Strategic Design and Management class: Final Project
The future of manifestos
After defining what a manifesto is and how its value is defined, I’ll go on to explore the future of manifestos, what changes, remains the same, or is created around a form of expression so basic, yet so powerful, as ideas themselves.
After analyzing three manifestos on my Design Project, I was able to state that the value inside a Manifesto is not the ideas it presents itself with. As I mentioned: ideas can fall short if there is not an interpretation or a strong voice behind them. We must start to understand the value of a manifesto as the action it invites the readers of it to engage with.
To provoke action, the exposed ideas or stands not only must be clear, but authentic. It is honesty and exposure that engages with the public.
All the reviewed manifestos were made (written, pictured, or narrated) by humans and for humans, with vast interpretations and visceral reactions to raw expressions of honesty. So far, we don’t have a manifesto written for or to other live beings o artificial entities.
As an overall conclusion from my Design Project, I state: everyone can write their own manifesto, but only a few are brave enough to come to do it, for it is a completely honest truth from oneself exposed to the entire world to see, argue, or question.
To try and define what the structure of manifestos to come would look like, we first need to clarify what a manifesto looks like today. Not only characteristics, as previously established (present tense, invitations, strong language) but the form it takes. The body, if you may, that such document presents itself as.
Although the three parts here presented can be presented in different order along within a manifesto, I firmly believe that, regardless of the order, these are vital for a manifesto to be so:
First, I’d say we have the view. For example, Marx, first describes what he observes in his current period. How, in his case, social and economic structure works, where it came from and what it represents. This first part of a manifesto situates the audience at the base point of the idea.
The second part is intention. What claims the author makes, what invitations are being handed to the audience? Here we see a call to action, a revolution of some sort that tries to involve the spectator to make a change.
Finally, but as important, we have motivation. This states the author’s reason to expose his or her ideas and invitations for others to take part in the previously mentioned revolution started by the manifesto itself.
So, how can this structure change in the future of manifestos? Looking into how the world is developing, connections are becoming more and more important. Not so many years ago it was inconceivable to speak or see someone who was in a different country, not even to mention continent. Today, we can interact with people from all over the world.
Although we are more connected than ever, there is also a bigger, stronger sense of self. Individualism has become one of the greatest goals of the current times. It is for these reasons that I believe the new manifestos to come will include one more important “part” in their constitution:
Audience: in a globalized world, we now understand one size doesn’t fit all. Marx, Kaczisnky, even Martin Luther King presented their manifestos to society as a whole. Now, globalization has divided society into different groups, associations, or the public. For a few years now, we are more and more focused on finding people that resemble us. We see this in “targeted” promotions on social media or even Ideo’s Business Model Canvas and its Customer Segment column.
The addition of this block to a manifesto’s structure can only make it more powerful, for it’ll target those who’ll relate, and who already belong to a community of pairs to whom they can present said manifesto, helping the idea to proliferate.
Up to now, we have different forms of manifestos:
Written expression: such as books, essays, letters.
Visual: as presented on the design project, Lululemons manifesto is a visual representation of what the brand stands for and its call to action (image presented again below)
Speech: memorable speeches such as Martin Luther King’s or Steve Job’s are famous and talked about many years later
Movies: Easy Rider, or any of the movies by the Dogma Collective, for example.
But, what can we expect for the future? I truly believe that by relying on technology, there are no limits to how manifestos can be expressed.
Thinking on the possibilities, I’m inspired by Gavon Bromfields’ Design Project, where he reflects on the value of Virtual Influencers. If there is a persona created to approach specific target groups, and this can be replicated or adapted to several, or even infinite, groups, can the message delivered be more powerful? If I visually connect or identify with this persona, whether I know it’s artificially made or not, can the message received become even more powerful? Could it lead me to a conscious act of revolution or change?
In addition to this, going back to commodities and how, nowadays, my conduct or action on social media is more relevant than ever, can I be put in a group with people that perform similar to me and then be targeted by a virtual persona? Adding to a physical expectation of what a “leader of opinion” could or should look like, if the message uses a language I relate to, can this be inspiring or nocive to my decision-making regarding daily and mundane, or even, vital aspects of my life? Would I, or whoever is exposed, be more vulnerable to share the ideas, be convinced? How easy could it be to question r even refuse whatever said manifesto proposes?
If we take this even one step further, can these virtual personas, now with all the information of my digital behavior, dig inside my specific content modify the message to even customize it to my experience? Can a manifesto be infused with artificial intelligence to include in its arguments examples or connections to my siblings, parents, friends, or partner? Places I’ve visited? Experiences I’ve shared?
Regardless of how ethical this could be or not, we now enjoy technology that foresees our preferences, why not use this technology to spread our ideas in the form of customized manifestos?
Finally, and as previously mentioned, the audience nowadays is more important than ever.
The manifestos stated on my Design Project are what it’s called: “for the masses”. Ted Kaczynski, an American in the middle of the woods in Montana appealed to an enormous audience: every person living in the modern world. George Orwell’s 1984 has been translated into 65 different languages, appealing to whoever can read (or at least has an interest in literature).
Once again, going back to technology, we have now the opportunity of connecting to content and people more akin to ourselves. This allows us to now interact with complete strangers with whom we have something in common, whether is something as mundane as a supermarket frequently visited or a political view on something as polemic as abortion or euthanasia, we have now the ability to reach out to complete strangers without even leaving our homes.
With this in mind, manifestos can be as broad or as specific as needed, technology has allowed us to segment digital individuals (which is around 60% of the physical world population) into smaller groups; as niche or general as we are willing to categorize.
This can be both a blessing or a curse: we can spread manifestos everywhere, but with a bigger chance of being rejected by the wrong audience, on the contrary, we can appeal to specific audiences and let ideas cultivate among their members. The latter could be a particularly dangerous behavior, such are the examples of the popular QAnon activist or the Incel Movement.
Let’s take the Incel Movement as an example. Incels are a large online community of men who describe themselves as “involuntary celibates”. Men who are part of this movement harbor a deep resentment towards both women and other men who are sexually active. They blame women for their own lack of sexual and social status. While views tend to vary, some believe that sex is their right — something that is owed to them by virtue of them being males. This would be the main idea of the group’s mentality. Although for the majority of people this would be unpopular, using online targeting they’ve managed to build a robust community of alike mentality members.
The last topic I would like to board regarding the future of manifestos would be the diffusion of them. Previously, we’ve had “traditional” means such as print mediums, radio transmissions, and word of mouth to spread ideas. As the internet became popularized the written essays found pdf formats, speeches found youtube, and word of mouth become more graphic.
I believe that from now on, all different kinds of manifestos will explore all forms of communication. Although the audience for the message might be more specific, now all messages can (and probably will) be expressed as long essays that can be read, if the public would rather listen it can be turned into audio in the (now) common format of a Podcast or even as a graphic that can be easily shared on social media or communication apps like iMessage or Whatsapp.
Let’s not forget traditional massive formats as billboards (now available for anyone who’s willing to pay for the space), movies, streaming ads, etc.
Regarding diffusion, the possibilities are as infinite as the world of advertising and consumption keeps growing. It will now know no (or almost none) country, language, or time zone boundaries.
While manifestos have been around for a long time, they have changed over the years in format, length, use, etc. As long as society keeps evolving, so will this form of expression will be.
Unlike other trends, this is probably one of the hardest to foresee, as a manifesto can take almost any form of expression, and so it can spread by the “regular” methods as a publication or just as a shared sentiment amongst alike individuals.