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Down the Digital Rabbit Hole

The Matrix Resurrections continues the dystopian theme of man vs technology set out by its predecessors. But 20 years on, digital is no longer the enemy—as long as it’s guided by capable hands, argues Base partner Mirek Nisenbaum.

Over two decades ago, The Matrix stretched and reshaped our understanding of the internet. Released in 1999, (which is still hard to believe), the sci-fi spectacle wowed audiences with its groundbreaking special effects, while providing a cautionary tale about digital evolution and the risks of allowing sentient AI to develop beyond our control.

The dystopian movie and its sequels played on our mistrust and lack of understanding of the web, which was still in its infancy. Many did not have a full grasp of how it worked or what its potential future applications might be, beyond instant messenger and illegal music. And The Matrix trilogy was there to warn us that our entanglement with technology would become far from simple, and that our reliance on it could spell danger. (Pause for dramatic music.)

Fast forward to 2021, and the franchise’s fourth installment The Matrix Resurrections follows the same overarching theme. Humans, good; technology, bad. Here we go again… But in the “real world,” our relationship with digital tech has changed and evolved dramatically since the late 90s. As a society, we’ve become much more comfortable with digital services running our lives and reading our thoughts. We are being consumed by technology, but most of us seem to be okay with that.

The average person now spends more than a third of their time online, whether at work, on social media, playing video games, etc. With relentless (read: exhausting) digital developments like virtual assistants, cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and Facebook’s recently announced plans for the Metaverse (basically The Matrix?)—our shift further online is only going to continue. But does this have to be a bad thing? Perhaps not, if guided by the right hands.

When the first Matrix film hit theaters, Base was also in its early years. We’d just opened our NYC office, and digital was only a very small part of the branding work we undertook. But we quickly had to evolve with the times, growing and adapting our digital services in line with the proliferation of technology, and the needs of our clients. Slowly but surely, we built a dedicated digital team that works side-by-side with our creative studios, constantly feeding-back to one-another to push ideas forward and fuel our design process.

The Matrix itself is described in the first movie as a “computer-generated dreamworld created to keep us under control.” We at Base also see digital as a dreamworld, one full of possibilities and opportunities, and one that we can control and utilize in exciting and unexpected ways for our clients. This requires strategic thinking, careful consideration of a brand’s particular ecosystem, and an idea-driven approach to ensure that the results are intentional.

Like the movies’ characters, we’ve learned to mold and manipulate online environments to our advantage, making the seemingly impossible, possible. This has enabled the brands we work with to break boundaries and create cultural impact in both the physical and digital realms. We want time spent online to be positive, educational, useful, and fun for our clients’ audiences—not foreboding, complicated, or frustrating—all through what we call digitally native branding.

The Matrix is also a story about choice and discovery. Neo takes a red pill to trigger the process likened to Alice’s adventure into Wonderland, which brings him out of the virtual world and into the real one. Our version of the red pill does the opposite: we invite businesses, founders and CTOs on a journey “down the rabbit hole” into the digital realm, to discover how it can help them to innovate.

Digital is an incredibly powerful tool, and although its rapid advancement can seem daunting, intimidating and uncertain, it’s not the enemy. You can enjoy The Matrix Resurrections and its predecessors as epic works of sci-fi storytelling, and rest assured that Base Digital can confidently demystify and provide clarity for brands in this space.

Our most recent evolution involved integrating a team of talented developers and engineers into our workflow, forming a worldwide coalition that can both imagine and execute innovative digital tools, platforms and experiences. Base Digital now lives at the intersection of strategy, brand and digital design.

Over the coming months, we plan to bolster our voice as an authority in this field, through editorial articles published on our Medium channel and updates from a dedicated Twitter account. This content will explain the thinking and processes behind our work, explore potential applications for innovative and advanced digital tools we are developing, and offer insights into how we can steer brands into a digital future.

Just like The Matrix franchise, Base Digital is ready for its next chapter. Let’s see just how far down the rabbit hole we can go.

Text by Base NYC partner and digital director Mirek Nisenbaum. Edited by Dan Howarth.