Future Shock: teenagers’ use of media in 2020

CREATIVE magazine just published my scenario on how media consumption and technology will affect our lifestyle in 10 – 20 years. As with all future scenarios, this is an informed extrapolation and as bullet-proof as the next one (Ben Cooper’s for example). I took teenagers quick adaption of new technologies and constant desire to communicate their “state” and emotions as a starting point. Describing the year 2020 and my relationship with my then teenage daughter I am quite glad that, at least for now, communicating with my baby is 100% analog.

Tim and his daughter

(the following appeared in CREATIVE “Innovation” issue, August 2007)

I admit it. I still have to learn how to be a relaxed parent of a teenage daughter: I simply cannot get a reading on her anymore. And that’s because ever since her 13th birthday, a few days ago in May of 2020, she’s blocked me from accessing her OMNI-feed.

But let me recap. We had a huge argument on her birthday because for days she had been refusing to switch off her Universal Studios movie character during breakfast. She had picked some actress from a Sci-Fi teen flick, so that instead of a reasonably sweet girl I kept having cereal with a pumped-up space goddess that only spoke in extra-terrestrial tongues. Part of me now regrets having opted-in to the Universal kit when we had our house rewired to “Entertainment XL”. The kit had included real-time voice-altering plus 3D-projection of your favourite movie characters into the home, with all characters customisable and ready to be used for gameplay as well as in real life situations. Hey, I just couldn’t resist the temptation to play Halo 9 in full surround graphics and being able to interrupt anytime for virtually hitting the local Thai for quick dinner ordering. Plus, in fully-projected combat gear, I can still scare the living daylights out of our postie. Except for hosting weekend parties in Bogota, crazy action simply doesn’t get any more “real” than this.
But now my daughter uses the same kit to spice our weekday mornings with a superhero extravaganza. When I threatened to cut down her Vodafone COM-account, in case she didn’t stop switching skins with this movie avatar, she stormed out of the house.

I know curtailing a teenager’s communication funds is nowadays equal to house arrest; especially to (in marketing speak) members of the “GeneratiON”, but I’m still the Dad. This Generation’s ability to be switched ON at all times doesn’t cease to amaze me. Their attitude to brands and advertising has changed to the point that all brands are forced to bribe them with communication credit and entertainment tokens. Nothing else gets their attention and participation in return. Even further, some brands are now offering micro-payments and virtual credits through mobile-readable RFID-chips on their products. These loyalty relationships result in immediate sales, loosen the retail’s grip on the customer and have dealt heavy blows to brands relying on more traditional sales and distribution models.

So this generation is constantly switched on, tuned in and transmitting a constant stream of me, myself and I…except I seem to be out of that loop. I cannot access my daughter’s live OMNI-stream of bio and mood stats, messages, vision-snapshots and video. I get diverted to her video-dropbox and today I am just not in the mood to interact with another avatar, this time the cutesy pixie she received with our movie package. I can predict that by now, most of my daughter’s top-rated peers from school will have received her video rant on what an uncool Dad I have become. And that vid-burst will probably be attached to a citysearch-sponsored GPS-track. That track would then bring them, together with their handsets, to a place all group members have tagged with audio and picture-collages as the top spot for venting teenage angst over coffee.

So I hope she finally did go to her Financial High School, where we enrolled her not only because of her love of math, but also because banks offered to fund her education in exchange for a 5-year employment deal after graduation. Her dad meanwhile will have to stall his parental concerns and get online to convene the last round of conceptual design for an ad pitch next week. My role at the agency has now evolved away from churning out projects with my fixed teams to structuring and nurturing the creative process in our collaborative ad space. Creative consumers, experts in relevant fields and numerous freelancers, no matter where they are based, come together as the best people at the right time to work on a particular campaign. This model now frees ad teams from overhead and tedious market research. Concepts are drawn up and afterwards rolled out with production companies. At the same time some consumers have the opportunity to step out of their amateurish production surroundings in social networks and commercialise their talents without committing to a full career in advertising. Well, I guess nobody quits their day job anyhow because the concept of the day job evaporates.

Hmm, getting back to the day job of being a parent; maybe I should consider hiring my daughter for the pitch. This way I could at least stay on top of what’s going ON in the real world.

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2 responses to “Future Shock: teenagers’ use of media in 2020

  1. I was totally with you until, “…My role at the agency has now evolved away from churning out projects…”

    Come on, that’s a bit far-fetched, isn’t it? 😉

  2. Alan,
    this is where I started dreaming…in the future I would like to gently give birth to them.

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