Christmas in a Digital Society
This blog article uses interim draft results from our Global Digital Inclusion survey (#digitalsurvey) that has been running for the past few months. To date we have had around 1,500 responses from 63 different countries.
As each Christmas goes by, it is interesting to reflect on the changing nature of the requests from my children and consider how that reflects the evolution of their interests, and increasingly reflects on our changing #DigitalSociety.
My eldest child (mid-teen) has always consumed books by intravenous drip. At her peak, she would easily read a book a day, and with the ease of the Kindle, she could order the next one there and then – wherever she was in the world. Our #digitalsurvey suggested she wasn’t alone with 71% of respondents either liking or loving using an e-reader such as a Kindle. Interestingly there wasn’t much variability across either the age or geographic groups either, men being slightly (but only slightly) less comfortable with the technology than women.
What has changed in the last year or two though is that she now wants the physical book. Her Christmas list is almost purely fiction or poetry, most of it in hardback book form. She loves them on her shelves in her bedroom, loves the touch and smell of a new book. She treasures each one arriving – her face being a treat to watch whenever she opens the latest package that arrives in the post. It’s not just her, in the UK sales of physical books have been increasing the last couple of years (+4% last year). It means that we still need wrapping paper and sellotape to earn that treasured smile on Christmas morning.
My son, like many boys of his age (young-teen) is glued to devices - computers, playstation, tablet, phone and TV. His passion is gaming, playing them – moved on from Minecraft previously to Fortnite and others. They are social experiences. Whereas I went out to kick a ball about in the park with mates at his age, he is doing the same thing but just online – always chatting, always ‘playing’. He’s started to build games now, using tools like Fusion, and also beginning to stream his playing experiences through youtube. He’s even designed his own tag, and logo, and is utterly focused on getting more subscribers and views to his activity. He is, as @PaulMooreO describes in his recent blogs, of the ‘minecraft generation’.
Looking at what he wants over Christmas, you quickly realise that little of it is real. It’s not so much that he wants a game (which itself is a download over Steam or the PS4), but more that he wants an upgrade that delivers digital content in game. How do you value an extra character, an extra skin, more boxes to open – all in the game. More importantly, how the hell do you actually wrap them up and put them under the tree!?
I wonder though if perhaps he is a bit extreme. Our #digitalsurvey suggests only 17% of people love online gaming with friends, and only 13% of you love playing games with people all around the world – whether you know them or not. Furthermore only 13% of people love posting images or videos of themselves online (ok, largely he’s posting himself as an online character, but he is doing the voice over). There is a definite trend though that is noticeable by age. Younger men are far more likely to be comfortable with all of this than either older men – perhaps no surprise, but the variability between men of different age groups (M20-29 and M60+) is far greater than that between women (F20-29 and F60+).
Given the rise of platforms such as Twitch, and the emergence of converged media experiences transforming the way in which we watch content (and the #digitalsurvey did show strong universal acceptance of watching TV content on demand), this does demonstrate the point that those of us in the older age groups should not necessarily enforce our perspectives and our fears on those younger who may well utilise their comfort and experience with such technologies to positive effect in their future careers. In the meantime, his Christmas list offers me very little to actually wrap up and put under the tree. I need a virtual tree under which I can place his virtual digital gifts.
My final child is easy. She is a sporting addict, watching it and playing it. She thrives on physical exercise and experience, playing football, hockey, netball and rounders for her school and other teams. Her list is full of things that are tangible and real, and bear little connection to our Digital Society. They are timeless. And they require lots of wrapping.
The best thing for me, thinking of her, would be the arrival of a driverless car such that it could automatically taxi her around her multitude of sporting engagements and training sessions. However, whilst I might be looking forward to its arrival, our global survey tells us that is not universal, with only 14% of people loving the idea and 31% of people liking it. In fact it’s pretty symmetrical with 29% of people disliking it and 13% actively hating the idea. On the whole, and perhaps surprisingly, men are slightly more up for the idea than women. I blame it on the sporting calendar personally and challenges of logistics management!
Many thanks to all of you that have taken 5-10 minutes to complete our #digitalsurvey. And if you haven’t yet, it isn’t too late – there are still a few days left before we finally bring it to a close on December 31st.
And finally, to everyone wherever you are and whatever you are doing over the Christmas period, from all of us in the Digital Society research track in the Scientific Community, we wish you a #digitalsociety powered Christmas & New Year.