Here is a cool infographic that breaks down a few of the major internet memes of 2012 and shows how they evolved. It is an interesting look into our cultural obsessions and how social media and pop cultural artifacts are a vibrant partnership
So, we are off and running on a new term. I am teaching a couple of classes, two modules online and one on campus. The campus class is Theology and Media Culture and I decided to completely overhaul it--nothing like last minute decisions to stir things up, but I wanted to chart some different territory this time around. The central theme is going to be transmedia entertainment--communication via multiple media platforms and what that does both to content and to us--hopefully it will be interesting enough to get people thinking a little more deeply about these things.
I have spent the entire day alone. I think my only interaction was with a barista this morning. I have spent most of the time catching up on some reading. I was with the Italians today--Eco, Calvino, Vattimo--all of the interwoven by a series of explorations into signs, technology and theology. I am working through Eco's Infinity of Lists which is luscious and insightful--an introduction to some ancient writings that are so beautiful and dense. I wound up with Calvino because I discovered a book by Eco--Six Walks through Fictional Woods, which is a homage of sorts to Calvino's Six Notes for the Millenium, which I used in my doctoral dissertation and subsequent book, and from there I wound up on Vattimo's blog--not sure how or why--but that is the rabbit hole of books isn't it? One idea leads to another, one author points to another's thoughts. Vattimo referenced a recent article in Prospect magazine called Postmodernism is Dead by Edward Docx (there is a glitch linking to the Prospect site but the article is here). Here is alink to an Australian radio interview he recently did. Docx gives a brief eulogy/overview of postmodernism (it's highly subjective, haha!) and argues that we have shifted to a new era characterized not by irony but a desire for authenticity. I am not sure I totally agree--I have come to believe that old ages never die--that get eclipsed, become more accepted and mainstreamed and their influence becomes more absorbed--but they don't 'die.' Not that I have any particular need to argue for it's continuing vitality, I just am conscious of the need to beware of calling time on something (bit like those who declare the end of rock or the recent emerging church comments that keep flitting around).I am not sure that the Age of Authenticity, which is the term Docx wishes to utilize for the new era unfolding around us, encompasses the scope of things, and I am not sure that I would want to argue that this is an element foreign to postmodernism--in fact, I might want to argue that it is perhaps a central tenet--but then again, it's all subjective innit?!
I spend quite a bit of time exploring consumer and trend watching sites, some of the exploration is for work-elated stuff but mainly it is out of general interest. Trendwatching publishes some really good information that you can sign up for and have just released their December trendbriefing that looks forward to 2011. The offer up a number of trends that they feel will define consumer behaviour in the next year. A couple stck out to me. Made For China, examines the gorwing number of products and services created by companies exclusively for the Chinese consumer, everything from Levi's jeans to BMW's M3Tiger, a limted edition orange-metallic car celenrating twenty-five years of BMW presence in China. This underscores the growing place of China in the world economy, and of course points to the pervasive power of consumption in our lives.Perhaps even more interesting is Generation(G)--for generosity, emerging generosity on a global scale is something that the report focuses on. They say that brands from emerging markets will be expected to do more than just 'sell and take.' According to the report they "will increasingly be expected to give, donate, care and sympathize versus just sell and take. And not just in their home countries, but on a global scale. It's a profound cultural change and a consumer demand that their counterparts in mature markets have had a few years to getting used to. Some fun stats:
86% of global consumers believe that business needs to place at least equal weight on society’s interests as on business’ interests.
78% of Indian, 77% of Chinese and 80% of Brazilian consumers prefer brands that support good causes, compared to 62% of global consumers.
8 in 10 consumers in the India, China, Mexico and Brazil expect brands to donate a portion of their profits to support a good cause. (Source: Edelman, November 2010.) The number of millionaires in India in 2009 grew 51 percent, to 126,700. (Source: Merrill Lynch, June 2010.) 88-year old Yu Pengnian became China’s first billion dollar philanthropist in April 2010. The Yu Pengnian Foundation today has USD 260 million of bank deposits, and a Hong Kong and Shenzhen property portfolio worth just under USD 1 billion, which is expected to contribute USD 50 million of cash each year to the foundation. (Source: Hurun Rich List, October 2010.) In September 2010, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett hosted a dinner for China's ultra-rich to promote philanthropy. The event was similar to their efforts to get US billionaires to pledge to give away at least half their wealth, although the two denied that they were recreating the pledge or pressurizing people to give, merely using the event to answer questions and discuss issues around developing a culture of philanthropy. (Source: Washington Post, October 2010.) In 2011, any brand or individual doing exceptionally well, will be expected to join GENERATION G.
This connecting between sales and philanthropy is something that has been gaining ground in the West for some time (think RED campaign etc.), and seems to becoming a defining charateristic of 21st century economics and consumerism.
I think there are lots of connecting points for churches and religion in these trend reports, clues as to where people are focusing their attention and desires and offer some strategic ideas for engaging them, not just for the brand-marketers, but for anyone interested in connecting with people in some meaningful way. They are like little temperature gauges.