Reading Response 2 / Erin Kennedy

In the chapters from Can Jokes Bring Down Governments? Memes, Design, and Politics, Metahaven discusses the power of jokes as “an open-source weapon of the public”, where the designer is “any formmaker, regardless of material”. He also covers the decline of the graphic design industry taking on “political graphic design”, and the rise of public, open-source jokes that, when effective, can reach massive populations – whether that be an entire country or worldwide.

I thought it was interesting that the author, Metahaven, criticized the field of graphic design for being “99% bland “normality” based simply on the predicability of getting reasonable financial returns from running a graphic design practice”, or to paraphrase, criticizing graphic design professionals for focusing on making a living wage, instead of focusing on “social design”, or “political graphic design”. My thought is that, of course most graphics design professionals focus on making a living. What I do find particularly interesting though is this evolution from political commentary through jokes conveyed by professional graphic designers, cartoon professionals who worked for newspapers, or illustrators, to a more open playing field, such as memes on the internet. Where you once had to be a professional to have a voice or to have a platform to express your views, currently, anyone can contribute to the meme culture, and their work, if it does well or resonates with many people, could have a vast impact.

Metahaven also mentions, “The unpaid labor of meme making, pranking and trolling, is for DSG a hitherto untapped resource in a networked type of design power, embodied by the “in-joke” – a cloaked type of worker solidarity”. I had never considered the community of “meme makers” as a design community, but in a way, they are just that. Working anonymously, they have the power to influence many people, giving a voice to social or political feelings or ideas that many may share but don’t express. The other aspect of the meme community that contrasts from any sort of professional design community is that anyone can be a part of it, or can become a part of it. This to me is much better than professional graphic designers taking it upon themselves to make political graphic design “operate like a charity for universal, nonpolitical goods – effectively adding a few socially responsible footnotes to an already written-out, market-based, capitalist realist storyline”, because the field can now be fluid, and influenced by many, not just those with the graphic design skill set.

An interesting source I checked out was a Youtube video, The Evolutionary History of Memes. The video discusses the different “eras” of memes and how we have recently entered an era in which he argues, much like the book Can Jokes Bring Down Governments?, that memes are no longer about funny pictures or quotes, as they were when they first started, but that they can now influence the real world, in areas like politics.


Secondary Research: Individual / Erin Kennedy

  1. Millennials Coming of Age

“Millennials Coming of Age.” Goldman Sachs,

As the largest generation in US history, and as a generation that grew up in a very different environment from their parents, filled with technological changes and economic disturbances, millennials will have a huge impact on the new economy.


  • Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000.
  • Millennials are the biggest generation in US history
  • There are 92 million millennials, compared to 61 million in Generation X and 77 million Baby Boomers
  • Higher percentages of millennials play video games, use instant messaging, download music, and use social media than other generations.
  • The mean income for 15-24 year olds has been decreasing since 2000, leaving millennials with smaller incomes and less money than previous generations.
  • The mean student loan balance for 25 year olds has been increasing since 2003.
  • The percent of adults between 18-31 years old who are married and living in their own household has decreased since the 1960s (56% in 1968, 43% in 1981, 27% in 2007, 23% in 2012).
  • Peak home buying ages are 25 years old to 45 years old.
  • The percentage of 18-34 year olds living with their parents has increased from 26.9% in 2005 to 29.9% in 2010.
  • 93% of 18-34 years who are currently renting plan to buy a home in the future, compared to 75% of 34-44 year olds, 72% of 45-54 year olds, and 39% of 55 and older.
  • The median marriage age in 2010 was 30 years old, compared to 23 years old in the 1970s.
  • The percentage of 18-31 year olds married and living in their own household has decreased to  23% in 2012, compared to 27% in 2007, 43% in 1981, and 56% in 1968.
  • Millennials are waiting longer to have children. In 1970, 12.9% of 25 year old women were having children, while in the 2010s, 7.9% of 25 year old women were having children.
  • 70% of millennials say they want to get married.
  • 74% of millennials say they want to have children.
  • 30% of millennials surveyed do not intend to purchase a car in the near future.
  • 40% of millennials surveyed said that purchasing a house is extremely important.
  • 25-34 year old renters (as a percentage of total population) increased from 52% in 2005 to 60% in 2013.
  • 57% of millennials compare prices in store.
  • 34% of 18-35 year olds surveyed said that “When a brand uses social media, I like that brand more” compared to 16% of those 36 and older.
  • The percentage of 12th graders who disapprove of people 18 or older smoking 1 or more packs of cigarettes a day increased from 69% in 1998 to 83% in 2013.

Sources in Article

  • Goldman Sachs Global Investment Research
  • US Census Bureau
  • Prosper Insights & Analytics for the Media Behavior and Influence Study
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Federal Reserve
  • Pew Research Center
  • Pew Research Center,
  • Current Population Survey
  • Trulia
  • Goldman Sachs Fortnightly
  • Thoughts intern survey, 2013
  • Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development
  • AIMIA Inc. “Born this Way: US Millennial Loyalty Survey” ©2012
  •  Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2014;
  • (16k respondents across 20 countries)
  • Association of National Advertisers, Barkley, SMG, BCG
  • Office for National Statistics, United Kingdom
  • AIMIA Inc. “Born this Way: US Millennial Loyalty Survey” ©2012
  • What’s Your Healthy Survey, Aetna 2013
  • Company data, Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) from Bureau of Economic Analysis, Goldman Sachs Investment Research

2. Millennials Want to Be Entrepreneurs, But A Tough Economy Stands in Their Way

Hollenhorst, Maria. “Millennials Want To Be Entrepreneurs, But A Tough Economy Stands In Their Way.” NPR, NPR, 26 Sept. 2016,

Although millennials are perceived as being a highly entrepreneurial generation, a study results suggest that less millennials are self-employed compared to other generations, like Generation X and Baby Boomers. The decrease in entrepreneurship may be attributable to financial barriers, such as financial insecurity, student loan debt, and lower incomes.

Data (direct quotes from the above article)

  • Fifty-five percent of survey respondents shared her [Hillary Clinton’s] belief that millennials are more entrepreneurial than the previous generation.
  • Less than 2 percent of millennials in 2014 were self-employed, compared with 7.6 percent of Generation Xers and 8.3 percent of baby boomers.”
  • “In 2015, the Brookings Institution reported steady declines in new business formation over the past decade.
  • According to research by the Kaufman Foundation, young people accounted for 23 percent of new entrepreneurs in 2013, down from 35 percent in 1996.
  • A whopping 42 percent of respondents cited insufficient financial means as the biggest obstacle to starting a business.
  • According to the report, millennials make less money and have higher levels of debt than previous generations.
  • Fifty-three percent of respondents have student loan debt or are expecting to take on student loan debt in the future.
  • Only 22 percent of respondents believe starting a company would be the best way to advance their careers.
  • 62 percent of millennials “have considered starting their own business.”
  • 78 percent of survey respondents who know someone that has launched or worked for a startup consider that person successful.
  • 72 percent feel that startups and entrepreneurship are “essential for promoting innovation and jobs.”
  • 30 percent of all respondents and 40 percent of single respondents live with their parents.
  • 54 percent of millennials believe their standard of living will be lower than their parents.
  • 78 percent of millennials “are worried about having good job opportunities.”
  • 79 percent of millennials “worried that they will not have enough money to retire.”
  • 63 percent report that they “would have difficult covering an unexpected $500 expense.”

Sources in Article

3. The Millennial Economy National Public Opinion Survey

“The Millennial Economy National Public Opinion Survey.” Economic Innovation Group, EY and the Economic Innovation Group, Sept. 2016,

The results of a survey of 1,200 millennials provides us with a better understanding of several aspects of their lives, including higher education, student debt, trust of established institutions, and entrepreneurship. The results point to many direct effects of the economic collapse on their beliefs, personal finances, and outlooks about the future.

A lot of information/ key data is covered in this survey. Here are some highlights I found interesting (some are direct quotes from the survey material):

  • Coming of age during a historic economic downturn has severely impacted Millennial life.
    30 percent of respondents live with their parents, which rises to 40 percent for single respondents.
    Nearly one­-third believe their local community is still in a recession.
  • Few millennials feel financially secure.
    Only 6 percent of Millennials feel they are making a lot more than required to cover basic needs. For Millennial women, the figure is only 3 percent.
    63 percent would have difficulty covering an unexpected $500 expense.
    44 percent would dedicate $5,000 in lottery winnings to paying off bills and loans, signaling a struggle to launch, save, and invest.

This chart of millennials’ confidence in various institutions:

Sources in Article
Survey methodology provided on the webpage:
“On behalf of EY and the Economic Innovation Group, Public Opinion Strategies and GBA Strategies conducted a survey of 1,200 18-34 year olds nationwide. Eight hundred and forty respondents were contacted online and 360 were contacted via cell phone. The survey was conducted June 15-20, 2016, and has a margin of error of + 2.83%.

Synthesis Statement
These sources provide us with a better understanding of who millennials really are, their outlooks on the future, and how they were personally affected by the economic collapse of 2008. All three sources support the idea that the millennial generation is quite different from their parent’s generation, and that their experiences and views will play a massive role in the development of the new economy.

Secondary Research/Alisha Lee

Thesis: Since millennials came of age at the start of recession, they don’t spend as freely as earlier generations, seeing how their parents struggled. In addition, they often don’t have as much money to begin with, since they have large amounts of student debt and incomes haven’t increased.
  • 7 out of 10 students graduate with student loan debt.
  • The average amount of debt that students graduate with is $30,000, which does not include those who take out loans and don’t graduate.
  • Around 1/3 of millennials don’t have money in their savings accounts
Thesis: The Millennial generation is more likely to spend their (limited) funds on experiences, which means that traditional higher-priced physical markets are struggling.
  • 75% of millennials feel the political and economic state of the world impacted them heavily
  • 71% of millennials cite that experiences are the most important thing in their lives
  • Vacations – 43% of millennials are ‘work martyrs’ where they feel guilty for taking time off, also don’t have funds to go on vacation
  • marriage- millennials marry less and later-more debt, living with parents or roommates longer, pushing marriage until financial stability
  • homeownership-can’t afford down payments, stagnant wages and rising home prices
  • diamonds-companies cutting prices, millennials prefer experiences rather than expensive, exploitive goods
Thesis: Millennials and their high student debt are affecting society due to its far-reaching consequences.
  • Americans owe more than a trillion dollars in student loans, millennials carry most of it
  • 41% of millennials are putting off buying a house
  • 31% are putting off buying a car
  • 17% are putting off marriage
  • 31% putting off having kids
  • Average bachelors degree holder takes 21 years to pay off student debt

Reading Response 1 / Erin Kennedy

In the majority and minority staff report released by the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Wall Street and the Financial Crisis: Anatomy of a Financial Collapse, the committee explains that the financial crisis was caused by a culmination of corrupt practices and the failures of several parties, including commercial banks, investment banks, credit rating agencies, and the respective government agencies responsible for regulating these sectors.

One idea supported by the report is that the situation could have benefited from better government regulation, which could have helped stop the corrupt practices from developing in the first place. Specifically, the report discusses the regulatory failure that allowed practices such as pursuing high-risk loans and mortgages within banks, such as the Washington Mutual Bank (WaMu), to continue. The OTS, or Office of Thrift Supervision, for example, noted many red flags during the five years prior to WaMu’s collapse, yet they never responded with “enforcement action”, trusting that the bank would take their feedback and police itself. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) even attempted to step in upon the OTS’s lack of action, but was criticized by the OTS for their attempt.

The second article, The 2008 Housing Crisis, takes a much more focused angle and argues that the cause of the financial crisis was not federal housing programs, such as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), the Community Reinvestment Act, and government-sponsored enterprises, such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, but was due rather to predatory lending, as well as a lack of regulation and oversight in the financial sector. The article explains that these housing programs had been providing low and middle class families the opportunity of homeownership for years prior, and that “In fact, far from contributing to the housing bubble, the FHA saw a significant reduction in its market share of originations in the lead-up to the housing crisis. This was because standard FHA loans could not compete with the lower upfront costs, looser underwriting, and reduced processing requirements of private label subprime loans.” Because these programs had a much smaller role in the financial crisis, compared to the evident conflicts of interest and lack of enforcement in the private sector, the article explains that they should not be punished, but that the private sector should be more highly regulated to prevent corrupt practices from emerging in the future. The article is supported with data (see figure 2 below), visually showing that the FHA securitization was lower than private-label mortgage-backed securities securitization during the housing bubble, but after it burst and private options collapsed, the FHA stepped in to fill the created hole (see 2008 data).

In order to get a fuller understanding of the situation, I felt I needed to find a source from the other side of the spectrum, one that argued that the FHA and other various housing programs did play a large role in the financial crisis. An article from the Business Insider, entitled How the Government Caused the Mortgage Crisis, argues that the FHA and programs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were in fact catalysts for economic collapse because they had been mandated by the government to take on high-risk mortgages from the start, back in the early 1990s. I find this perspective interesting, however I feel I would need to explore other sources and data to draw a conclusion, considering this article does not support its claims with data as strongly as The 2008 Housing Crisis article.

I agree that the corruption spurred in the early 2000s in the private sector shows a lack of important checks and balances within a clearly broken system. Whether or not higher government regulation would have provided the appropriate policing to prevent the situation from occurring is still unclear to me, especially if the regulations already in place through the government at the time failed. I am also unclear as to whether government housing programs took a detrimental toll on the economy, and feel I would need to review more sources to draw my own conclusions. What I do know is that much is at stake in our future actions and choices as a country. Neither side wants to see history repeated; and it is clear that we have a great responsibility to learn from the past, as our decisions have the potential to affect the global economy in drastic ways.