Alum Anne Boysen on Generations and Research

Anne Boysen

Anne Boysen

Alum Anne Boysen recently talked to student in the World Futures class on the topic of Generational Foresight: Sifting our Way to Generational Insights (Presentation Generations lecture UH). She notes that this was her sixth presentation on the topic in the last month – a very popular theme these days. Her message to students was, however, to be beware of some suspect work out there on the generations topic, e.g., watch out for the “click-bakes” from Buzzfeed. She focused her talk on “the real social science research stuff.” Many doing generational research take a linear view, but futurist can provide a more nuanced understanding mixing in scanning with social science research.

It is useful to start from the foundation of “what makes people tick”:

  • Genetic differences
  • Spatial differences, e.g., geography
  • Temporal differences

It is important to be aware that there are many influences or effects on individuals:

  • Period effects—everyone is affected similarly
  • Lifecycle effect – going to school, having a family, having kids
  • Cohort effects — Generations are about a cohort effect – it affects each generation differently

She talked about how surveys/focus groups to support generational findings are often not properly done; had a nice half-dozen points on common survey problems, such as confirmation bias (getting results that support the stakeholder’s mission) or biased generational narrative (larger generations typically get more press), or leading questions (“Would you rather save the world or make lots of money?”)

She foresaw that kids would rebel against over-sharing on Facebook, and would look to “hide,” for instance with Snapchat. Actually Snapchat could be an indicator for growing privacy concerns among kids….because it goes away. She feels that kids have very complicated views on privacy depending on the situation and circumstances.

Among the many interesting points she raised:

  • Xer’s were often described by what they were not – how they were not the boomers, rather than who they were. They didn’t really define themselves.
  • Over-sharenting” is when parents share everything about their children on social media.
  • A move to “resilience parenting” that provides kids more opportunities to learn on their own, as a reaction to being overly protective.
  • The greater use of images, leading to the “emoji sentence.”

It was a terrific learning experience for the students that also strengthen our foresight community. Our thanks to Anne for sharing with us.

Andy Hines

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