Peripheral Personality


Vickie Abrahamson, 49, cofounder of trend-watching firm Iconoculture Inc. Coauthor of The Future Ain’t What It Used to Be (Riverhead Books, 1997).


Think of the self as a laptop computer with ports for career, fashion, family, sports, social conscience, health, and education, among other things. The identity cords constantly overlap and get tangled, but not enough to keep people from wanting to plug in more of them. Instead of choosing the one perfect persona, we constantly cross ethnic, cultural, and even gender boundaries.

So What?

Peripheral personality shows up in two consumer behaviors: beehiving and fingerprinting. Beehives are small, tightly knit groups that are based on shared passion. They range from extreme snowboarders to the American Association of Retired Persons. Beehives offer the equivalent of a Good Housekeeping Seal for consumers. Fingerprinting is the quest for a unique identity amid the franchising of America. J. Crew’s customer profiles allow salespeople to send a personalized note about new items in a customer’s favorite color or fabric.

Futurology Decoder Key

The core human values (love, comfort, community) don’t change; they just get acted out in new ways. The best way to understand those shifts is to become a cultural voyeur. I spend a lot of time on the road, lurking and asking questions. I sit in cafes, steal stuff off bulletin boards, read small-town newspapers.

For more information, visit the Web or email Vickie Abrahamson .