Co:Yo - Conscious Youth (Opinion Piece)
Imagine being 13 and knowing that you have the attention of some of the most experienced, famous and revered talent in the world. Listening to you. Believing that what you had to say is firstly of interest but, perhaps even more importantly, of value.
Tavi Gevinson is 13. She lives in Chicago and she writes a fashion blog “The New Girl in Town”. The first her parents really understood of the significance of what their teenage daughter was doing in her bedroom was when she had to ask their permission to appear in a New York Times feature – because she was underage. But that in itself is perplexing. Fashion royalty is waiting to see what you say next but to the rest of the (analogue) world you are a minor. Still at school, still needing your mum to sign you out of P.E and still learning about life and what the world means.
How is it that this new generation seems to have skipped straight to the point? Even one generation ago, it was unlikely to have someone with 20 years experience, extensive amassed knowledge and qualifications give youth the time of day but the question today is, who's teaching whom? How has the digital realm facilitated the proverbial levelling of playing field between age and youth, knowledge and perspectives, experience and greenness.
At MILK, we’ve been developing a model we call Co:Yo or Conscious Youth. A generation that has known nothing but instant access to a digital world. To instant information, instant connection to their friends, brands and any world that excites or interests them. They have the ability and access to develop their skills and knowledge from a much younger age, exemplified by Tavi, long before the previous generation was even contemplating what “Options” at school might begin them on a path to something they were interested in. Imagine having known what you know now since you were 13; being 10 years ahead of your current self in terms of perspective forming or exposure to the commercial world. And that’s not suggesting that these teenagers have already signed off on their life’s vocation but they are commonly demonstrating an aptitude that some are still waiting to find in their twenties or thirties.
POP magazine recently ran a feature covering Tavi and her peers. And let’s not dismiss that point too quickly. Appearing on the cover of POP magazine as part of a collaboration with Damien Hirst is arguably no small achievement; regardless of age and career credentials. The article included a roundtable amongst the young bloggers and it’s fair to say that they are both articulate and savvy. Demonstrating understanding of commercial restrictions and politics and their perceived liberation of luxurious free speech and opinions is arguably far beyond what one might expect of their years.
But the question is, if this new generation is indeed at liberty to form perceptions and explore their interests free from the bias most face in commercial environments, then who is teaching whom? For sure, the fashion glitterati are unlikely to solely base their next season’s collection purely on the wisdom or freedom of youth but they are equally unlikely to be as complacent as to ignore the impact they are having.
So what is the real lesson we can learn from this generation? That we can achieve what we thought was previously unobtainable? That with the right content and a virtual podium we can all be heard at an equal volume?
And if everything changes so rather than being a linear learning process the system is more cyclical, how will society feel about our children knowing more than us, faster than us? How will this change our education structures? Will schools encourage students to follow their individual inclinations rather than adhering to timetables with subjects that may have little bearing on their now earlier developed skill-set? It would seem fair to suggest that there may be a need for new strategy in response to this move towards self-learning.
It’s true that this generation of Conscious Youth is still just that-youth. They still require and indeed desire guidance but they are ambitious; learning and developing and getting there fast. They don’t have the answers yet but they have the resources and time at their disposable and if, as Author Malcolm Gladwell believes, its the hours that make you the expert, it may just be that those hours spent “surfing the net” will pay off sooner than we think.
- Katie McKendrick (Milkinsight.com)