Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Generation Go

This week's Social Media Week gatherings in 11 cities around the world -- from Hamburg and Hong Kong to Singapore and Sao Paulo -- are focusing on the role of Twitter, Facebook and other social networks as a catalyst for cultural, political, economic and social change. The theme is "Empowering Change through Collaboration." But the big takeaway so far? Social media innovation in 2012 won't be about Playing Nice with Others so much as creating new ways to battle the status quo.

Madison Avenue is ready and waiting. Tonight, at a special Valentine's Day panel on "connectedness" at J. Walter Thompson's Midtown headquarters, JWT's Worldwide Digital Director David Eastman shared research by his agency's trendspotters on what they're calling "Generation Go" -- an emerging cohort of cause-wired citizens who will use social media to support ever-higher levels of self-organizing across society. "We're becoming hyper-documentarians, chronicling everying -- the big, the small and everything in between -- in words, pictures, video and emoticons as it happens," says Eastman. "Generation Go is finding opportunity in economic advertisty, with many using social media as a platform for their entrepreneurial energies." [See his Top 2012 Trends in Social.] The moniker struck a chord among many #SMWNYC attendees, including Noni Cavaliere, who counted herself a member and tweeted this definition: "We go, not wait for someone to tell us to go." Fellow attendee Valerie Morini tweeted that "Generation Go is more of a mindset" favoring "entrepreneurship" and "change without invitation."

Reflecting back on a year of social media-driven uprisings in the Middle East and on Wall Street, Meetup Founder and CEO Scott Heiferman took it all a little further, saying social media have unleashed widespread energy among citizens seeking to build a new society of parallel political and economic systems. "The future is going to be defined around the idea that people are going to render the old economy somewhat pointless," Heiferman told the #SMW12 crowd. "We're at the very early stage of a true revolution, in that people are turning away from big media and big business and big finance, big pharma, big food. What we're doing on Facebook and Twitter and other social platforms is inventing new kinds of transactions. We're turning to each other now and increasingly for what we need." Heiferman cited the emerging group of networked services like airbnb and Parker from Streetline. "Thanks to social media," he said, "people in social networks are starting to sell or rent or buy from each other. They're renting their excess parking spaces to each other and insuring each other. That might not sound like a lot, but it is no small thing when people have in these tools the power to start creating an economy outside the prevailing system."

Heiferman called this new economy a "do-it-ourselves" economy -- "something between our everyday social interactions on Facebook and our activism in movements like Occupy" that is enabling people to "turn to each other to get what they need" outside the traditional system.

Andrew Rasiej, the founder of the Personal Democracy Forum, followed Heiferman, saying the market trends are reflective of broader changes across society. "...We live in an era of a new currency" of friends and family and relationships we can trust, he said tonight. Government, for example, "will not get fixed. It is going to get redesigned and rebuilt" by wired citizens demanding faster, more responsive and transparent institutions and social systems.

"...We should not wait to fix the 20th century political system or wait for the 21st century democracy to get built," Rasiej said. "The 21st century democracy and economy will be built by us, by activists, by engineers who understand that the power of technology is not based in the hallways of Congress but in the streets all over the world."

For more on this week's Social Media Week panels, see the schedule and collection of livestreams.

-- Marcia Stepanek

(Photograph of torn poster of deposed Tunisian President Ben Ali by Murat Sarica-2011)

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