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How 2022 Technology Trends Can Help Us Create New Communities

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As we kick off the new year, I was curious how the latest technology trends may impact and enhance our lives this year. From increased use of Zoom to connect with our colleagues to riding a Peloton bike for virtual exercise classes, in many aspects, technology has allowed us to stay connected throughout the pandemic. To fuel my curiosity, I looked at Canvas8’s 2022 Expert Outlook series to better understand how 2022 technology trends can be used to help create communities. Below are key technology trends to be aware of:

Game Streaming: The lines between gamers and gaming spectators continue to blur.

Animal Crossing and Fortnite: besides being popular, what do these two games have in common? They both are excellent case studies for the merge between 'gamer' and 'spectator.' Dr. Paolo Ruffino, Lecturer and Researcher at the University of Liverpool noted that the game design industry is continuing to merge “practices of spectatorship, where players can move from an active stance to – spectating.”

According to a 2021 Statista study, “84% of respondents agreed that video games help them connect with others with similar interests and 67% believe it's easy to find the right community within online video games.” Gaming communities and spectatorship are nothing new but have been amplified during COVID-19 as people are looking to cope with isolation. Gaming spectatorship is also easier and more accessible than ever before: Meta has developed their own gaming section on the platform, Playstation encourages their users to stream on Twitch, and of course, YouTube is easily accessible, even for ‘non-gamers.’ “Non-traditional” gamers that have internet access and a device can tune into live streams, just as easily as they can log in to a TV streaming platform, but with the added bonus of the being part of the gaming community.

Virtual Worlds: 2022 Technology Trends show we’ll continue to see more adoption and integration of AR and digital realities.

"Individuals want to get out of [social media] in terms of their expression and engagement, and we're seeing bigger returns on investment for brands that leverage augmented reality," shares John Wolff, an international consultant and game producer. This is exactly why Snap and Niantic, an augmented reality software developing company that empowers users to make their own AR experiences, are expected to see heightened success in 2022.

In 2021, we also saw brands work with Roblox, a social gaming platform to create digital communities to meet Gen Zer’s where they spend their time. For example, Nike launched their own digital reality, Nikeland, which incorporates nostalgic games like ‘the floor is lava’ and Van’s launched Vans World, where players can show off their gnarly skate tricks while personalizing apparel and skateboards. If your brand is trying to reach Gen Z, it’s worth exploring or partnering with digital realities and gaming platforms, like Roblox, in 2022 as “a stunning 56 percent [of US Children] play on Roblox at least weekly,” according to Techonomy.

NIKELAND on Roblox - Where Sport Has No Rules | Nike
NFTs: NFTs/social tokens bridge the gap between collectible assets and virtual community building.

Speaking of digital realities, Meta's Metaverse and Decentraland, a metaverse where you can bring your own NFTs, are forecasted to change how people build community and bring digital assets into different 'miniverses'. Although NFTs aren't brand new, early adopters have shifted their mindsets from “collectibles to communities.” As Aaron Frank, faculty member at Singularity University puts it, “NFTs are now a way to project an identity into the world and connect with people. Five years ago, if you were to look in Silicon Valley, the people who built their career in virtual worlds were distinct and separate from people who were in the blockchain/crypto space. What's happened in 2021 is that those two worlds have collided.”

With this collision between blockchain and virtual worlds, people have naturally started looking at ways NFTs can help financially support communities and raise money for change. For example, NFT for Good, an open platform that encourages creators and donors to support social causes, created NFT ‘cards’ which featured 88 AAPI Leaders. They were able to bring people together to raise more than $80,000 to support the #HateIsAVirus and #StopAsianHate movements. High profile leaders and artists have also partnered with social good organizations to donate NFT proceeds. For example, in 2021, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first Tweet and raised $2.9 million to Give Directly’s Africa fund.

In addition to being a new avenue for fundraising for social good, as NFTs have evolved so have the communities the NFTs represent. DINOMONKS is an NFT community that focuses on the mental wellness of the metaverse. By purchasing an NFT, you gain access to the DINOMONK's 'Monastery,' their inclusive community that helps provide members with resources they need and an open space to share what they are going through. According to their website, they also offer expert AMA's (ask me anything) focused on how to be mentally healthier, group wellness and meditation sessions, and ongoing workshops, which take place on their Discord server.

Between building communities, fundraising opportunities, partnerships, and uplifting creators of underrepresented groups, there’s a lot of potential for brands and non-profits to engage in the NFT space. However, NFT platforms and crypto mining have been rightfully scrutinized for their implications on climate change. Companies are seeking out ways to be more eco-friendly, such as choosing to mine coins by using renewable sources of energy. (You can read more about NFT’s environmental impact here.)

Health Technology Trends: Technology has enabled physical and mental healthcare services and communities to exist in the comfort of your own home.

Last but certainly not least, technology has transformed at home digital healthcare. From telehealth services to Peloton setting the stage for virtual at home classes, the use of technology for physical and mental health care has exploded during COVID-19, and it isn’t going anywhere. Canvas 8 reports that, “80% of gym and fitness club members plan to use digital workouts moving forward and 76% of Americans are interested in using digital healthcare services.” Healthcare technology has allowed for flexibility and comfort from home like never before. At home exercise regimes have become increasingly social, adding a layer of motivation to what once was at home exercise tapes. Wearable technology has also helped people sustain, track, understand, and share their health habits.

As people are looking to better themselves and their physical and mental health, especially in the new year, health and fitness companies that create communities online are successfully providing connection that their audience craves. We're also seeing major tech platforms that nurture communities adding healthcare features to further support their users. For example, in 2021 TikTok partnered with the National Eating Disorders Association so when users search for #edrecovery or other content around eating disorders, they are provided with information to get support. People are looking at healthcare and mental wellness more holistically than pre-pandemic and as a result, technologies that help cope with loneliness, real life struggles, and create healthy habits within community context will continue to transform the industry.

Photo credit: TikTok

At the end of the day, humans crave connection and commonality. Brands and non-profits that can create an authentic emotional bond with their audience will resonate the best. Technology advancements over the past few years have enabled us to create these spaces in new ways and redefine what community looks like. With all of these digital avenues and 2022 technology trends, remember to keep your target audience top of mind and strategically look at these trends to best determine what communities to invest your time, partnerships, and resources in. And as we are entering a new year and facing Omicron, remember to find community for yourself, both professionally and personally, too.

Curious to learn more about 2022 trends? Canvas8 spoke to 35 global experts and 33 cultural insiders across 9 countries to uncover three new consumer cohorts set to disrupt and define 2022, along with 15 sector reports including the Technology & Entertainment ones referenced in this blog. You can learn how the above trends apply to the consumer mindsets and read more, here.

This article is the third in a series spotlighting trends produced in partnership with CANVAS8.

Cover photo credit: Unsplash