Sociologist Philip Cohen, who is at the helm of the post-demographic movement and penned the open letter to Pew, highlights the differing experiences between Black and white people, immigrants and natives, and children with and without iPads as paradoxes that shape our behaviours just as much as age.
‘People experience history differently based on their backgrounds,’ he writes. ‘So throwing everyone together by year of birth often misses all the glorious conflict and complexity in social change.’ As a result of Cohen’s passion, Pew is now in a period of reflection, inviting researchers such as Cohen to share their perspectives on the future of generational labels.
It’s probably a matter of time until the most forward-thinking businesses take the initiative to shun these labels, instead involving their communities in the decision about how they are addressed. But while the marketing world will be most responsible for implementing these changes, creative solutions are already appearing in the design sector.
In a recent manifesto by creative research lab IAM, co-founders Lucy Black-Swan and Andres Colmenares called for ‘design for plurality', which they described as ‘designing against the polarisation of societies by dissolving the binarism of us vs. them’. It’s an idea that, in practice, could use design to ease our reliance on lazy segregations, from gender to political leaning.
It's an exciting time for those working in our industry. As Neo-collectivism begins to take hold, and citizens sharpen their understanding of themselves as members of wider, more complex groups as opposed to consumer types sketched by mid-level marketing associates, we can expect these false dichotomies to be replaced by language that speaks to the age-agnostic communities of the future.
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