Any statement starting with “among 18 to 34-year-olds” is usually met with a vague sense of boredom and/or immediate exceptions to whatever follows. The same is likely the case for any statement based on a demographic breakdown. The thing is, researchers don’t use demographics because they’re perfect. They use them because, in some cases, they’re the most accepted way to begin understanding a group of people.

But who hasn’t wondered what’s really behind a given trend or phenomenon? Are people really buying Brand H because they’re usually between 35 and 44, and college educated? Is that mostly it? Or is there something that motivates certain people to participate in a certain activity or buy a certain product? What cuts across demographics that we could be thinking about in addition to more traditional approaches?

These questions are what eventually became a matter of persistent curiosity for us at The PARAGRAPH Project. In a research endeavor we call Slow Culture, we take a fresh look at the forces that have always underpinned the choices we as humans and consumers make, and at what those drivers might look like as move into the future. In a nutshell, we’re looking beyond the type of trendwatching that focuses on minute-by-minute shifts toward something more substantial, lasting, and predictive.

Slow Culture is an eight-part series examining the eternal motivations that explain why we do what we do. These motivations manifest themselves differently depending on the time and place, and their trajectories—shown below—trace a broader transformation in collective mood. It's not the end of the road, but it's where we are, and this series of eight installments will help us fathom what might be next.

WE'LL BE EXPLORING THE SHIFTS...

FROM THIS:

Individuality as a risk

Belonging via inherited community

Expression as singular creation

Influence via traditional channels

Duty as upholding the rules

Rebellion as fighting the system

Contentment through a comfort zone

Renewal as a sea change

TO THIS:

Individuality as the cost of entry

Belonging via self-made community

Expression as recombination

Influence via eclectic channels

Duty as finding one's own rules

Rebellion as working the system

Contentment through awareness

Renewal as a constant process