishti finds its strongest explicatory parallel in the Vishwaroopdarshan in Chapter XI of the Bhagavad Geeta.
PS 2: Construction-reconstruction-visualization-redefinition; maya; mithya; divya drishti
Proposed AR Application: Hyper-realism induced in external environment; induced shifting between physical and mental states
Illusion and Reality
One of the most illustrative of several texts that dwell on temporal and spatial modalities is a key narrative from Book 12 of the Shrimad Bhagavatam (SB). This is a dramatic episode where the immortal sage Rishi Markandeya gains an immersive perspective on creation-destruction, within-without and the transitory nature of being.
PS 3: Visual exposition of the extra-sensory; vichitra; avarnaneeya; adbhuta
Proposed AR Application: Stretching the imagination, innovative visualization
PS 4: Transition from known to unknown/ unknown to known; formless; boundaryless; limitless; the interaction of time and space
Proposed AR Application: Participation; Co-creation by viewer/user of AR tool
The Vaamana Avataar which appears in Book 8 of the Shrimad Bhagavatam illustrates this spatio-temporal construct.
PS 5: Visual approximations of siddhis; sthool-sookshma; prapti, vasitva; anima, laghima, mahima
Proposed AR Application: Movement from gross to subtle; augmented expansion and contraction of spaces
|Spatio-temporal construct||AR application|
|Maya||Modality-switching for behaviour change|
|Avataar||Visualization of alternative action|
|Siddhi||Creation of transitory persuasive states|
|Divya Drishti||Usage of enabling equipment and processes that provide a strategic immersive experience|
Table 1. Vedantic Spatio-temporal constructs and corresponding potential AR applications
Since the digital experience in AR operates between the ‘real’ and the ‘unreal’, our study of the narratives above and the extracted schemas suggest that AR usage can be positioned by social marketing professionals between the hyper-real and a gradual return to higher levels of modality rather than a direct positioning at the point of high modality. This is because, a direct access to the ‘real’ may render the real redundant or too familiar and may not bring about behavioural change. On the other hand, an access to the ‘hyper-real’ may stimulate initial interest in a co-creative or participatory experience. A prolonged hyper-real experience on the other hand may lead to lower levels of modality, disbelief or a disconnect. It may also lead to a false sense of control.
Commercial marketing uses aspects of augmentation such as holographic projections, customised displays in retailing, real-time information overlays and projections, game-based character creations such as ‘avataars’ or layering of immediate environments. Our study has derived specific guiding principles/propositional structures which can be used for socially benefiting outreach campaigns to achieve transformative behaviours.
Consider for instance, the creation of an augmented environment where the participant does not simply receive a social message but interacts with the environment to enact that message and thus internalize it. A case in point would be the Government of India’s ‘Swacch Bharat Mission’ (http://swachhbharatmission.gov.in/sbmcms/index.htm), aimed at changing behaviours to enable clean spaces. With several roadblocks such as resistant mind-sets, a related lack of civic sense, a lack of pride in spaces, a limited sense of hygiene, slow growth in requisite infrastructure and such others; merely communicating the message through verbal or visual modes has limited impact. It may be possible, however, to create immersive environments with negative or positive message framing.
In this situation, a positive framing would be immersing participants in their immediate environments such as a locality/mohalla which in an AR environment is layered as optimally clean, garbage-free and safe. Thus, the participant can acquire a sense of what this alternative, ideal space can be, in order to be impacted for a change in behaviour. The other type could be a negative framing where the participant is first immersed in an augmented environment that kinaesthetically communicates what an unclean, disease-prone, hazardous environment could look, feel and sound like and then switch to the positive scenario described earlier to effect behavioural changes by enabling the participant to simulate tasks that would help transform the locality.
The propositional structures outlined above could give planners and developers schematic guidelines for specific kinds of layering. We suggest that, it may thus, be possible to apply the framework proposed here to targeted requirements of transformative social marketing campaigns aimed at societal change and sustainable development.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE: A. Joshi (2018). Vedantic Applications of Augmented Reality for Strategic Social Marketing Campaigns in India. Journal of Indian Business Research (forthcoming)