THE FUTURIST Interview with Dana Klisanin, Creator of the Cyberhero League


Interviews Dana Klisanin, Creator of the Cyberhero League

Several technologies and social innovations were featured in the second Futurists: BetaLaunch (F:BL) invention expo, part of the recently-concluded WorldFuture 2012 conference Dream. Design. Develop. Deliver. (Toronto July 27-29). F:BL is a “petting zoo” where WorldFuture attendees can interact with artifacts from the future and engage with the exhibitors. Below is an interview between THE FUTURIST magazine and Dana Klisanin, CEO, Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc. and creator of the Cyberhero League, a social platform that will enable children to actively impact the welfare of people, animals, and the environment through everyday activities, and one of ten F:BL winners.


THE FUTURIST: Who is involved in your innovative project? Names and titles, project groups, inside and outside agencies—be as specific as you like/are able to be.

Klisanin: I designed Cyberhero League as a project of Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc. Our team, who share the intention of using the arts and media to co-create a better world, includes: Transmedia Producer, Kate McCallum; Creative Director, Melisca Klisanin; Lead Artist and Graphic Designer, Anastasia Kilani; IT Project Manager, Bridget Arrington; Graphic Designer, Josias Hernandez. Outside Game Design Consultation services provided by Pascal Luban of GD Studio; and freelance Game Development by Keefer Sery and Steward Hiltenbrand. My niece, TigerLily Klisanin-Ross, who attends Quest to Learn, a public school created by game designers at Institute of Play, serves as Youth Advisor. We’re currently creating a “hero-network” of approximately 45 non-profit organizations, starting with: The Millennium Project (Art and Media Node), c3: Center for Conscious Creativity, The Converging World, Pachamama Alliance, and Raincatchers. Our growing list of strategic relationships and advisors includes: Dan Mapes of MagNet Solutions; Ed Lantz of Vortex Immersion Media, Howard Esbin of Prelude, Gary Tomchuk of AwareGuide, and Jessica Chamberlin of Creative Human Capital.

THE FUTURIST: What is your professional and educational background?

Klisanin: As a psychologist, my background is in humanistic, transpersonal, and integral approaches to individual and societal wellness. I earned my Ph.D. from Saybrook University, an institution founded by pioneers of the humanistic psychology movement. While there, I began exploring the use and potential of the expressive arts as a means of supporting the development of character strengths and virtues. Ultimately, that research led me to ask how the arts and media might be used to promote planetary consciousness in a societal context. Cyberhero League is especially relevant to my scientific investigations in the area of evolutionary guidance media, an integral framework I designed to support the creation, use, and evaluation of media that aims to guide the evolutionary development of body, mind, and spirit, in self, culture, and nature. It was through this integral media framework that I began exploring digital altruism and the cyberhero archetype—two essential elements of the Cyberhero League project.

THE FUTURIST: What inspired you—or your team—to develop your innovation that you entered into Futurists: BetaLaunch?

Klisanin: Children are learning about global challenges, especially human-caused global warming and social inequality, but have limited power to affect the world. I am concerned that this lack of empowerment leads to feelings of helplessness, apathy, and depression, that continue into adulthood. Our innovation is designed to teach children 21st century skills, such as empathy, altruism, and compassion, through providing them with the means to help other people, animals, and the environment. By introducing children to the cyberhero archetype we hope to inspire them with the knowledge that they can develop their own strengths (physical, emotional, mental, & spiritual) and use information and communication technologies as a kind of “digital cape” to act heroically online and off.

THE FUTURIST: When did you first Dream about and Design your innovation? How far along are you in Developing it? When do you think it will be Delivered?

Klisanin: I began dreaming of creating a 21st century scout-like interactive gaming system in 2004—however, because much of the vision involved the use of handheld devices for bridging inside/outside play, such as “geocaching” treasure hunts, and so forth, the dream wasn’t practical. With the emergence of smart phones, the dream became increasing viable. The first design iteration began in 2007, under the name “Project Milky Way” and is described in an academic article I wrote on transception—the infusion of high moral values, such as compassion, equanimity, generosity, and loving kindness, into our digital technologies. That research led me to investigate digital altruism, which in turn, led me to explore the emergent cyberhero archetype. All of this research came together rather synchronistically when we began to develop the prototype in 2010. Our goal is to deliver in June of 2013.

THE FUTURIST: What challenges have you faced already in developing your innovation, and how did you address them? What challenges do you anticipate facing in the future?

Klisanin: In the beginning, the challenges were waiting for technology to catch up with the idea. More recently, the economic downturn presented us with funding hurdles. To overcome this difficulty we are launching a Kickstarter campaign to coincide with the Beta Launch event. We hope the press will become part of our “hero-network” and spread the word about our project, helping us generate the necessary funds to complete the project.

THE FUTURIST: What’s innovative about your innovation? What are you doing that others haven’t?

Klisanin: Our innovation empowers children, enabling them to act on behalf of other people, animals, and the environment, while doing what they enjoy doing best: playing! Through online and offline play, they learn qualities, traits, characteristics, and ways of being in the world that support individual, social, and environmental well-being. As an application of the Integral media framework, the project is designed to support on-going experimental research in areas such as compassion, empathy, and self-efficacy. Through open-ended narrative we are placing global challenges in a context that enables players to literally be part of co-creating a new story for the future (based upon their actions in the world). One way we are accomplishing this through bringing non-profit organizations and socially-responsible businesses together to support the member’s activities.

Something else we’re doing is designing the project to support trans-generational interaction. Our intention is to bring great-grandparents, grandparents, parents, and children together in a spirit of play and adventure through providing them with a common goal: co-creating a better, more equitable, sustainable world. Our project serves as a bridge between the online and offline worlds, encouraging players to go outside to interact with each other and to experience the beauty of the natural world. Ultimately we hope to encourage players to cherish diversity and forge relationship with people from other countries. Never before have children been able to use their playtime and purchasing power to help others while changing business as usual. We are eager to see what they can accomplish with this ability!

THE FUTURIST: What inspired you to enter your innovation to be considered for Futurists: BetaLaunch?

Klisanin: Over the years, I’ve received a great deal of professional support from members of futures organizations, including the World Future Society and the World Futures Studies Federation. I was inspired to apply because I felt that the review committee would understand the integral media design approach and the project’s potential implications– both experimental and applied. I’m glad I did!

THE FUTURIST: What impact will your innovation have on society and technological developments in the future?

Klisanin: The pen is only mightier than the sword if the writing produced by it enables individuals to become more fully human—more empathic, altruistic, and compassionate. Likewise, the Internet and smart phones can only overcome our destructive practices, such as consumerism, waste, and greed, if we communicate 21st century values, such as empathy, creativity, interdependence, biomimicry, conservation, sharing, and so forth. Our innovation is designed to encourage social and environmental ethics. We see the project as a catalyst that will increase public demand for ethical media and ethical marketplaces.

Check out all the Futurists: BetaLaunch winners here; a special thanks to all who applied!

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