How Cultural Innovation Happens

About 15 years ago, Grant McCracken went to a shopping mall to interview teenagers about their identities. He found that the old rigid categories of "preppie," "jock," and "nerd," had given way to a much longer list: There were surfer/skater guys, b-girls, goths, punks, heavy-metal rockers, and many other types of kids wandering around.

In books such as Plenitude, McCracken catalogued the explosion of new lifestyles and identities in North America and the developed world more generally. In his most recent volume, last year's Chief Culture Office, McCracken argues that an understanding of how consumers play with their identities is key to making products that people want. His next book, Culturematic, will be published next year and examines how people create self-replicating cultural experiments that producers and audiences either dig or reject. One example: MTV's invention of reality television in 1992, just as the station's old programming model was beginning to flag. Out of a moment of desperation grew today's dominant form of serial TV.

Trained in anthropology, the Canadian-born McCracken is a research affiliate at Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT and a brand consultant; his blog covers everything from arcane academic research to Gossip Girl plot threads.'s Nick Gillespie sat down with McCracken to talk about the throughline that exists in all of his work.

Edited by Jim Epstein; camera by Epstein and Anthony Fisher.

Approximately 8 minutes.

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  • SIV||

    Trained in anthropology

    Note to young people: Do not take out student loans for this "training".

  • foo||

    And do not consult people who have had this training on how to "get the maximum amount of code"

  • ||

    I was an 80s punk rawker who wore handmade DK t-shirts because there was nowhere to buy them locally.

    oh, the jocks just _loved_ to mess with me.

  • proegg antichicken||

    Donkey Kong?

  • ||

    Interesting guy, if possibly useless. At least he gets one thing right:

  • ||

    You "surfer/skater guys, b-girls, goths, punks, heavy-metal rockers" GET OFF MY LAWN!

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    "Oh, he's very popular, Ed. The sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wastoids, dweebies, dickheads - they all adore him. They think he's a righteous dude."

  • Paul||

    Why is the bailiff from Night Court in this video?

  • Fatty Bolger||

    the old rigid categories of "preppie," "jock," and "nerd,"

    I don't remember them being all that rigid.

  • chaussures mbt||

    nice job!

  • Pandora UK||

    oh, the jocks just _loved_ to mess with me.

  • scarpe Nike Store||

    is good

  • nike dunk||

    is good

  • Nike Dunk High||



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