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Mikael Eriksson Björling

Things that matters! About digital transformation, design, culture and lifestyle in the Networked Society

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Life in 2025: The Mobile

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In our model of lifestyle movements for the Networked Society in 2025, the last group, the Mobile, are difficult to pin down. To some extent they definitely want to see themselves as classless. Their overall motivation is to move between contexts without committing too heavily to one career path, one lifestyle, one life project, or one category of consumption.the-mobile-588x300

Some of them they may work on freelance basis, others might engage in various kinds of collective projects and then they may simply step back from any type of productive life, before they again seek out employment in different areas. The Mobile might quickly switch geographical and cultural contexts and may compromise a relatively good job with a good salary to take a lower paying job at an interesting location. In a sense, the Mobile are relatively empowered in society, but they tend to shy away from taking on too many challenges and responsibility. They are often highly individualistic and prioritize the accumulation of personal experiences before a career or a socially regarded position.

The Mobile focus on experiences, preferably as alternative as possible. They collect these experiences and use digital tools, services, and social media to maintain and manage their narrative of their life experiences. They prefer to live light in order to stay flexible and they exercise a mobile lifestyle. Accordingly, they avoid owning and possessing things and instead choose access-based models. Being highly digital in everything they do and consume allows them to stay light, flexible, and mobile.

The Mobile:

  • move between contexts
  • focus on experiences
  • own as little as possible
  • are highly individualistic
  • shy from responsibilities
  • use digital services of access.

Explore more about The Mobile here.

Life in 2025: The Social

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In 2025’s Networked Society, the Social are empowered and have momentum in society but do not belong to a traditional labor market. They have either chosen to leave or been forced out of the traditional labor market, because of the structural changes in society, and have instead taken matters into their own hands. Accordingly, they are removed from institutionalized systems but they have also deliberately chosen to “escape the market” because they no longer believe in the traditional industrial system (because it hasn’t been able to provide for them). As they are stepping out of the system and escape the market, they are promoting an alternative economic system.the-social-588x300

Some of them move from traditional forms of work to focusing a majority of their time and effort in the categories they are passionate about. They become more and more involved in these categories, until a point where they start to add productive value to their consumption. This can be done in different ways. When a person becomes extremely knowledgeable about a category that she is interested in, she rises above the market, making other consumers and companies extra interested in the person’s opinions and ready to reward the person as an expert, communicating her opinions in various social media outlets or entering into more formalized co-creation with commercial providers. As a result of this, some people make their passion their occupation. This can be done by making their names in various forms of social media, making money through fashion blogging, news writing, video game reviews and other pursuits. Or, they may start up small alternative businesses, focusing on handicraft, craftsmanship, or sustainable ecological products, and eventually turn their passion into their living.

The Social:

  • operate outside the traditional labor market
  • focus on their passions
  • disrupt the traditional ways
  • are empowered by and dependent on their own community
  • take collaborative initiatives
  • form alternative networks.

Explore more about The Social here.

Life in 2025: The Anchored

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The Anchored are the people steadily rooted in the middle class, which was once the result of the 20th century industrialization. In 2025, they are still living in the traditional industrial economic system. While they used to be employed in the manufacturing industry and related sectors, in the 21st century they have migrated increasingly to the service sector.the-anchored-588x300

A majority of the Anchored hold jobs in retail, sales functions, the catering industry, transportation, logistics, healthcare, customer service functions, and IT service functions. Some still work in the manufacturing industries and in civil servant positions, but they are significantly fewer than before due to a decreased need for traditional labor in these sectors and, in the case of government, due to significantly weaker finances.

The Anchored are the people in the Networked Society who most hold on to traditional, 20thcentury values. Due to their diminishing financial means, they are increasingly consuming only basic, automatically manufactured products in most categories, while saving up to acquire one or a few more goods loaded with material status.

The Anchored:

  • work within the traditional industrial economic system
  • value traditions and stability
  • focus on material status
  • divide life into work and leisure
  • save up to acquire a few goods loaded with material status
  • focus on affordable experiences.

Explore more about The Anchored here.

Life in 2025: The Players

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In the Networked Society of 2025, the Players are outside the economic system or have never been invited into it. They also lack the ability, skills, connections, and motivation to get back into the game, land a traditional job, or organize themselves. They do temporary jobs here and there, live off various forms of social security payments, and exchange favors with family and friends. Most of the Players have plenty of time at their disposal, and spend their time primarily on entertainment and games of various kinds. Sometimes they are pulled into different initiatives, but they rarely organize themselves.

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The Players often live under strained conditions and sometimes even struggle to take care of some of their basic needs. Many of them can’t really afford to own a home, but they tend to value their possessions greatly.

The Players spend much of their time playing in different ways. Primarily they consume easily available entertainment of all kinds: TV, movies, games, sports, social media, betting, and adult entertainment. Many of them seek out free alternatives on the market, whether legal (freemium business models) or illegal (such as pirate streaming of TV and video).

The Players:

  • operate outside the traditional labor market
  • have plenty of time
  • engage in digitally enabled entertainment
  • seek out free alternatives
  • value possessions and personal security.

Explore more about The Players here.

Life in 2025: A new model for emerging roles

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We are now sixteen years into the new millennium and we have had internet and a global standard for mobile telephony for a quarter of a century. The new millennium marks in many ways the transition from the age of industrialization to a new paradigm, which we call The Networked Society.

Now, with some distance, we are able to see the age of industrialization for what it really was. To generalize, it was an era of escalating capitalism, mass-manufacturing, mass-consumption, and a highly modernistic organization of life into clear cut categories, invented by the great institutions of the 20th century: governments and large enterprises.

During the age of industrialization the individual left her rural and collective societies, moved into cities and urban areas, separated work life from private life, made more money than ever before, increased her standard of living, and started to consume the fruits of the free markets. But how are these structures being challenged? What is happening with life and lifestyles right now? In what direction are we moving? How are values and attitudes changing? And what clusters of different lifestyles do we see emerging? These are some of the questions we explore in the Life in 2025 work. This work is based on multiple sources from the research we done the last five years (which you are welcome to explore at The Networked Society site)

On an overall level we’d argue that it’s possible to understand the new structure of society along two dimensions: inside the system vs. outside the system; that is, those that are part of established institutions, networks, and employment and those who are not. The next dimension is if you are empowered or dependent; that is, those who are active in society and strive to control their own situation and those who are dependent on other groups in society and with less control of their own situation. This gives us four macro level groups to consider: The Resourceful, The Social, The Players, and The Anchored. Into this model we also want to plot a fifth group we expect to emerge in the Networked Society, The Mobile, which gives us the following model.life-in-2025-588x300

All these groups have different life conditions, their lifestyles, values and attitudes are different. So this model is a framework for thinking and analyzing, rather than a quantified picture of the world. The size of the quadrants and how many people that will be empowered vs. dependent is very much a political and ideological question and this will be different in different countries. I hope you’ll join me over the course of my next five blogposts, as I describe the different lifestyles one by one.

Read more the the Networked Society blog >>>

The new world of consumers

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I recently read a review in the Guardian about Frank Trentmann’s 1.5 kg book “How We Became a World of Consumers, from the Fifteenth Century to the Twenty-First”, that is spot on a subject we are working hard on right now. I’ve bought an e-book version already, but – like an old-fashioned consumer – I feel a need to get a paper version just to feel the weight.

Trentmann writes that “In the early seventeenth century, for example, men and women in Bondorf and Gebersheim, two villages in Württemberg, Germany, owned 3 and 12 articles of clothing respectively. A century later, the number had shot up to 16 and 27 pieces. By 1800, it had doubled again.”  This development has continued through the centuries, and we continue to own more and more things. But is there an end?

We are in the midst of a major transformation of all areas of society and there is a lot of talk about transforming industries and the emergence of the industrial internet and so on. But in fact, what we’ve always seen throughout history is that when industries change, they do so in conjunction with the customer side. And customer demands for change can be motivated by either lifestyle or work-life factors. In other words, industrial and societal changes are two sides of the same coin.twosidedcoin-600x240

he accumulation of these changes becomes clearly visible when you line up how we have consumed throughout history, from the early days of hunting and gathering to the industrialized society, where the modern consumer was born and which is now a stage of major transformation.

To zoom back in to a personal level, I’ve been thinking about how my own patterns have changed these past years. My money is now completely digital – with few exceptions, I have not used Swedish cash for years. My mobile transactions are also starting to pick up – a lot of thing that I used to buy as physical products are now online services (such as music and software). And a lot of the things I need, I order online (while on the other hand, I am also very involved in, for example, buying locally and organically produced food). And these are just a handful of personal changes.

To illustrate the big shift, we have created an infographic about the changing consumer across history. This is a companion to our new report series on shape-shifting consumers and the new forms of commerce and consumption in the Networked Society. In these, we track both production and consumption evolving constantly throughout history and accelerating in the Networked Society.

Returning to Trentmann example above, it’s not so much that we are seeing an end to the growth in consumption, but rather a rapid expansion in the forms of both consumption and production and, with that, a far more complex and fluid understanding of what it now means to be a consumer.

Related links

The consumer is dead. Long live the user!

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The essence of industrialization was to automate the production of things, which in turn brought about the industrialization of people, changing work and workplaces. People went from producing their own food at the countryside to producing stuff in the factories, for the stores in the cities. And so the modern consumer was born. But times are changing again!

As we move further into the Networked Society, the traditional consumer is challenged, even though the economists want consumption to keep spinning the wheel. New transformative businesses go to market with new business models at the same time as people’s behaviors are starting to change.

“Why own a car when you can just have one when you need it?” is what you can hear from young urban dwellers today.

Putting it simply, there are two major trends ahead for commercial life: (1) the big project for businesses is to automate the consumption or usage processes, and (2) traditional business models and the logic of the capitalistic economic system are challenged by “involved consumption” and the “sharing economy”.

This week, we release five reports about the future of commerce and consumption. This is the quick guide to these reports:

  1. Disruption of the old consumption logic: This report is about how we moved from an age of industrialization to the Networked Society and how the consumer logic once again will change.
  2. Emerging consumer values: This report reviews the expectations people will have on businesses as well as a set of emerging consumption dichotomies.
  3. The sharing economy: This report analyses the different parts of the sharing economy, such as barter trade, local currencies and cooperatives.
  4. The consumer in the Networked Society: This report outlines the characteristics of the future consumer.
  5. A tale of two transforming cities: Case studies highlighting urban transformation in Detroit and San Francisco and how progressive businesses and individuals organize consumption.
  6. The evolution of the consumer: infographic.

A new kind of shopping trip – how the virtual and real are blending

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In my last post over the holiday season, I examined the increased usage of convenient and fast digital services and consumption experiences, and how that somewhat paradoxically also drives more analog – and often passionate – experience of crafting things physically, which is encouraged and reinforced by online communities for nearly any topic you can imagine.

But this dichotomy will not last. As we interact with more and more things and spaces around us, the digital and physical will merge, and this will, in the end, eliminate our thinking in terms of digital and physical, virtual and real.

These worlds are already blending in our experience of shopping, and retailers are looking hard for the best ingredients to perfect this recipe.

One interesting blend of digital and physical shopping is what Rebecca Minkoff the fashion brand does in their flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles. They try to bring the best of the digital into the store experience. You can browse collections, discover products, and select the size of items that are sent to the fitting room for trying on. In the fitting room, you can adjust the lighting to simulate different situations. Should it be nightclub light or full sunlight? The RFID tags on every item in the store makes them pop up in the magic mirror with suggestions for accessories.

Read more about his at the Networked Society blog >>>

On Singles Day, China – and the world – shops till it drops

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Yesterday was November 11th, for many an ordinary day in an ordinary week. For example, a couple of days ago I ordered a pair of new headphones from a Swedish online store. Certainly not a purchase I make every day, but an ordinary one all the same.

But yesterday, I received an ad from the same company – 25 percent off everything in the store 11/11 because it’s “Singles Day.” Singles Day is China’s – and in fact, the world’s – largest online shopping event (apparently now also present in Sweden). And in that sense, it was very much NOT an ordinary day.

This major Chinese shopping day is now “beating” the big U.S. shopping days we hear about all the time – Black Friday (this year November 27th, always the day after the United States’ Thanksgiving Day) and Cyber Monday (November 30th, the Monday after Thanksgiving Day). Last year Singles Day generated $9.34 billion online sales in a single day, compared to Cyber Monday’s and Black Friday’s combined sales of $4.15 billion.

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These massive November shopping events also mark the start of the shopping season that culminates in the celebration of Christmas, Hanukkah and other end-of-year cultural celebrations worldwide. Check out the rest of the post at the Networked Society blog >>

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