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Finding meaning in a tech-driven culture – Top 4 Macro Trends

by Ofentse Sefolo
Finding meaning in a tech-driven culture – Top 4 Macro Trends

Representatives from FLOORS and WALLS&ROOFS and magazine attended the recent International Trend Institute (ITI) Macro Trend Review hosted by the African Institute of the Interior Design Professions (IID), together with Belgotex. Each year these trends provide an overview of the shifts defining our worlds.

The review uncovers and shares the common threads tying together social branding, business, lifestyle and technology trends because understanding this world we live in is essential for us all.

The overarching idea, Re/purposed, aims to answer the question: Why are we here? It explores the ways in which we are all trying to find a sense of meaning in our lives. As technology does more and more for us, and our relationships with others become increasingly mediated, we have to look for new ways of making what we do count.

By exploring themes like the rise of kindness culture, the rediscovery of the self outside of technology, ethical business developments, and attempts to create more moral technology, Re/purposed captures what’s important to us in the here and now. People are in search of purpose and are asking the question, “Why do I exist?”

1. Fore/sight

As technology and design accelerate, what are the new ethical frontiers to consider?

Our moral framework takes time to catch up as our world changes so rapidly. Let’s look at a few examples. Humane genomes are already being edited or altered resulting in genetic humans; algorithms are making decisions which reflect the biases of those who created them; digital human beings are being created and have actually been featured in Vogue magazine – the fashion bible of the industry. These are all fake certifications of humanity. There is a deep fake rise, for example, in artificial faces which do not exist and 2019 is the year we have to watch out for this. We have become lazy and need to rehumanise networks again. We are not considering the networks happening around us and what actions we should take. Instead, we have lost control by allowing technology to make decisions for us.

Remember to formalise an ethical framework of technology. When we order Uber Eats, do we actually consider the person riding their bike to deliver your meal while its pouring with rain? Or do we simply focus on the delivery of a product irrespective of how this impacts somebody else?

Where to from here:
• Consider the system and product before you engage and take any type of action.
• Be ethical and innovative when making digital decisions.
• Don’t forget the reality around you. Stay human by holding onto your emotions and feelings.

2. Response/able

Now that we know what our impact on our world is, how should we respond?

Brands need to take a stand and have to be meaningful and authentic. Regarding consumers, 46% second guess brands that take a social stand and as such, businesses need to have a solid purpose. Cultures also need to become more responsible and people have to be held to account, especially when it comes to sustainable living. Starbucks and McDonalds are coming together to create a better cup that is considered sustainable. When it comes to CEO’s, 36% feel like they are being held responsible – this is where corporate accountability plays a key role.

The goal is to develop an ethical culture and to choose personal impact over image. This personal impact also needs to be reassessed. 

Very often people understand the impact but are not financially educated. This raises the question; how well did you spend your money and how responsible are the companies that you spend it with? Currently everyone is looking at straws and bags. Another problem is personal care such as sunscreen. Chemically based products and their impact on the environment are under the microscope.

Where to from here:
• Create an ethical culture that understands the impact of what they do.
• Own your responsibility. Accountability is not an option, it’s a must.
• Choose impact over image. The effect you have on others is more important than the image you project to the world.

3. Self/conscious

When we live such connected digital lives, where is the space for individual agency?

We are redefining ourselves and our place in the world. A total of 63% of employees say that their jobs have no meaning i.e. they are disengaged. People are looking for purpose and meaning we function within the Universe of Me with amazing technology that serves the individual. For example, Alexa picks up on the tone of your voice and thereafter sends you products. However, at the same time, technology makes us narcissistic as the digital space makes us become wonderful in everything we do. When we pose questions using technology, it’s always about “me”. “What is the best gym for me?” “What is the best car for me?” “Me. Me. Me.”

We also have to be weary. Will bots erode our free will? A good example is Google Assistant. You set the limitations and this assistant becomes a virtual bot that actually speaks and acquires what you are looking for. It has been designed to use phrases such as “uhm” which we as humans use daily, and you would never guess you were speaking to a bot.

There is also a shift taking place in social media. For example Finstagram. This is an Instagram profile which exposes the real you whilst Instagram is a place where you allow others to see what you want them to see.

In terms of technology, we need to slow down! People want to own their data again and going offline may become more appealing in due time. 

Where to from here?

• Don’t confuse convenience with co-dependence.
• Don’t be a data creep, ask before you use. Just because it’s available doesn’t mean it’s available to you.
• Remain open and transparent and question how you will use your data efficiently.

4. Human/kind

What if the fundamental reason we’re here is to be kind to each other?

Your purpose starts with being kind. Kindness spurs happiness. There is even a scorecard that measures how kind you have been through your interactions with others. Propel yourself from mindfulness to kindfullness. For example, kindness in the tech space – the more polite you are to google assistant the more polite it is to you.

Around 44% of people feel that communication is an extension of their homes. Loneliness is an increasing trend which is why people try to find connections via their chosen families. 

Where to from here:

• Be more human and create connections through acts of kindness.
• Be more hospitable and invite people into your life even if it is through the use of technology.
• Be kind! Simple.

In Summary

• Stop being lazy and become involved with your digital connections or with technology. Take back control in a world driven by technology and find ways of using it to your benefit without it running your life for you. The key words here are – personal touch.
• Brands need to be authentic and meaningful. If they associate themselves with social messages, they could lose their desired impact. Remember, authenticity is key; it’s not just about a brand’s image.
• Stop being narcissistic. Identify the fake and find a sense of purpose and meaning again. Reclaim your data and consider periodic offline options.
• Be kind and find happiness. Fight loneliness in a digitally responsible manner. Don’t be fooled by what isn’t real or true.

We live in a world controlled by technology and as each day goes by this it continues to spread its wings and infiltrate every aspect of our lives. It is wise to consider these trends and decide the way forward as an individual.

Acknowledgment and thanks go to the IID Tel: +27 (66) 486 3214 / Email: national@iidprofessions.org.za) and Belgotex Tel: +27 (33) 897 7500 or www.belgotex.co.za for the information contained in this article.

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