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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 Resourceful

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My previous blog post was about the model you can use to understand movements in lifestyles in the Networked Society. If you missed that post you can find it here.  In this post, let’s look closer at the Resourceful.the-resourceful-588x300

The Resourceful employ the most attractive positions in society and are made up of business owners, entrepreneurs, investors, innovators, managers, leaders, information and knowledge workers, artists and creative workers, highly skilled specialists, and high-level politicians and government officials. The Resourceful have either economic, cultural, or social capital – and in many cases they have plenty of all three. They also have the ability to trade in cultural and social capital for economic capital and are, therefore, not always dependent on a traditional paycheck to carry them in their life as consumers. The Resourceful are, per capita, the strongest consumption class in the Networked Society, but as they are also the smallest group, they are primarily a force in terms of opinion leadership related to consumption.

The group spends a lot of their economic capital on consumption, but also uses their cultural and social capital to access and acquire the products, services, and consumption experiences they want. Many brands in all sorts of categories will allow them to use their products and services for free in order to reach out to other consumers through the networks of the Resourceful.

In short, the Resourceful:

  • have economic, cultural and/or social capital
  • belong to influential networks
  • seek extraordinary experiences
  • prioritize health and wellbeing
  • make conscious statements about global sustainability.

Explore more about The Resourceful 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 >>>

Tales of transforming cities

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The fifth report in our Future of Commerce and Consumption report series, The Tale of Two Transforming Cities, depicts two cities that are redefining themselves through ICT and entrepreneurship. In the research for these reports, we visited two iconic American cities, Detroit and San Francisco: Detroit once famous for its motor industry, now more known for all its abandoned buildings and a budding entrepreneur scene; San Francisco known (apart from the classic tourist spots) for the tech companies in the Silicon Valley. Both these cities are redefining themselves through a number of grassroots initiatives and startups trying to solve a number of challenges.

Detroit is particularly interesting because it involves the failure of two of capitalism’s most important institutions: big corporations and government. When traditional institutions like those are no longer around to provide people with a place to be and a sense of meaning in everyday life, it becomes an increasingly individual project to make sense of the world and society. In Detroit, a new scene of small-scale businesses and social entrepreneurs is rising to fill the gap the institutions left and building a new identity. This movement includes the return of local craftsmanship, changed consumption patterns – such as buying local and avoiding big international brands – and community activism. One example of the new type of social businesses that are stepping in where society has failed is Rebell Nell. Rebell Nell is a graffiti jewelry workshop that employs disadvantaged women in Detroit and educates them in financial management to give them the platform to successfully change to an independent life.

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Rebel Nell encourages the rise of local craft businesses

If you find a lot of space and affordable properties in Detroit, San Francisco is the opposite. In San Francisco people are aware that the big corporations and the government are not going to fix the challenges we face. The “creative elite” is taking the visionary lead, both commercially and socially, and expectation is placed on digital technology’s ability to conquer the social and environmental problems of today. Yerdle, for example, is an San Francisco business with a higher purpose – an ambition to reduce the number of new things we all have to buy by 25 percent by swapping things we don’t use.

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Yerdle modernizes swapping and barter to reduce consumption

These types of developments are, of course, something that you can discover all over the world in different cities, with different starting points and different shapes. The New York Times recently published an article about Pittsburgh once known for its steel mills, but is now changing through a new food and tech boom that attracts people to the city. Which is the next American city in transformation we will read about?

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 >>>

Working life as we know it is changing dramatically

A few days ago I wrote a new post on how working life is changing as we enter the Networked Society and eight areas that we will see more of at work. Read the post at the Networked Society blog >>>

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