“They will never give up own­er­ship al­to­gether”

Giulia Ranzini, an ex­pert on the shar­ing econ­omy, talks about how mil­len­ni­als view own­er­ship, lone­li­ness on so­cial me­dia and pro­tect­ing dig­i­tal pri­vacy.

Bulletin - - Credit Suisse Youth Barometer - By MICHAEL KROBATH

Dr. Ranzini, the Youth Barom­e­ter tells us that most mil­len­ni­als em­brace the idea of “shar­ing rather than own­ing.” Why is this gen­er­a­tion so open to the con­cept of shared own­er­ship?

Hav­ing grown up with tech­nol­ogy, mil­len­ni­als are used to the idea of shared con­tent. So they take a fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent ap­proach to own­er­ship. The idea of own­ing dig­i­tal mu­sic, for ex­am­ple, seems ab­surd to a 19-year-old.

Are they also fa­vor­ably dis­posed to shar­ing other types of prod­ucts and ser­vices?

Stud­ies have shown that mem­bers of this gen­er­a­tion now make up the largest group of users of plat­forms like Airbnb and Uber. It’s only nat­u­ral, how­ever, that 16- to 25-year-olds are more ac­tive on the “con­sumer” than the “sharer” side. They use the pos­ses­sions of other peo­ple that they can’t af­ford to buy. When they are mak­ing more money, they will hope­fully be more in­volved on the provider side. But one thing is also cer­tain: They will never give up own­er­ship al­to­gether.

The older gen­er­a­tion tends to strug­gle with the idea of the shar­ing econ­omy – de­spite its many ad­van­tages.

Yes, older peo­ple have more dif­fi­culty with mo­bile tech­nolo­gies, and par­tic­u­larly with the var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions. As a re­sult, they have fun­da­men­tal con­cerns about these tech­nolo­gies; at any rate, they en­counter prob­lems and are less com­fort­able us­ing them. They also worry about pri­vacy.

In what cases will young peo­ple never em­brace the idea of shar­ing?

“Be­ing an adult” has al­ways been strongly linked with per­sonal wealth, as demon­strated by pos­sess­ing cer­tain as­sets – such as a car or a house. It will be in­ter­est­ing to see whether this will change among the younger gen­er­a­tion – but so far I’ve seen no ev­i­dence of that.

Are there cul­tural dif­fer­ences in peo­ple’s ac­cep­tance and uti­liza­tion of the shar­ing econ­omy?

Ps2share, a large-scale re­search project we con­ducted in col­lab­o­ra­tion with teams from five uni­ver­si­ties, found that the rate of par­tic­i­pa­tion in shar­ing plat­forms was high­est in coun­tries such as France and the UK and low­est in coun­tries such as the Nether­lands and Nor­way.

Is it a co­in­ci­dence that peo­ple in wealth­ier so­ci­eties are less in­ter­ested in shar­ing?

The eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion might be one fac­tor. But the main rea­son why a per­son chooses not to par­tic­i­pate in the shar­ing econ­omy seems to be a lack of dig­i­tal skills. So a va­ri­ety of fac­tors are at play here.

In ev­ery so­cial unit, and es­pe­cially in on­line com­mu­ni­ties, we are see­ing a de­cline in peo­ple’s sense of be­long­ing. Should we be con­cerned about mem­bers of the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion be­com­ing in­creas­ingly iso­lated?

In the case of on­line ac­tiv­ity, this find­ing is not very sur­pris­ing. There has been a dra­matic change in the way younger peo­ple use so­cial me­dia; more and more,

“In to­day’s net­worked world, rat­ings are worth just as much as money”: 72 % agree in Sin­ga­pore; 72 % 67 % 45 %

users are leav­ing Face­book in fa­vor of plat­forms like Snapchat and In­sta­gram. These plat­forms tend to fa­cil­i­tate a “one ver­sus many” rather than group-based kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. It is there­fore no won­der that users feel less like mem­bers of a group. The sup­port of com­mu­ni­ties, what we call so­cial cap­i­tal, is less present in newer so­cial me­dia plat­forms.

You have con­ducted sev­eral stud­ies to ex­am­ine how peo­ple rep­re­sent them­selves on so­cial me­dia. How does the way young peo­ple por­tray them­selves in the dig­i­tal arena dif­fer from who they ac­tu­ally are?

Ev­ery so­cial net­work is dif­fer­ent, and how users present them­selves is greatly in­flu­enced by in­di­vid­ual char­ac­ter­is­tics as well as by the com­po­si­tion of the re­spec­tive net­work. On Mys­pace and Sec­ond Life, which were among the ear­li­est so­cial me­dia plat­forms, users went by fic­tional names or even avatars. To­day the world of so­cial me­dia is dom­i­nated by net­works like Face­book, What­sapp and In­sta­gram, which gen­er­ally in­clude users’ ac­tual names and per­sonal pho­tos. So it’s not so much a mat­ter of rein­vent­ing one­self or ex­per­i­ment­ing with a dif­fer­ent per­sona, but rather of de­cid­ing how to present one’s ac­tual self. I don’t think this will change in the fore­see­able fu­ture.

Ac­cord­ing to the Youth Barom­e­ter, young peo­ple are aware of on­line dan­gers and know how to pro­tect them­selves. Is dig­i­tal se­cu­rity no longer a prob­lem for this gen­er­a­tion?

Var­i­ous stud­ies have shown that teenagers are bet­ter at man­ag­ing their on­line pri­vacy than com­monly thought – and they are also bet­ter at man­ag­ing what we call on­line stress: the com­pul­sion to be con­stantly on­line, for fear of miss­ing out. Nev­er­the­less, it’s a good thing that schools are pay­ing more at­ten­tion to the topic of pri­vacy, es­pe­cially now that the line be­tween on­line and off-line is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly blurred. But I think these top­ics should be in­tro­duced at an even ear­lier stage.

What role should par­ents play?

They need to be alert to signs of ad­dic­tive be­hav­ior. And they should talk with their chil­dren about data pri­vacy. The prob­lem is that as tech­nol­ogy is ad­vanc­ing so rapidly, they some­times lose touch. They no longer un­der­stand the world that their chil­dren are nav­i­gat­ing so ef­fort­lessly.

You’re an ex­pert on the mil­len­nial gen­er­a­tion. What so­cial me­dia do you use?

Now you’ve caught me. I re­ally only use Twit­ter, and mainly to share con­tent re­lated to my pro­fes­sional life. And to be hon­est, I don’t draw a clear line be­tween the pro­fes­sional and the per­sonal, al­though per­haps I should. By the way, re­searchers have a name for this phe­nom­e­non – even when peo­ple are con­cerned about data pri­vacy and aware of the dan­gers, they still fail to pro­tect them­selves. We call it the “dat­apro­tec­tion para­dox.”

GIULIA RANZINI, 32, is an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor of com­mu­ni­ca­tion science at the Free Univer­sity of Am­s­ter­dam. Her re­search fo­cuses on in­for­ma­tion shar­ing and so­cial me­dia. Ranzini, who is orig­i­nally from Italy, pre­vi­ously worked as a re­search as­sis­tant at the Univer­sity of St. Gallen.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Switzerland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.