The consumer economy is dead, long live the creator economy [MEF]

Our world is about the technology and the use of technology — the invention and reinvention of technology. The industry most disrupted by technology is the media industry and the current shifting media innovation is leading to an economic shift and what drives the economy, says Paul Saffo, Technology Forecaster: Stanford MediaX and MD, Foresight, Discern.

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Speaking at the MEF Global Forum in Silicon Valley, Saffo explored the idea of the creator economy and mobility and how society is shifting from consumption to interaction.

“Media innovation lead to economic shift: essentially we invent the technology and then we reinvent ourself to suit that technology,” Saffo says.

The Stanford forecaster argues that the recent economic downturn conceals the current shift from a dying consumer economy built on consumption to a new “creator economy” built on mass interaction.

Saffo argues that it is important to note that we are in this media shift and the consumer economy arose during a critical time for the media: the invention of television. The invention for the television fuelled the consumer economy which inflamed the desire for products people didn’t own before and we began moving things round the planet to achieve that desire.

That’s all over he says. “I know exactly when the consumer economy ended, it was in 2008, the day the market crashed.”

There is a new economy though. The creator economy is about ordinary people who believe they just consume but are in fact creating he says. In the consumer economy we “watched and bought but there was never interaction.”

The world of the creator economy is about new media titans. Google, Twitter, Facebook, Etsy and Wikipedia.

“Arising out of the world of Silicon Valley startups, this digitally-fueled shift will profoundly transform how publics buy and use everything from toothpaste to banking services and thus will deliver myriad entrepreneurial surprises in the mobility space,” he says.

Eventually leading to what Saffo says will be “maddening uncertainty for incumbents, but for innovators who keep their head – and keep their head up—it will also be a period of unprecedented opportunity”.

We are shifting from vast media to personal media and it’s moving into physical things, changing the retail experience. Retailers are using smart devices to engage consumers making them creators by giving them the opportunity to decide how they interact with products.

Saffo cites examples of the creator economy in Starbucks’s pay it forward movement and 3D printing and platforms such as Lyft and AirBnB. It’s simple we are entering a world of consumption through creation.

What Saffo explains isn’t quite new — it’s the sharing economy, the idea that the giants of industry are driven by ordinary people.

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