The Spirit of the Time, or the Spirit of our Age, underlines the cultural context of each period. Stuart Mill in the 19th century already underlined that change was a key concept to understanding the current times. Today, change is still paramount to our dynamics and to the processes in which structures take place. From Johan Gottfried Herder in the 18th century (1769), passing through the 19th Century – where Arndt, Hegel, Carlyle and Mill wrote about the spirit of the time -, not to mention the contributions in the 20th century, many authors have explored this idea of a general cultural context. Raymond Williams in 1961, following a long tradition, also underlined the concept of a structure of feeling. This article reflects our efforts and contribution to map the current Spirit of the Time and to follow sociocultural changes that affect it.

The conceptual revision of the state of the art regarding this topic suggested the importance of the approach proposed by Gick and Gick (2007) and McCracken (2015), but it is important to underline the contributions to cultural mapping of the works by Stock and Tupot (2015) and even other networks like What´s Next by Richard Watson, with a perspective more associated to forecasting.

Following  these references, and others, we built a visual representation of the Zeitgeist 2017 that can be applied in the identification and understanding of Sociocultural Trends, but also in the generation of innovation insights of a strategic nature. By understanding this macro context, it is possible to build better solutions and discourses for the audiences.

This study was based on an exploratory enquiry to over three hundred students of graduate and post-graduate students in the fields of Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, with the objective to identify the major key-words and concepts that define our time.  A panel of experts, based and inspired on the Delphi Model approach, positioned the topics on a cultural map. This is based on an axis proposed by Evelyn and Wolfgang Gick (2007), in which 0 represented a conservative perspective and 1 an avant-garde one. Based on this proposed, we took in consideration the ideas of Trends Studies, as well as the cultural dichotomy proposed by Grant McCracken (2011) between the Status and Cool concepts, or slow and fast culture.  As such, Trends Observer, in 2016, created a new revision of the Zeitgeist Segmentation Model, as it had been proposed in the Trends Research Center at 2012. Today, this 2017 approach takes all theses contributions into account, articulating an axis where, as we already underlined, 0 represents a traditional perspective, associated to the idea of status, slow culture and a conservative view; while 1 represents an avant-garde perspective, associate to the idea of Cool and fast culture.

The following image shows an articulation of the zeitgeist topics with Macro Sociocultural Trends.



Main References

CARLYLE. T. (1829). “Signs of the Times” in Edinburgh Review, 49.

GICK, Evelyn and Wolfgang Gick (2007). “Why the Devil wears Prada: The Fashion Formation process in a Simultaneous Disclosure Game between Designers and the Media”. Working Paper Series #147, Center for European Studies (Harvard University).

MCCRACKEN, Grant (2011) [2009]. Chief Culture Officer. How to create a living, breathing corporation. New York: Basic Books.

MILL, John Stuart (1986). The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXII – Newspaper Writings December 1822 – July 1831 Part I, ed.  Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

STOCK, T and M. L. Tupot (2015). Mapping Culture. New York: ScenarioDNA inc.

WILLIAMS, Raymond (1961). “The analysis of Culture” in The Long Revolution. London. Chatto & Windus.

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