Users change as society changes and they have no strong loyalties to the toy market’s products!
In current society (1990-1999) on the threshold of a new millennium, the variety of consumer life situations is becoming narrower. The individual consumer has a constant need to differentiate himself from the masses, to make his mark. Individuals mark the differences between themselves and the others by having special attitudes and values which are supported by certain types of products (including toys).
Good products and good toys support this kind of social “making one’s mark” expressed as family values in the form of inherited traditions and modes of good behaviour, authentic products/quality products (as opposed to “other products”), special cultural activities and the prestige that goes with having money and being in employment. (In Scandinavian society signalling wealth is widely regarded, however, as unseemly.)
Another way in which to demonstrate a difference is to distance oneself from the others.
The user’s existence is motivated by significant life conditions and factors which are based on the norms of industrial society. These norms are currently undergoing drastic changes due to the explosion within communication and the electronics revolution. New conditions in IT society are making their presence felt. At the same time a fifth and very different societal structure is looming on the horizon. This will descend upon us within the next two decades. In many ways, this fifth society is in fact already upon us.
Where industrial society was built on capital, information society is built on the importance of knowledge of the written word, the use of which naturally requires fantasy. However, since much written information is outdated before it can be communicated, fantasy and creativity are required for putting it to use.
In an industrial society, work and co-operation are hierarchical but even now, whenever they receive, exchange or recreate knowledge and experience, many children and adults are already connected in a network. The network is not only a work form but also a platform for connections and interests in which exchange and use of knowledge and information takes place.
Energy is needed to keep the processes going. Industrial society uses fossil fuel - coal and oil - as its principal sources of energy. These sources are very slowly being replaced by renewable sources of energy as society thinks about which areas of society and which of its institutions need to grow or can convert to alternative forms of energy.
Electricity - the basis for electronics - is information society’s energy source. The society of the future will be forced to find new sources of energy. In the future, growth and consumption will be limited.
In industrial society, the owner of capital was the key person responsible for development and innovation. In information society, the key people are those who have and can communicate knowledge. The impact of communicating knowledge is also important. The correct form - the correct medium, story or narrative - must be used.
Industrial society used sophisticated forms of special tools. Information society’s most important implements are PC Internet systems and television. The implements of future society will include virtual reality and Internet communication via television.
Work as an idealised form of social intercourse was the factor which more than any other connected people in industrial society. There was no time to waste so, even for children, work and play coagulated into total institutionalisation and activation.
To a certain extent, the same applies for information society but allowing interests, occupations and indeed play to melt together with “work” is becoming increasingly apparent and accepted. This does not necessarily mean that work and play are always one and the same thing but where they do melt together, this is often in accordance with family values.
On the threshold of the 21st century, alternative time factors are materialising. This is the case not only on the labour market but also in leisure and vacation time. Vacations are being reformed into several shorter holiday periods in which people can realise their dreams. Opportunities for doing this are created by increased mobility due to ever lower transport costs. The world is getting smaller!
A belief in the utility of individual effort on the labour market combined with knowledge was a characteristic of industrial society. There is now a tendency for religion and knowledge to melt into a single entity, motivated by historical events. Many people dig around in their spiritual and religious roots (in history and heritage) hoping to find strength there for their meeting with the future - a search which is in many ways reminiscent of play.
Where consumption is concerned, this search has developed in two directions:
- political consumption - including “green”, environmentally friendly trains of thought are prevalent. Consumers’ own justifications for this are founded on emotional and idealistic pictures of the society of the futurebuilt on an idealistic picture of the past as a “clean” society.
- irresponsible counterpoint to the political consumer - the beliefthat the real thing is only worth having if it does not present too many problems
- or the beliefthat the consumer can carry on consuming and doing just as he likes.
This is the background for the concluding chapter and perspectives of this book.