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The Holy Grail of Youth Culture

Timo Veikkola is a future strategists. His job is to think about the future. And the future his innovation groups at Nokia focus on is 2010. For some of you 2010 isn’t really the future. Well, If you’re working in mobile devices 2010 is.

In his presentation he talks about something wandering through my head ever since I watched ‘the merchants of cool’- documentary about how MTV works a few years ago.

Large corporations targeted at young people research youth cultures with anthropologists and sociologists. Analyze ‘the ghetto culture’, getting it to the design and concept team. Adapt the culture to your business strategy and enlarge the culture until it collapses. In other words until it isn’t ‘cool’ anymore.

You might like it or not, but so far there isn’t much wrong with this. Streetculture grows, blooms and dies and a new streetculture is waiting. The King is dead. Long live the King!

The only way for an organization to be up to speed with the latest trends is to make sure to find the trendsetters. Follow what they like and where they are going to and you will know where the mass is going.

In the Netherlands (and I’m sure this discussion is global) we talk about youth culture a lot. Especially video-clip culture. How hip-hop and rap video-clips are creating a polarized image of the ‘real’ world. The discussion often ends in self regulating television stations afraid of being regulated by government rules.

If you take a closer look at how trends develop. It starts with a small group. Usually a cool hunter finds them and makes sure the trend accelerates. The trend itself is not created by MTV or Nokia. The trend is magnified.

Social networks and social television are taking over the role of MTV. A trend spreads faster around the globe than the Nokia researcher can fly around it.

What if the channel MTV isn’t the magnifier anymore. What if the real magnifiers for a trend are social networks? Can they be held responsible for stimulating the bloom of youth cultures and creating a polarized image of the ‘real world’?

No they can’t. And will this be a problem? No I don’t think so, youth culture is a very healthy ecosystem changing and shifting as soon it grows. This is why you need anthropologists to track it.

Within a few years youth culture itself will be totally self regulating without parental control or government interference. Better have some trust.