As Kevin McGarry raised last night, perhaps the focus on birthdates is an insufficient designation of the limits of generation. In their latest trend-forecast, released today, K-Hole, alongside Box 1824, make a similar claim with the punchy board-room rhetoric that we’ve come to expect from the NYC-based group:
“Demography is dead, yet marketers will quietly invent another generation on demand. Clients are desperate to adapt. But to what? Generational linearity is gone. An ageless youth demands emancipation.”
K-Hole’s practice inhabits the form of the consumer trend forecast — the sort of semi-shamanic marketing reports that terrifyingly clueless executive boards commission in the hope of divining the mind of the holy and pure, the 18-24 demographic. In their latest document, YOUTH MODE, they examine how we can recontextualise our relationship with our peers in terms of style, in order to reach a position of every-expanding human freedom.
They lay out two positions of anxiety that the #89plus subjectivity have come to inhabit:
MASS INDIE: a chaotic mass-adoption of indie styles post-Cobain, aiming not to escape being a square but, in a positive mode, celebrating difference and eclecticism. These solutions to navigating identities give rise new problems, new anxieties: #isolation #maxingout, seeming like a clone. The result? Those who can, split, and begin
ACTING BASIC: Cargo shorts is how they define it. Dudes go back to the herd, reject difference, master sameness. Dudes make a decision that the prime outfit is the one they were wearing when they last got laid. Dudes act basic, and basic turns itself inside out, basic collapses in on itself. Where now?
NORMCORE: “The desire to escape the constraints of everyday life is universal,” they claim. All good brand consultants offer something going forward. For K-Hole, it’s Normcore. “Normcore is a path to a more peaceful life”, they called from the platform. Acting Basic and Mass Indie are flipsides of the same dialectic of individualism. Normcore steps outside individualism and instead turns to the idea of community, producing a cool subjectivity based around what is perhaps not striking but can produce relationships of depth based on commonality.
What’s going on with K-Hole? This stuff should be for jerks but it’s always got such a bite, it always hits straight to the core of the audience. #89plus have spent their entire lives knowing that applying high-theory to pop-culture is guaranteed to get coverage, but that joke isn’t funny anymore. Sometimes it works but usually it doesn’t enlighten anything. But K-Hole aren’t doing that; they’re applying tru-life, Mean Girl theory to some of the anxieties which structure our everyday lives. We like to think we’ve got bigger things on our minds but when we build our lives around constant networked social-relations, these things are real life trauma.
Emily Segal of K-Hole talks about Youth Mode as “a way for society to figure out about its anxieties”, and that seems right; a way to talk about the everyday crises of individualism, communality and differentiation through the threads that make up the social fabric, our sense-of-self.
I wonder if it’s possible to think about the latest K-hole trend forecast as a navigation of cognitive economic/social stresses as they manifest within a very specific (young, precarious and privileged) NYC (read: #firstworldproblems/#FML/me) subjectivity? Sometimes it feels like a very intuitive response, an attempt to come to terms with something the group explored in their last forecast – anxiety.
“What emotional, psychic, existential price does the constant cognitive stress of permanent cognitive electrocution exact? The acceleration of network technologies, the general condition of precariousness, and the dependence on cognitive labor all induce pathological effects in the social mind, saturating attention time, compressing the sphere of emotion and sensitivity, as is shown by psychiatrists who have observed a steep increase in manic depression and suicide in the last generation of workers.” - Bifo