Metamodernism is a term that has gained more and more importance over the last 5 years. It is used to describe contemporary culture. The discourse surrounding this concept deals with sincerity, hope, romanticism, affect, and the potential for grand narratives and universal truths. According to metamodernism, this era is characterised by an oscillation between aspects of modernism and postmodernism, between sincerity and irony, deconstruction and construction, apathy and affect.
The metamodern generation understands that we can be both ironic and sincere at the same time; that one does not necessarily diminish the other. The Lateral View team grew up during the 80s and 90s on a diet of The Simpsons, Friends and South Park, with limited access to the Internet, film cameras and big cellphones. This, obviously, affects the way we perceive and understand the world we live in. As Vermeulen and van den Akker put it, metamodernism’s oscillation should not be thought of as a balance; “rather, it is a pendulum swinging between 2, 3, 5, 10, innumerable poles. Each time the metamodern enthusiasm swings toward fanaticism, gravity pulls it back toward irony; the moment its irony sways toward apathy, gravity pulls it back toward enthusiasm.”.
But, why are we talking about metamodernism if this is a blog about tech, design and innovation? Well, as I was saying before, we are part of a generation that is used to objects. Physical objects that have buttons and switches and specific functions. Objects that do stuff. We were born with them and, even though we are big fans of the digital world and everything that surrounds it, we know better than anyone else that sometimes going back to something we can touch and feel how it works is nice and soothing.
Metamodernism is also about shifting between digital and physical, between being obsessed with the very last technology and buying a used book in a thrift shop. Why is this possible? During the 00s we explored and submerged in tech: Wifi, iPhone, iPod, GPS, Bluetooth, thinner and thinner TVs, HD, 4K and so on. Screens, screens and more screens. Metamoderns need to rest. Too much tech gives us anxiety. We need to be able to look away from screens for a little bit in order to enjoy tech and all of its gadgets later on. We need analogue user experiences that let us feel we are not wifi-dependant and can actually have a nice team with something else. We need to be able to reconnect with our childhood to feel safe and understood without being stuck in the past.
Let me be clear on something: analogue UX does not mean leaving what’s digital completely aside but combining both worlds to create a more powerful, engaging, instantaneous, deep and less demanding of attention one. Also, metamoderns are not just millennials. Metamodernism is an era we are living in.
A few months ago Diego García, CTO at Lateral View, and Leandro Tami, iOS Developer at Lateral View, started working on a 90s videogame. When we were kids we spent hours and hours watching a TV show that consisted in viewers calling the channel in order to play a live game by clicking on the fixed-line phone buttons. When you pressed 8, the character jumped, 4, it turned right, 6 it turned left and so on. Millions of kids were obsessed with the show but very few could actually play because when you called they would keep you on hold for a really long time and eventually hang up or, also, because your parents wouldn’t let you.
We posted some of the game pictures and creative process photos online and realized that just seeing these characters made users feel a good kind of nostalgia. We had found a shared good memory from their childhood and had brought it back. When we announced we were making a real life installation in a huge design and tech conference and that anyone who was planning on going would be able to play, people freaked out.
Diego and Leandro did some research, got hold of an old TV, a computer monitor, a telephone and downloaded the game installer. They managed to work on the electronic and programming side of the project until everything worked properly. We worked on the set, bought some pillows, looked for an old tablecloth and a 90s armchair and we were ready to go. We built the installation at the conference and it absolutely rocked. People gathered up around that old TV and everybody was able to finally play.
We managed to recreate a user experience from the past and updated it. Everybody wanted to play or at least was curious about it but just lived knowing their chances of playing were really low. We made it possible. Lots of players ended up uploading Instagram stories or tweeting about it, which is 100% logical given the year we are living in but they had a nice time, they didn’t have to pay to play and there was no ads whatsoever invading their experience. They didn’t have to worry about their privacy, their data or GDPRs. We gave them breath of fresh air and the hours of preparation where totally worth it. All in all, people like to connect with their childhoods.