Tuesday, 16 September 2014
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A thought-provoking interactive for Channel 4's Utopia drama

As Channel 4’s uncompromising conspiracy drama Utopia hits our screens this week, so does further online interactive content created by digital consultancy TH_NK.

Utopia identity

Utopia identity

TH_NK has been working in pre-production alongside Channel 4, production company Kudos and the programme’s writer Dennis Kelly.

An online experience has been created, which will evolve in three parts, synching with plot developments in six-part drama Utopia.

In its current form the site calculates how long you would last if you were being pursued by ‘The Network’ – an underhand organisation introduced in Utopia’s first episode.

Who's spying on you?

Who’s spying on you?

Users are invited to explore the consequences of sharing data and the trade-offs they make for the conveniences of modern life.

The site then calculates how long you’d last before being caught, drawing the inevitable conclusion that we’ve given far too much information away, and if dark forces want to find us they probably can.  Or rather they definitely can. It’s not if but when.

TH_NK strategist Rob Hinchcliffe says, ‘Our work is clearly not something that has just been bolted on at the end but has been part of the production all along.

‘We’ve tried to make the big themes of the drama personal in a range of intriguing, challenging and entertaining ways.’

Taking information from your official records

Taking information from your official records

If the first version of the site is about ‘your world and your digital footprint, the second is about how complicit you are in all of this,’ says TH_NK creative director Phil Wilce.

It will show how opting out can raise further suspicion. ‘Some people have obsessions with taking themselves off of Street View, or not allowing their medical records to be accessed,’ says Wilce.

TH_NK has been further stoking the fires by starting Facebook discussions and Twitter chatter.

What are you willing to sacrifice?

What are you willing to sacrifice?

‘Sometimes we’re talking back to people to show them where they’ve been,’ says Wilce.

At this point it all gets a bit confusing and self-reflective, with many people recognising the irony of Tweeting about Utopia while looking over their shoulder. 

The discussion points are linked to themes of the show, which TH_NK has tied to real news and associated conspiracy theories on the Utopia site.

‘There are relevant news stories, a timeline of evidence and conspiracy theories; it will grow and evolve,’ says Wilce.

‘We didn’t want to overdesign the look, so there’s an almost governmental feel, it’s quite clinical and we avoided that spooksy world of neons and blacks. For conspiracy theorists it’s all about getting off-line, so the site looks quite cold and analogue.’

Timeline of conspiracy at top of site.

Timeline of conspiracy at top of site.

The third and final stage of the site is being kept under wraps, although Wilce promises ‘a big twist’ probably along the lines of one in the show.

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