Technology Empowers the Maker Generation
In the second of our three part series on 2018 trends, we now turn our gaze to technology. In this piece, we’re going to look at social trends produced by technology, rather than tech trends in and of themselves – there’s already squillions of posts out there on AR before VR, blockchain, mobile first approaches, addressable media, voice and mood recognition, data driven content and video content, just to name a few “trends”. Instead, we’ll be looking at social and cultural nuances directly influenced by technology, specifically as they relate to Generation Z, otherwise known as The Maker Generation.
Generation Z is fascinating and of great importance for a number of reasons. Firstly, in the Middle East Gen Z comprises half of the regional population – double that of the US or UK. Gen Z are our first true digital natives, born to digital-savvy parents – namely GenX – into a world of advanced technological accessibility on a personal scale, with smartphones and social media for example prevalent in their lives since birth. This is the generation that will deal with “the singularity” and will need to assume the lead in addressing the social, moral, economic, ethical and political questions that the advent of such advances necessarily demand. Then there’s the small issue of looming environmental catastrophe that they must address. The reality and viewpoint of this generation will be so different to any other generation the world has seen – and we are already seeing signs of this emerging.
But before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s take a look at where things heading today, in 2018.
Today’s young adult is different. Unlike their millennial counterparts, a hallmark of Gen Z is a realistic and practical worldview; young adults of today don’t have experience of a life before economic instability and certainly don’t expect opportunities to be handed to them, rather they know that they have to make their own opportunities and be financially responsible. Industriousness, the ability to multi-task, resourcefulness, collaboration and entrepreneurship are hallmarks of this generation. Accessible, crowdfunded tech and collaborative workspaces are emerging symbols of this new way of working: check out the beautiful work being produced by Pier 9, as one example, where one exhibition required that each piece be made available via Instructables and a Creative Commons license, inviting anyone to collaborate.
While some educators lament that, as a result of technology, the attention span of this generation has dwindled, others recognize that the education system itself must necessarily change to become more collaborative. This is the generation that can code, does schoolwork on the cloud and is highly visual due the digital nature of work and interaction. “Gen Z have always known how to pinch and swipe. They have grown up with hi-def, surround sound, 3D and now 4D – 360 degree photography and film is their normal. Ultra slow motion and hi-speed video is their standard.” (Sparks & Honey, Pew Research, 2012).
Where are our young rebels, our wild-eyed-yet-wet-behind-the-ears individuals demanding a brighter future and showing us the way through music, art and culture? They’re not hanging out, partying or protesting the way generations before have done. But that doesn’t mean for a second that this generation is apathetic, far from it. This generation is different.
According to a recent “Think With Google” study, only 15% of Gen Z prefer to connect in person versus 56% who would rather connect through SMS or messaging apps. According to the same study, nearly 3 in 10 teens say they text with people who they’re physically with at the time.
What does this say?
When you overlay this data with other behavioral and attitudinal data, we start to see a clearer picture; this generation sees themselves as collaborative change-agents, a group that will hack the world for the better. And while potentially more physically reclusive than generations that have come before them, in this region, they still want to stand out and online is where their party’s at. In fact, I would argue that online is where GenZ’s “id” – the part of the personality that demands gratification of needs and pleasures – finds its outlet. Looking at this through the theory of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, you can begin to see how technology, particularly social technology is impacting the two top tiers – those being self-fulfillment and psychological needs.
On World View.
As you can see, interesting research is beginning to emerge on this generation. According to a study conducted by the Center of Generational Kinetics, personal safety is high on Gen Z’s agenda. They can articulate the impact that social media has on their sense of self worth. Nearly half (42%) report they’ve been bullied online. Being a generation focused on positive and inclusive social movement Gen Z won’t tolerate these actions and it will be interesting to see how they find ways to solve this issue. Youth research consultancy Sparks & Honey found that Gen Z’s outlook is about togetherness; they’re more mature and have greater humility as realists compared to Millennials. Other research indicates a keen sense of financial responsibility.
A creative, resourceful and hyper-connected generation is emerging; one which is vastly different to millennials. For brands to meaningfully engage with The Maker Generation, they must find ways to nurture and empower their ambitions, to listen, collaborate, engage in real-time and ultimately have the confidence to stand back and watch them fly.