It has been a few years since I have written about the 97ers, now commonly known as GenZ – but I believe the year of the 97er is specific because they broke the ground for all coming after them in the digital revolution. You can read my ancient posts here and watch my old TedX talk here.
In those posts I talked about how life would change fundamentally as we had all imagined once they were sitting in positions of power, of State – but I missed the interim, probably many of the interims, when they started hiring you at the grand old age of 25.
I work in technology and as you know there have been mass layoffs in the last year or so for many in the tech sector. As a result I have been asked more often than is normal to help people find a role, or to pass on news of their availability to my network and recruiters. In the old days this was an easy thing to do, but not so any more. The world has changed and I only really discovered how during a happenstance conversation with a brilliant (and similarly aged) lady to myself (*cough am 51*). She has been in recruitment for 20+ years and was bewailing how recruitment has totally changed now that ‘all hiring decisions start with analysis by a 20 something year old with no knowledge of how to read our CVs’. She went on to explain further that Covid had meant that LinkedIn had become the huge powerhouse it had always dreamed of and decades long relationships no longer mattered.
It was a conversation that sat with me as my daughter, a 97er, is also in recruitment for senior and executive roles; until that point I had simply been supportive of her career and her growth and not for one minute thought of the implications of the role she held. Once again she became my inspiration and since then she has done a roaring (free) trade in advising my recently released mates in how to make their CVs and LinkedIn profiles make sense to someone her age.
This led me back to 97ers.
It is really important and helpful to understand those GenZers in your life, particularly if they were born a year of two either side of 1997. They really have had an incredible learning journey, born into a digital world with little or no ‘adults in the room’ of their digiverse, moving from platform to platform as the grownups joined and ruined it, making the rules up as they went, seeing the crises before we did and doing their best to protect those younger than themselves. Not only that but the real life change that was happening politically, geographically and awareness of the importance of mental health. It’s a LOT. (I defo recommend reading my previous posts on this if this makes little or no sense to you).
But now these resilient creatures are charged with recruiting you, their values and standards are different, they judge your skills differently and when hiring you for roles, they need to understand what you do. Not in the old world, in this world.
The language has changed. The values have changed. The criteria is changing.
Right now they are the barrier between you and the job you want, it is wise to understand more about this generation and to understand how you show up. Of course behind them sit those same people making the final decisions for who gets the role they have designed and you will relax into a world that perhaps feels more familiar, but that will not last.
Forget freaking out about how Generative AI is going to change the world, (just get learning and familiarise yourself, but the world’s best (and worst) people are fully focused on that), take a look at the 25 ish year olds in your life and imagine how they will fundamentally change the world.
I would recommend getting a 97er, or GenZ person, to review your LinkedIn profile and your CV!
… and yes I do realise I need to go get a substack for this if I am going to continue writing about them …
In the 20 minute video here I gave last week to researchers, here are the top five things people need to know about 97ers, those millenials born in 97 or after. They are a segmented group because they grew up with social media and know no different. I did a TEDx talk about them, you can watch that here.
If you are not keen on watching videos, here are the top five things you need to know: they are:
Relentless researchers – they are driven by the *hit* they get by debunking internet theories, or discovering secrets
Tribal – they are natural born community builders
Momentarily focused – apps like SnapChat have taught them ruthless focus in seconds not minutes, this is very different to being forever distracted
Multi-cultural global citizens – in the social digital world, geography and borders do not matter
Data traders – they totally understand the trade with corporations, they get access to free apps in return for their data, and know no different
If you are a smart brand, you need to know these five things.
I am going to try to cram 1200 kids, 400 mentors, 70 centre leads, 50 volunteers, 200 parents and five (yup only five) full time staff’s work at this year’s Festival write-up. A challenge – but not one as great as the one we set the 1200 kids: build something digital in a week (even if you have only just started learning to code) with only one rule: you *must* use open data. (The open data rule goes back to the origins of the Festival, where we set out to let young people know about the data government was opening on data.gov.uk back in 2009).
So please bear with me and grab a cuppa – this post will take a while to navigate, you may need to come back later.
Firstly, here is a medium post of what it is like during the week from one of our regular (and ace) centres: Lives not Knives, and how being a mentor this last week has helped her come to a decision about her career, post-Uni. How lucky the world is that this indecisive, brilliant lady has chosen a career working with young people.
We were covered on BBC Breakfast, BBC lunchtime news at one, 5Live, BBC Bews at 6 and Newsnight at the beginning of the week. The finale was covered by ITV News on Sunday. And Mike Butcher (a semi-final judge) wrote this on TechCrunch.
1200 young people aged 7-18 took part
32% were female
The semi-finalists, finalists and winners are listed here and the finalists videos can be watched here (please like your favourite one as they will win a prize)
For all the different hashtags on Twitter and Instagram we had:
11968posts by 1804 users
Total reached: 4,299,775 people <- MILLIONS!
Total impressions: 25,909,753 <- MILLIONS!
65% male users and 35% female users (32% of the Festival participants were female, so this reflects that)
The biggest surge of tweets was between 11am and 1pm on Sunday where we had around 2000 posts. (that’s the finale)
The most commonly used hashtag in addition to one associated with the festival was #watttheduck
The most tweeted centre was #FoCHighbury
We had tweets from all over the world, with the UK, US and Ireland being top of the list.
Paul Clarke, a photographer of huge renown, covered the Festival for us and captured every moment of joy and trepidation – you can see the photos here, they are available on CC license but obviously please don’t take the mick and if using for anything give Paul the appropriate props in the tags and attributions. It is testament to his talent that his tweet with the photographs is the top tweet on the #FoC2015 hashtag.
For me there were three defining moments of this Festival:
The firstwas when I was sitting at the information desk on Friday afternoon. We have registration open for six hours (it takes that long to process 1200 young people, plus their parents, mentors and centre leads into the weekend venue) – but the numbers of people signing in comes in waves, always has – we have people coming from all over. However, there is always a 4-5pm surge. During that surge, all I saw from my slightly nondescript desk and chair to the right of the escalators, was kids going “ARRRGGHHH” *running hug* “I cannot believe you are here! It’s been a year!!!!!” *bouncing hugs*. At one point, a brilliant brilliant young developer: Michael Cullum, who was at school with my daughter, saw her at registration and similarly did the running hug. It was a Festival of Code bundle, and I was pinching my arm not to cry at every reunion I witnessed.
The second defining moment for me was when I was standing slightly off stage at the end, watching the YRS Festival alumni judges. These were young people I have watched grow up and who are now too old to take part (19+), but who we chose to be the judges for their younger peers. They get it, they know what it takes, they understand what to reward and what to feedback. I sat in the judging room with our compere, Dallas Campbell – chatting about the death of Cilla Black – when the alumni judges all decided that feedback to every finalist was vital. They worked it out between them and I tried not to get emotional then. But when I stood there watching as the winners they selected were called to the stage, as they shook their hands and congratulated them – alumni to current participants – I have to admit I totally nearly lost it. But it was also a calm moment. I now know, that whatever happens – these kids have got it. Whatever we do or don’t do – the community owns this. My heart is literally bursting with pride for them.
The third was after it was all over and everyone was slowly exiting the finale space in the ICC, already drifting into mourning for the week, and two Mums of YRSers (parents *have* to accompany their children to the weekend if the kids are 13 or under) and they suggested that the next time we give the parents a chance to hack something over the weekend for them to surprise the kids with – a parents’ race, if you like (a whole other blog post). What a genius thing that we had never thought of. But perfect, so yes, something we will work on.
I am going to leave this update with a Facebook post written by Harry Rickards for all YRSers. Harry is an alumnus who came to Young Rewired State (YRS) in 2012, and is now studying at MIT. I cannot say any more – over to you, Harry:
Words are hard, but now I’m finally out of the yearly YRS sleep coma I’ll give it a try. You all are awesome. Seriously. Most of your mates spent half the week sleeping and half the week drinking in parks, and you spent the week making amazing amazing things. I say it every year but I 100% promise it’s true: every year I’m amazed by how much better the hacks have got. Seeing you all, both young and old, up on stage presenting things most professional devs could only dream of making in a week is awe-inspiring.
At MIT you feel like you’re around future billionaires, future tech leaders, future everything-awesomes. YRS is this but better. Go change the world! To those who just graduated, don’t think your journey is over! Come back as a mentor/volunteer/judge, get scared at how good the kids are, and have an even more fun time partying the evenings away (because none of you have been doing that as participants ofc), watching Robert dance and Alexander use a knife like he’s from the North. Despite the road-rage journey from hell with James and Shad this weekend (I think we might get PTSD from the M40…) and Neena‘s apparent misundersanding of the concept of private property, this weekend was one of the most fun I’ve had in a while (and I’m not even gonna attempt to tag you all).
Just please please please don’t let the cool kids party be at a goddamn Spoons 3 nights in a row next year. To the YRS organizers you’re the most amazing people ever. I’m sure your jobs are a trillion times harder than I think they are, and I already have no idea how you manage. YRS changed my life in so many ways: it made me get into programming and set me off into a path leading to MIT, it let me meet the best friends, and it hella inspired me. Trying not to sound like a cliched US politician (after all, thanks to YRS there’s now an app for that…), seeing the presentations and the excitement and the atmosphere and everything this weekend gave me faith in humanity.
I’m by no means alone here, so keep changing lives! Now enough with the rambling and (well-deserved) superlatives and onwards to next year. I don’t see how it’s possible, but I’m sure it’ll end up being even bigger, better, more fun, world-changing, etc. And with any luck (pending the Administration’s bureaucracy) we’ll have an MIT centre over in Boston next year! #FoC2015#BestHashtag#WorldDomination
The YRSers own it, this is about them, and the ambition for the Festival is that it is totally supported by them. We will be their backbone, their champions – but the alumni will smash this. This is the legacy.
As we kiss goodbye to 2014, here are my top 14 things I learned this year that may be handy for me to remember and for you too, maybe! (In no order):
1. Understanding kids born in 1997 or after is hugely important
97ers (kids born in ’97 or later) left school this year with GCSEs and headed for college or apprenticeships or work. They are a significant year and I have written and spoken about them here https://mulqueeny.wordpress.com/2014/11/08/all-about-the-97ers/ I know they are significant because every time I speak about them publicly, parents of much younger children thank me for giving them some reassurance that these 97ers exist, and parents of 97ers, like myself, are relieved that their children are doing *good* things – that we will never understand.
2. Reconsider the parenting role in a digital world
My two daughters, dort 1 and dort 2 (not their real names), are now 12 and 17 – “in-between” ages where they are not babies, or toddlers, or doing GCSEs or A Levels – but they are doing great things. This year I learned to trust that they know a lot more about social digital things than I did, and I am a born and bred geek. Now I know to ask my eldest to regularly check my youngest’s activity on social sites. Also, that there is a balance of trust and knowledge that I have developed with age, and how I can use discrimination and empathy to know when I need to learn from them and when I need to guide and teach.
3. Blue-balling emotions is rubbish
The future, with children grown and gone, hovers relentlessly on the horizon and I am looking at the next stage of my life. I can literally do anything, as well as actively choose whether I want to continue this journey alone (as I ended up parenting alone, but not in a sad way), or with someone. I choose with someone – and I must value that and respect the work that takes, and give it equal value (even though it feels egotistical and unnatural for me to do this, ultimately I am allowing my children freedom and I am not blue-balling my emotions).
and also this (but not for the swearing sensitive)
finally these words
… (as in algorithms) are important – mega important. And Facebook used theirs to give everyone a snapshot of their year this Christmas, which created challenges for those who did not want to remember their year, and for the rest of us it reminded us that algorithms are powerful. I have worked hard all year for free on the digital democracy commission – and I know how we all need to take notice of the power of algorithms, and we need to own them, and understand their power and take them back from those who we have inadvertently bestowed the ultimate influence over our every day decisions. Algorithms help people make better decisions – through knowledge not PR. Democracy worldwide will be affected by this <— that is a prediction
6. Crowdfunding is hard.
Last year (’13) I raised money through crowdfunding, it absorbed my every waking hour during the process of raising the funds, mainly because if I did not reach my target I would not get any of the money people had pledged. This year I have raised again, but also encouraged others to try it, for smaller increments, but equally as hard to raise, as their fundraiser may not be as socially compelling, but still as viable. I can give you three fundraising tips:
save the best for last – play hard to get, give out increments but KNOW that the final push is going to be the greatest, pretend you are dating the love of your life and apply all dating theory
don’t just shout louder and louder into the same echo chamber of social media – they heard you, they were not interested when it was interesting, they are definitely not interested now you are desperate
social media strategy has to include target markets and timing (time of day, work/play/weekend/weekday/US/UK) to ignore this is foolish
Also, make sure the crowdfunding vehicle you choose has a good reach, and ideally gives you the money you raised regardless of you reaching target or not in the time limit you set. Only fair.
7. Hiring people – unless you are good at hiring people, do not hire people. Ever. Ever ever.
Even when you think you grew up. Do not hire people. It is a talent, you either have it or you don’t. If you don’t, get very brilliant at writing the job description of the person you need, and pay someone to hire people for you. (You can pay a friend in beer or chocolate, that’s fine, just don’t do it yourself). Ever. Like an alcoholic. You can never hire. You never could. You never will be able to.
8. Founder CEOs that are successful can be numbered on one hand.
If you are a CEO then you are awesome and probably hugely well paid and if you are reading this, looking to start a business (or my mate). I say – find a founder and start a business and read the Beermat entrepreneur (never irrelevant over God knows how many years). If you are a Founder, find a CEO and bow out early (also read Beermat entrepreneur). I wrote about this throughout the year, but have not yet concluded my story, but I am very happy with people whom I trust; it has taken a while to find those I trust totally to run the businesses I founded and poured my soul and mortgage into. Now I need to walk away for a few years and get a job.
9. BOARDS! Get one
Oh my goodness, I always shied away from boards before when I set up businesses because I was/am a control freak and thought they would take away my very clear vision of what I wanted or needed to do (in spite of the odds). In fact, a well-selected small board frees and empowers you. This is so important.
This year I have been to Buckingham Palace so many times it is actually becoming a bit of a chore. I know that sounds vain but it is not. It is a huge privilege, but so is getting my 12 year old from school on time. I worried more about being at the agreed place for my youngest daughter on an Autumnully dark evening than I did screeching in to BP to shake hands and chat with people I know and love hugely, but can see anywhere any time, but felt compelled to do so more vigorously because it was BP. I would rather be with my own family, but I also see the amazing opportunity here for everyone to be able to experience this now that geeks are cool.
If only I could have gifted any one of my invitations to people who would have loved to have been at BP. This year we got some Young Rewired Staters and their families in for a tea and chat with Prince Andrew – I am sure they will remember it forever, I will too – mainly because I could get this photo for everyone (here is what it looks like from the other side – and the Palace is very lovely, but super hot, wear layers)
P.S. I did manage to meet the Queen and forget to curtsey (is spite of my life spent curtseying to people who did not actually require curtseying to, physically or otherwise) but being reassured that I was not alone (by Prince William) basically made up for it – that and flirting with Will.I.AM in BP has to be a highlight of this ridiculous year.
11. The Arts
Music is so important! I have been very focused for many years, on work and children, but I valued silence when alone. This is a massive mistake I now realise. Whilst yes peace is good – music is revolutionary for the mood. And actually, as much as you put time into your family and work, unless you are an artist or work in a museum – music is available to everyone and is an art form that affects us all. Music is important.
12. Being stony broke on a weekend…
Having no money at all is OK, so long as you can plan your way out of it. A few times this year, because of being a business owner and founder, and wholly reliant on it AND moving on, there has inevitably been times in the handover where I am not in control of pipeline (necessarily) and it has all gone a bit awry in the handover. And I have been actually penniless. Yes I have a mortgage and was not in fear of losing that at the time, but actually I had no access to any cash at all just when a wasp decided that the eaves under dort 1 and 2’s room was PERFECT for a nest. That weekend I could not even rustle up twenty quid for the local dude to come clear it for me, I had to wait for a large corp to pay an invoice, and then I could be paid and could bring in a wasp person to clear the 2000 wasps who ended up rooming with the girls. But it was fine. We had tins and pasta to live on and my room is at the back of the house… and middle class problems.. seriously – it was fine. But also it was a lesson! You can appaz have it all, but have nothing, and having nothing in this instance was OK. So I am less fearful.
13. If you can do nothing about the thing you are worrying about, fret not. If you can. Fret not. (paraphrasing the Dalai Lama)
Living in the moment is a challenge to myself from me for 2015. My sig oth is amazing at this, as is my Mum and my Dad. I would like to experience what it is like to live in the moment and accept it and move on *more* than I did in 2014. Every time I did manage to live in the moment, practising extreme Buddhism in time of extreme stress – was hugely powerful, I would like to practise this extreme Buddhism in times of peace and sod all going on, just to see if I can and to see what happens.
14. Finally: Climb a mountain.
We spend all of our lives climbing never-ending imaginary mountains. Climb a real one. I recommend Sugar Loaf in South Wales as a great starter. Take the hard road up, drink pure mountain water in the stream running through the damn valley between you and the top, meander up it with tea and cake breaks, follow the streams or the sheep paths, but take the hard road up. Then enjoy the peak. And take the easy road down. I cannot tell you how powerful it is to actually climb a real mountain, even a little one. I would love to leave you with a powerful mountain image taken from the top, but the problem is they never do justice to the climb, and you have to do it yourself.
Wishing you all a very wonderful 2015, from my family to yours xoxo
The world went a little bit more wrong this year. Logic and reason were cast aside. Never were we ever presented with two stories so bound up in data and facts to justify actions and emotion. The result? Chaos. Nothing makes sense. We are all a little bit more scared – of the law, and logic.
Scenario 1: a beautiful South African model was walking along the middle of the road with her friend in the US. A US policeman asked her to move onto the sidewalk. Shortly after this, an altercation ensues and the South African model is shot 12 times for not walking on the sidewalk and being scary in her argument with the police officer. She dies. The policeman was scared.
Scenario 2. a teenager from Missouri is with his paralympic friend in South Africa. After a series of unfortunate events and misunderstandings about who was sleeping when and where, the teenage boy is shot multiple times through a toilet door by his friend. He dies. The paralympian was scared.
Two people died: a white girl and a black boy
Two people shot them
Of course I know I muddled the stories here, on purpose. Here’s why.
In one scenario – let’s just accept that neither Reeva nor Michael should have died – there is a court case with a non-televised judgment by a jury on whether there is a case to try. It is found that there is no case to answer and the killer can walk free. In the other scenario there is a prolonged televised court case that the world watches transfixed, where the killer is grilled from here to hereafter on the public stage – and is handed five years for culpable homicide.
But in the rule of morals and ethics, neither of these results are justified – they cannot be excused; no logic or reason can make either of these deaths OK – even when I swop them back between the white girl and the black boy.
What is pivotal for me about these two cases is that they come in the year the 97er, the kids who grew up with social media and know nothing else, ‘come of age’. They are pretty much ready for the working world now, and this is everywhere: developed and developing markets, these kids are now a universal, unified, socially digitally savvy crew who are insanely mature in communication, identity and influence, and normally immature with regards to work and societal norms. (I write about them a lot here).
Because of these two cases, I really believe that the future of law and crime/punishment will be fundamentally upended by these 97ers. When they become politicians, law-makers, jurors and media story-tellers. Pretty much starting now…
But what does need to happen, as I said in the post I wrote last night, (accidentally on theme), is that we need to become more clever about how we use data, and reason. And for that to happen we need to accept the digital renaissance goes beyond the smartphone and 3D printing – it affects our very base of reason and understanding.
We have access to so much more information, we cannot and must not ignore these data points just because they were not statistically valid for Socrates or the Victorians.
I wrote the following post on my private Facebook account about the Ferguson shooting, and the 97ers I know asked me to post it more publicly so that they could share it. It is my own view of course…
I have to say that when I looked at the articles themed: Darren Wilson shows injuries sustained (…at the hands of an unarmed teenager) I was genuinely expecting to see quite shocking injuries, that would test the patience of a well-meaning public servant. Really they were like when one of the dorts shows me the thing that is totally really hurting and needs a massive plaster – there was barely a scratch. (And the mark on the back of his head I am pretty sure is the birth mark most of us carry from being pressed against our mother’s spine in the womb).
I believe in democracy and the jury service, heartily. So I thought there must have been pictures too graphic to show, seen only by the jury, we are only seeing the sanitised ones. But they really were not – I found this article in my FB feed http://www.rawstory.com/…/fanciful-and-not-credible-cnn-le…/
When I read the facts as stated in the case about why he even was in contact with these two teenagers, I was like… right… and then… waiting for the *wince* moment when I would find it hard to sympathise with the child who was shot. It never came.
I was not on the jury, I believe in the system enough to know that I cannot heap blame on those who found nothing wrong with this child’s death in the eyes of the law.
But when I told my children about why #Ferguson was blowing up their social media stream, and the facts of the case (because you should try to do this if there is a big case that will invade their social world), the car journey home settled into an uneasy feeling and conversation that the world became a little less sane and therefore a little less safe.
Teachers worldwide know how to deal with teenage rages and teenage angst. Also how and when to remonstrate and insist with someone, especially someone young. They also know that when they do choose to do so, that there will potentially be some mad rage – either totally justified or for no reason whatsoever. Teachers talk these kids down every day, every day – and face the fear that policeman felt. They are trained to know how to deal with it, and it all starts with the decision to enter into the conflict.
Michael Brown was walking in the road. Darren Wilson wanted him to walk on the sidewalk. It was immaterial really, in the grand scheme of things; but I accept that there were tensions in the community that we will never know who do not live in Ferguson. A bit like in school with uniforms and conformity, there does need to be some rule of law that young people learn – but teachers know how to do this better.
No teacher I know would ever shoot a kid 12 times.
Maybe teachers need to be police officers, or train police officers.
If it were me and I picked a fight with a teenager who became scary as the argument escalated, I would not end the discussion by whipping out a gun and shooting him 12 times.
It is an end. But it is not OK just because he is a teenage boy (can be scary) and most definitely not OK because he is a black teenage boy (moronic use of the frontal lobe).
I wrote about sexism last night, finally, not knowing that the verdict was out on Ferguson, but it does mean I was already in the *ism zone – and I realised as I wrote that I was far more naturally enraged by racial discrimination than gender, because race transcends gender: obviously we have all colours of boys and girls, and the judging starts with colour and gets worse from there.
I have been giving talks all year about 97ers, most recently at Wikimania and TEDxBrum. For ease, I have linked to all the posts I wrote earlier this year that form the basis of my thinking for the talks I give. I would love to hear your thoughts and insights on this very new concept!
If you think about the 97er and the environment in which they have grown up there has been a heartbeat of disruption:
And their security, possibly unbeknownst to them, has come from their community, their peers – the ultimate sharing of knowledge has acted as lifelong reassurance of themselves, their validity, safety and inevitably shaped their attitudes and expectations.
Luckily the natural reaction to restore the balance of the universe is the rise of the collaborative community, the prosumers and an almost zealous belief in Openness and Transparency.
What lies beyond school?
These children are now looking at their life beyond education. Summer 2014 will see some choose apprenticeships, some choose further education and some head for the job market – the march into becoming part of the working community has begun and by 2015 they will be officially “grown-up” – well, 18 years old.
I believe that the most obvious effect we will see first is the reaction to the recession. They know no different than jobs with banks, or in the public sector or in monolithic and historical organisations that have been going for hundreds of years being the most unsafe choices a person can make in a career. They have witnessed mass redundancies, seen story after story of brands that even they know: Blockbusters, Woolworths, going bust with thousands of jobs vanishing. There are very few who have not been personally affected by this either directly through family or friends.
At the same time they have also seen a rise in entrepreneurship, parents and their friends choosing to run their own businesses, their peers creating start-ups, crowd-funding platforms; their social media streams are full of this relentless birth of “new”. It is all they know.
Safety and security
To my mind the perception of what is a secure job choice has been completely thrown into chaos. Nothing really makes sense any more if they try to think of a job for life, a job they want to “do”, as some parents, teachers and careers advisers are still encouraging them to focus on.
For the 97ers security and reassurance has come from community knowledge, but in this instance there is no prior knowledge of how to tackle this jump from their networked communities into a linear working world; with choices to be made with 2d information, crafted and marketed directly to them – the kind of information they have learned to distrust and deride.
And so I am beginning to see these young people attempt to squeeze themselves into the kind of person their predecessors were, looking to the entry level jobs of large organisations, and trying to understand why formal careers in traditional roles (those waved in front of them as a “good idea”) can possibly be a good idea – when they are the most insecure choice, based on what they have seen growing up.
Lazy, layabout teens
As a result they are less enthusiastic about going and getting “starter” jobs or part-time work, more keen to either stay in education until the world makes sense again, or become apprentices in skills they know they can fall back on when the world falls out of the bottom of the financial markets again (yes I intentionally skewed that phrase).
I fear that the draconian, booming voice of Whitehall threatening benefits and the ‘benefit society’ is creating even more insecurity and confusion. As they recall any bits from their past that might help them make decisions on the future they will remember job losses, failing economies, fewer work opportunities for greater numbers of people – and they will begin to worry.
Worried 97ers will depend ever more heavily on their networks for reassurance and to find the answer. I believe that there will be a period of introspection amongst this community, and society will blame technology because they will all seem to be descending more heavily into being glued to their phones, tablets and computers – apparently wasting away their lives instead of focusing on the next stage of life: their careers.
People will bemoan the lazy, layabout teen culture.
We need them
I would implore you, should you find yourself doing this, to try to resist! We need them to be introspective, to make it better and easier for the ones that are coming year on year after them. We need them to be supporting each other through their digital networks and we need their leaders to emerge organically from this – they will discover who they want to follow in the way they have always done so: through social channels.
And we need them in our organisations. We need them to help all businesses and sectors understand the new nature of their audience/consumers/prosumers.
I have worked with self-taught young programmers (aged 18 and under) in Young Rewired State since 2009; and in 1997 I gave birth to my own little digital native, and in 2002, another. My passion for learning, observing and being amongst networked communities in various forms, means that I have begun to see some interesting trends and patterns that are fascinating, and I am going to write a series of things about this. Here is the third (the first is here and links on to the second) and in this series I refer to the 97er. By this I mean child born in 1997 OR LATER: The true digital natives.
When I was a child, when I was cross about something I had to wait until I was a grown up to do something about it. This is no longer the case for 97ers.
97ers are split personality teachers and consumers from as early as seven years old, if not earlier
They are also activists with access to immediate knowledge, discovery and research tools across living and historical communities that have never been available to those generations that came before them. They may have no understanding of democracy, governance or Government, no concept of activism or protest, but what they do have is the basic human ability to discriminate (not as in “discriminate against”, but apply their own judgment of right and wrong) and 24/7 access to what is happening in the world.
Of course these young people are no different to those that went before them in nature, and outraged gossip is as delightful to them as it has always been
… but now they see acid attacks in Pakistan, war-mongerers in the Congo, inequality across borders and seas. And they talk and share videos, news articles, Facebook pages, blog posts, hashtags and campaigns and they have a voice.
(I love this photo, creative commons from Flickr, but the dude who is presenting his slide refers to the story-telling. The story-telling that 97ers use to verify identity as well)
Imagine growing up knowing that your voice counts…
… and that every single person has the ability to activate their communities. Because every person in the digital space has a community, a social network and to 97ers this is completely normal, this is all they have ever known. If they don’t like something they will protest, loudly, in the online space, find campaigns to support their feelings and advocate them to their friends.
People say constantly that online activism makes no difference to what happens on the ground, liking a Facebook page does not stop an acid attack, nor give food to the starving. No it doesn’t, of course not, the other activities those charities and movements have access to at the moment do that. Online activism raises awareness of plights. But for the purpose of this blog post, what the online activism does is to reach the 97ers. They are aware, they will share and their understanding of social and personal responsibility is as much a part of their maturing and growth as traditional education.
The 97er armchair activist
So we can see that the 97ers have grown up with a natural expectation that they have a voice, that they can rally crowds, and almost without thinking they highlight things that trouble them and call on their friends to also be outraged. The outraged teen is tomorrow’s politician, entrepreneur, activist, connector. This has always been the case, but with the digital natives this means big change is coming.
They learn the power of their own voice through the constant value measures attached to followers, retweets and likes. They can measure in real time whether something they have said has chimed with their intended audience, and they adapt and learn how to ensure that the stuff they really care about gets seen by as many people as they can possibly reach.
Not only are they very skilled in reaching their audience, they do this for fun in their social time. And so they are growing up with social responsibility and an expectation of voice as a core part of their being. They have known nothing else.
Once these 97ers hit the post-education world and shatter into the people and positions they will become in business, politics and life (not that far away… 2020 is my guesstimate for the receding-sea-pre-tsunami of 97ers affecting everything we know) they will continue to do what people have always done: activate their networks. But for the 97er who really knows how to activate their networks, and has grown up doing so but now can move into positions of control over what happens as a result – then we will see big change.
A thought for pondering
We all know how we change our behaviour when we know someone is watching and judging what we do. For the 97ers they have grown up in an open world, their social space is open. Their behaviour is shaped by immediate applause or boos across social media. They validate beyond the family (in a different way, of course).
When the 97er is the war-mongerer, acid-attacker, abuser how will their behaviour adapt?
Only the 97er will be wily enough to second-guess and expose that, we (the pre-97ers) need to move into the role of supporter, mentor, offline guardians of everything they will see, face and do. But we will never be able to have this instilled as a part of our core as much as they will. So we must listen as much as we teach.
This is a generation without borders, and separate governance of countries and regions has no effect here, and this is important to remember.
I have worked with self-taught young programmers (aged 18 and under) in Young Rewired State since 2009; and in 1997 I gave birth to my own little digital native, and in 2002, another. My passion for learning, observing and being amongst networked communities in various forms, means that I have begun to see some interesting trends and patterns that are fascinating, and I am going to write a series of things about this. Here is the second (the first is here) and in this series I refer to the 97er. By this I mean child born in 1997 OR LATER: The true digital natives.
Communication in whatever form relies on some form of individual identity. One person identifying themselves to another. In networked online communities this can range from the man masquerading as a young child in a games forum through to a person identifying as an expert in brain surgery or Brahms in associated expert communities. One thing that unites online communities and the digital space, is communication. And so identity becomes interesting.
Who are you?
Identifying yourself offline is easy, there are legal documents that you can produce to prove who you are. It is nigh on impossible to incorporate offline identifiers to the online space – as I am sure many a public sector organisation can tell you!
There can not be one notion or verifiable method of identifying that anyone is who they say they are in an unseen online world, and the 97ers know this. Your name, who you say you are, means nothing. You have to prove you are who you say you are.
And so the 97ers instinctively use story-telling and detective work/collaboration to verify you are who you say you are. To take Facebook as a very crude example of this (it has become much more sophisticated but the same identifying rules apply).
You say you are someone, a name.
Not always your given name, maybe an online name, maybe a descriptive name, but a name none-the-less.
You verify who you are with photographs.
No passport or driving agency can verify these photographs in this maverick world, so you are visually identified by being seen in photographs with people other people in your chosen network will know.
You tell stories through posts about what you are doing and with whom.
You share photographs to verify these stories and tag people with you, who can untag or publicly deny you if you are lying.
You join groups and networks of people with shared interests, using your FB persona to verify your identity.
I hope this Facebook example makes sense, but to translate how this affects the way a 97er secures identity let me tell a story…
Two years ago we ran a hack weekend for Refugees United. This was a charity who had charged themselves with the challenge to help reunite Somalian refugees in camps across Kenya. The problem they faced was that the best hope any refugee had of securing a space in a camp was to enter as an individual, so families and tribes shattered as they crossed the Kenyan borders. Reuniting these refugees was an issue because they were hard to identify, they had common names, they were reluctant to give any identifying papers and so the dedicated and passionate Refugees United team were frustrated.
They believed they were frustrated by technology. By cr*p phones. They wanted an app to magically make it all happen.
The 97ers and Rewired State devs, acknowledged the problem as a digital one, but started again…
The first question that had to be answered to solve this re-unification problem: how do these people identify themselves and recognise each other?
By the end of the weekend they had discovered:
Name counts for nothing, often a ‘name’ changes depending on a person’s role in the group; be that family or tribe
Many people could not read languages recognised by computers, so the visual identifiers for members of the family were important, visually identifying girls and boys with traditional western imagery sucked, because effectively boys wore ‘dresses’
The tradition of sharing familial or traditional stories was the only unifying quantum
No one trusted anyone, as a refugee – giving away your identity might betray you to authorities, so you select very carefully who you reveal your true self to
Sound familiar? Unsurprising that the beautiful balance of 97ers and other RS developers created a number of solutions, all story-based (and open-sourced of course) here…
I was hugely comforted by watching this process. I knew that my daughters and the YRSers were digitally savvy enough to cross check facts and verify a person. I knew they did not *want* to be fooled by someone masquerading as someone else – in the same way none of us do in any walk of life. And so I began to trust that these young people were more equipped than I was at protecting their own real life selves, but also, calling out the pretenders.
But the thing that intrigues me about this is:
When the 97ers come to power in industry, government and society (five years+ from now) how will they translate digital identity from the online world to the offline?
From 16 to seven
In the offline world we accept that our identity is a linear thing, we go from child to adult. As children from 0-16 we are required by law (in the UK) to partake in full time education, and are bound by the authority of parent/s as well as the State rule of law. We are just ‘child’. From 16+ we become categorised and segmented for various marketing and public service needs – increasingly multi-faceted, we become more complex with age.
Where we would traditionally be known to graduate from child to sophisticated consumer of targeted information as, for example: teacher, mother, fighter, socialist, artist, shoe fetishist, fitness fanatic, online dater and so on. The multiple personality we are gifted at 16 along with our National Insurance Number suddenly becomes our new identifier as an…
Online you cannot do this. The web is a community woven and choreographed by the 97ers and we must accept this. Identity is integral to community, and community is based around topical interests. What we must not do is try to police it, because then you start to play with identity.
Let me try to illustrate this. Until now a child below 16 years of age was identified as ‘child’. The gatekeepers were the teachers and parents.
I believe that the child becomes a multi-faceted character at a much earlier age. Seven year olds are teaching their parents how to use software products, (software products not built for the 7 year old, but built with the parent in mind). 14 year olds are learning CSS and java from 10 year olds in YRS. 10 year olds are learning their third computing language form a 14 year old and an 9 year old. They will also teach their peers.
At the same time the median nine year old is rubbish at maths and her sister is helping her finally nut those tables.
Then together they make a YouTube video on making meringue for every person with access to a search engine to know how to make the perfect meringue.
97ers are split personality teachers and consumers from as early as seven years old, if not earlier. I can only vouch for the seven year olds.
For a society looking at sustainability, I suggest we look at the multi-faceted personality of the 97ers. Re-assess your methodology for targeted messaging because it is irrelevant to the digital natives. Sustainability depends on the networked web of people learning, sharing and testing across boundaries, borders and time. The seven year olds matter as much as the 70 year olds. If they are in that 97er verified network, all you need to know is that they are a part of that network.
Age and name matter not. Can you verify your story?