Consumers; is there another way?
No more consumers. The age of consumerism is drawing to a close. Sure, there will always be people buying and not creating, those subject to the powers of a copywriter’s persuasion. But the relationship between those selling stuff, making content, providing services, and those buying it, watching it, enlisting it, I believe that this is fundamentally changing.
The economic aspect will come first, for sure. New ways to purchase, swap, stream, support, subscribe, all of these things – but with that, a new kind of social dynamic will emerge. And those that are still left consuming, and not creating, will find themselves at the edge, irrelevant, or more irrelevant than they are already.
There’s a great divide. Those making content, and those consuming it. The physics of that divide are scrawled across marketing handbooks. Targeting, suggestive messaging, emotional manipulation by any other name – the relationship between the creator and the consumer is often anything but organic or authentic. Yet, I believe that being real is what people really want. They yearn for a connection with those that they watch, listen to, read about.
Being on the creator side of that pile opens your eyes, perhaps to just how restricted creators are. Monetarily, it’s a numbers game – likes, comments, clicks, buys. The more eyeballs, the more money – and so content is geared towards precisely that, attention-seeking behaviour. Nuance gets lost in an internet without an economic incentive for it. The same goes for trust.
Is there another way, a third way between creating content, and consuming it? Is there another way to marketing? Could fans be organisers? Could the economy be spliced up in such a way that nobody had set, defined jobs? Rather, one might have a whole collection of different projects in which to turn one’s hand. More flexibility in work could allow the economy to be driven by passion, rather than fear of no money.
Is it so necessary that a section of society were to own so much? Having an unequal society, does this not horrendously damage a society’s culture, because its members are not in an economically stable position such that they can contribute their passions to it?
Speaking on a personal note, since I began focusing on what I am passionate about, I’ve experienced a massive, massive uptick in my learning in such areas. I’m excited to start things, actually frustrated when I’m waiting on something in the midst of doing a project. Whereas before, doing “work” felt like a chore. It felt like a blocker from being able to do things that I wanted to do. The sheer frustration of doing things against my will, that was so strong for something else, just impeded me to the point of stagnation, and boredom.
What if everyone could do things they enjoyed doing? What if everyone could contribute to projects (or causes) that they wanted to contribute to? What if the future was something shared, what if prosperity was something shared, and the threat of destitution didn’t have to be the driver of economic progress?
For truly, when we are desperate with fear, do we make good decisions? No. Any trader, business leader, or government official worth their salt, will tell you that. A child would tell you that. Further, when we are desperate with greed, do we make good decisions? No. Ditto the previous sentence.
So from a micro perspective, it doesn’t make sense to have an unequal society. Society isn’t a zero-sum game. It has never been a zero- sum game, and it will never be so. People are not digits. They can produce things greater than things that a spreadsheet can possibly take into account. And technology is starting to realise this.
The crux of the matter is that, from the perspective of any decision-maker sitting behind a laptop, people are only as complex as her data allows them to be. You can’t measure happiness, but you can measure a person’s income. This also links to discussions around how GDP is measured.
The more complex and intimate (and human) our measuring tools, perhaps, the more we can facilitate the confluence between actions which increase the happiness/wellbeing of society and economic incentives. This is also true of new economies, where intelligently thought-out economic games can converge with acts which enhance societal wellbeing.
As Fabian Vogelstellar has said, we can’t code these kinds of choices generally. We have to provide people with the tools to choose what they want. But creating business models which make being decent, responsible and honest actually profitable – this is a really important step which needs to be taken in tandem with people choosing what they want.
Is there a third way? Can we escape the creator consumer dissection of society? Perhaps, if more of the population got the opportunity from an economic standpoint to be creators. Perhaps also, if there was a distinct change in attitude towards how we saw content.
Rather than simply judging it, perhaps we could add to it, be a part of it. Perhaps by giving those people who are consumers, more ways to be part of the content that they love, where they cross the divide towards creating so subtly that they barely notice it.
Perhaps part of creating will always be that those that partake in it will have to go outside of the herd, and do something that nobody else is doing. Perhaps, part of creating is always going to be that one must be a social deviant, in order to contribute something meaningful. Personally, I think that rather than going outside the herd, it’s more a case of going outside the herd mentality, to focus on yourself, your heart and what matters to you.
But this raises a new, delightfully interesting question. What if, there were games, economic, social or otherwise, that could be used to disband herd mentality?
Is herd mentality useful? In heart, yes. In thought, no. So perhaps, I’ll distinguish the two. The head will be herd mentality, the heart, will be social cohesion. For this, I’ll only be discussing herd mentality, or “groupthink”.
How could we dissolve herd mentality?
This is a complex question, and the subject of another article, perhaps.