A Generation on Fire

“The American Psychological Association released a report in 2013 that found the millennial generation – those aged 18-34 – had a higher rate of stress (5.4 out of 10) than the U.S. population as a whole (4.9). Moreover, nearly 40 percent of young Americans said their stress levels had increased in the past year, while 52 percent admitted that anxiety keeps them awake at night. Stress and anxiety are manifested as themes in modern youth entertainment.
In our 2012 probe A Generation on Fire, we noted the immense popularity of teen dystopian fiction and film series. The Hunger Games was highly symbolic of the chasm between youth and the ruling generation, which evolves into a David versus Goliath narrative. In this case, the young prevented from participating fully in a system tilted by the old for those growing old at the expanse of the young.This generational theme is observable and throughout the culture. Entertainment provides the clearest window into the dynamic. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is the next dystopian tale to hit the big screen. Teens are forced into a form of academic testing that determines their place in the world for life. The symbolism is straightforward. Standardized college tests – SAT and ACT – are stress producing in part because they are separators. The fact the tests can be gamed by the rich – high-priced test preparation classes, private tutors, and financial ability to take multiple tests is a source for even deeper anxiety, even among the rich. Divergent’s main character “fails” her test. She vows to subvert “the system,” and eventually helps to create a classless society.

Aside from dystopian fiction, we have observed the rise of a decidedly realistic genre of young adult fiction dubbed “sick-lit,” which has quietly replaced stories of werewolves and vampires on best-seller lists. This genre employs themes of illness, particularly cancer, bullying, and self- harm. Several of the genre’s novels have millions of copies in print, have been optioned for film, are in production, or have already been released.
Three of the most popular are:
• By the Time You Read This, I’ll Be Dead – A bullied girl contemplates suicide and is befriended by a boy with cancer.
• Thirteen Reasons Why – A teen girl commits suicide, but leaves a trail of reasons that remind others of the harm that can be caused by their callous actions.
• The Fault in Our Stars – Tells the story of two cancer-stricken teens who fall in love in a cancer support group.
The depth of anxiety in young people is anomalous. So too is the way this anxiety is being satiated: via narratives based on particularly grisly forms of actual, psychological death. The depth of connection within these themes is striking. The top nine books on Amazon’s bestsellers list include: Dark Souls II – the guide to a video game “that is darker” than ever and “this time death is certain”- (No. 1); The Fault in our Stars (No 2); Divergent (No. 4); Divergent 3-book Series (No. 6); Divergent – second title in the series (No. 8); The Book Thief – a young girl’s life is narrated by “Death” (No. 9). Another title in the Divergent series ranks No. 12.
The mind requires harmony between the inner and outer world. Significant and fundamental change is in motion.”

Taken (with permission) from Williams Inference A Generation on Fire (2012)

2014 Trends

Screen Shot 2014-01-15 at 15.39.11Nice article in todays edition of Metro about what to expect in 2014. Ponderings from myself, IanPearson and James Bellini. Article here.

BTW, nice slideshow here from Ross Dawson about why 2014 is the year of the crunch – when cumulative change is reaching the point of fundamental disruption in many aspects of society.

2014 Trends

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Facebook Fatigue

If someone came up to you on the street and asked you for personal information would you give it to them? And what if they asked about your daily schedule, your friends, your work, your favourite shops, restaurants and holiday spots? How about if they wanted to know which books you read or what kinds of meals you like? Would you find that a little unsettling? Would you at least ask why this person wanted this information? And what if they said that they wanted to sell this information onto someone else that you’d never met. Putting to aside privacy issues and business models, many of which essentially take information about you and render it into money by selling it to someone else, there’s the issue of peer pressure. With Facebook, for example, there is pressure not only to be on the site and constantly update what you are doing, but to always be ‘up’ and looking good. No wonder people are leaving such sites. A poll by YouGov last year found that in the UK Facebook use had fallen by 9% over the 12-months to March 2013, while in Australia 400,000 people left Facebook during the first 4 months of 2013. Facebook ‘Likes’ are also starting to feel stale, especially when companies are openly offering discounts to people if they ‘like’ their page. Sales promotion by a different name. There’s also the cool factor or, if you prefer, Facebook’s MySpace moment. Now that so many parents have signed up to Facebook to spy on their kids, many kids have moved onto the likes of Snapchat.

2014 Trends

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Political populism
Fed up with corrupt politicians, out dated and unfair candidate selection methods and unpopular economic policies, people across the world are becoming more distrustful than ever of professional politicians. Within Europe, disenchantment with the EU and enforced ‘European identity’ also means that people are attempting to seize back what was once theirs – namely national identity and national pride. If traditional political parties are unwilling or unable to provide this due to a need for consensus then people will seek new leaders and new parties instead.

The danger here is that national identity requires a clear definition of difference, which by definition casts a shadow of doubt over everyone else that is not part of the chosen group. T-shirts reading: “I grew here, you flew here” and “Swiss Born” are not innocent fashion statements or a form of localism, but the popular cloaking of xenophobia and hatred.

At the moment non-professional politicians and homemade political parties are fairly innocent forms of protest, but watch out for ‘man of the people’ types rejecting rationalism in favour of vehemence and especially anyone offering up an easy target as a solution for current woes.

Trends for 2014

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Self-monitoring (or self-tracking) links to big data, life logging and the quantified self movement. The trend started in the US, with sports and fitness fanatics using wearable sensors to measure things such as how far they’d run, but it’s now extended into health and wellbeing and many people are now monitoring how much they’re eating, how many calories they’re burning, how much (and what type of) sleep they’re getting and even what mood they are in using mobile or wearable sensors. As you’d imagine, self-tracking fits with gamification too, as data can be linked with rewards, status and even with private forms of currency. In the future we could be using wearables to track everything from air quality and time spent reading to (rather ironically) time spent on devices.

Nike + Fuel Band, FitBit and mySleep Analyser are good early examples.
More on self-tracking here.

2014 Key Trends

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Big Data
Big Data is going to be big in 2014. The idea is hardly new, but investments are growing alongside understanding and as a result I’d expect traction to kick in this year. Big data, which is linked to both wearable computing and the emergent Internet of Things, is essentially the idea that more and more of what we do everyday is becoming observable and to some extent predictable thanks to devices that capture and transmit data. In other words, many things that were previously closed, opaque or private are becoming open, transparent and public and can be rendered into data and in some cases money. There are huge privacy issues associated with big data and we should expect some kind of backlash at some point, but used wisely big data could be transformative.

Top Trends for 2014

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1. Real & Raw
Digitalisation and virtualisation, and the resultant dizziness and remoteness of everyday life, are creating a growing interest in things that are local, slow, real and raw. The localisation, voluntary simplicity and slow movements have been around for a while, but they appear to be gaining momentum of late and have spun off a number of connections ranging from hobby baking to sewing. Meanwhile, digital perfection and homogeneity are spawning an interest, not only in provenance, but in patina and one-off imperfection.This can be seen in high-end fashion, for example the trend for artful distress is especially evident at the luxury end of the fashion world, but some might argue that this is neither real nor raw. A better example can be found in the classic car market, where cracked leather and faded paint are now more valuable that restored perfection.

Image: Drivingphilosopher.blogspot.com