Generation Y, which could be described as the “Bored now…” generation, can be characterised in part by short attention spans, hence the demand for tightly edited, focussed, highly relevant pieces of content. Brevity rules. (“Music! Lolcats! Squirrel!” Okay, coherency can be good too.)
But as a content producer/creator, how do you tailor your work to short attention spans without compromising depth or quality? Is it simply a question of playing to the strengths of this phenomenon, in writing and editing tightly, keeping the focus on the essentials?
In part, yes. However, there’s still the need for people to slow down once in a while and consider things in more depth; there are some ideas that can’t be explored satisfactorily in a cursory manner. The internet provides such opportunities, by making it easy to find a niche, whether the content is brief or more in detail. It’s about the individual.
More specifically, the internet makes it possible to connect individual consumers with individual creators, in a way which would have been much rarer before the internet. (“Wait, there was a ‘before the internet’?!”) This can be seen from the popularity of web series such as Felicia Day’s The Guild, with its identity rooted in social video game culture (more specifically, the tension between the world of gaming and the real world, which the characters are caught between in various amusing ways), and consequently appeals to gamers and non-gamers alike.
Perhaps short-form and long-form content can complement each other, such as having short-form as a teaser for long-form. (“Ha ha, now I’ve got your attention with pop culture references, you’ll also read the lengthier, more in-depth things I have to say…hey, wait, where are you going…?”)
Speaking of pop culture references, the film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, with its highly stylised and video game-influenced aesthetic, really taps into the Generation Y mindset. It’s adapted from the comic book series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, described by Joss Whedon (Buffy, Firefly, The Avengers) thus: “It is the chronicle of our time. Plus, kung fu. So, perfect.”
The film, with its abundance of references, virtuoso editing, and accomplished direction in a kinetic, hyper-real style by fan favourite Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Spaced), very effectively captures the world in which many Gen Y-ers grew up. Thematically, it concerns the difficulty of navigating relationships as a young adult in a mature way – through fighting people with flaming swords.
Either you get it or you don’t; but if you do, then you really get it. Hence, it’s quickly becoming a cult classic, despite failing to dissolve into coins at the box office.
In contrast, yet still something that Generation Y could learn from, the underrated film Star Trek: Insurrection illustrates, among other themes, the importance of slowing down and savouring the moment.
Essentially, Generation Y’s constant desire to skip quickly to the next thing is symptomatic of being driven by a restless search for meaning, in the midst of an overwhelming sea of information.
While the transitory and subjective can have value in an aesthetic sense, we still need to recognise the importance of absolutes.
Stories such as C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, though from a previous generation, nevertheless continue to resonate across all ages, as does J.K. Rowling’s more recent Harry Potter series. In each case, this applies not only in terms of the books, but also the recent film adaptations, which have introduced the stories to new audiences.
Epic fantasy stories like these prove enduringly popular due to their genuine lack of cynicism, use of story and meaning in synergy, and thematic resonance in their treatment of themes such as good versus evil, love, friendship, and redemption. These stories are rooted in the Christian worldview of the authors, which gives them substance and meaning.
As Sam comments in The Lord of the Rings, these stories stick with you because they really matter.
Whatever the format, it all comes back to content. Whether it’s a thirty-second video or an epic like The Lord of the Rings, getting the message across with clarity and skill is of paramount importance.
However, if this article isn’t a comprehensive examination of this wide-ranging topic, blame the cultural need for bite-size content…
Notes: Dreaming Fish Productions is a communications agency specialising in high-quality corporate video and corporate animation. This blog was written by Calvin Peat, intern. More of his work can be found at www.shadowlocked.com, where he’s a contributor and news editor.