In the most recent edition of TrendWatching, the editors introduce the concept of “nowism” to explain the transitory and hyper-current currency of our high-speed, now-focused lives. While I am adverse to making up cute names for passing fancies, there is something about nowism that seems to ring pretty true.
In an age where one’s life can be parsed into a series of 140-character tweets or posted on a page where all the world can see your friends, hobbies and pet peeves, where scanning headlines has replaced reading the newspaper and we only watch or listen to TV or radio programs that support our world view, it’s difficult to argue against the existence and power of nowism.
Here’s the definition:
NOWISM: Consumers’ ingrained* lust for instant gratification is being satisfied by a host of novel, important (offline and online) real-time products, services and experiences. Consumers are also feverishly contributing to the real-time content avalanche that’s building as we speak. As a result, expect your brand and company to have no choice but to finally mirror and join the “now,” in all its splendid chaos, realness and excitement.
*In the end, just like all our other trends, NOWISM represents a case of consumers jumping on something the moment they actually can. So the need is never new, the new ways to fulfill it are.
Well, they certainly have the instant gratification angle covered, but is there something deeper than that at work here? Trendwatching’s editors direct the reader to the writings of Zygmunt Bauman, a Polish sociologist, who posited the effects of what he calls “liquid modernity”:
“Liquid Modernity” is Bauman’s term for the present condition of the world as contrasted with the “solid” modernity that preceded it. According to Bauman, the passage from “solid” to “liquid” modernity has created a new and unprecedented setting for individual life pursuits, confronting individuals with a series of challenges never before encountered. Social forms and institutions no longer have enough time to solidify and cannot serve as frames of reference for human actions and long-term life plans, so individuals have to find other ways to organize their lives.
Individuals have to splice together an unending series of short-term projects and episodes that don’t add up to the kind of sequence to which concepts like “career” and “progress” could be meaningfully applied.
Such fragmented lives require individuals to be flexible and adaptable — to be constantly ready and willing to change tactics at short notice, to abandon commitments and loyalties without regret and to pursue opportunities according to their current availability. In liquid modernity the individual must act, plan actions and calculate the likely gains and losses of acting (or failing to act) under conditions of endemic uncertainty.
“Nowism” actually sounds a lot less scary than Bauman’s “liquid modernity” with its reduction of life to an episodic, unpredictable and essentially meaningless sequence of events. Man, it sounds like 1940-1950s existentialism all over again, except accelerated by Twitter and Facebook and smartphones and DVRs ….
With all this liquid modernity, I need a drink.