Multilocalism: Local Experiences Meet Global Consciousness
How the newly imagined global village is shaping visual culture.
Technology, travel, and migration are shrinking the world and strengthening our connections with each other. As we flow between cultural and geographic boundaries, more of us are embracing our complex global identities, deepening our awareness across cultures, and seeking authentic, local moments.
For our third visual trend of the year, we’re exploring what it means to be multilocal in 2018 and considering how the newly imagined global village is shaping visual culture. And we’re looking at how stock photographers around the world are helping brands capture genuine, respectful local images that appeal to consumers’ deepening global consciousness. (Check out our dedicated gallery of Adobe Stock celebrating a multilocal world here.)
What does it mean to be multilocal?
If you’re born in one country, to parents born in two other countries, and then move multiple times from one country to another, what do you say when someone asks, “Where are you from?” That’s the question Taiye Selasie asks in her TED Talk, “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, Ask Me Where I’m Local.” She concludes that the better question is really about where your rituals, relationships, and circumstances make you feel at home: “My experience is where I’m from,” she says. For Taiye, her truest answer is multilocal. She’s local to Accra, Berlin, Rome, New York, and New Delhi.
When faced with this complicated where-are-you-from question for a design project, artist Astrid Stavros knew the best answer was a hybrid. She was commissioned to create a typeface inspired by her hometown, Trieste. The town has many influences of its own (Austria, Rome, and nearby Slovenia), and Astrid has lived in Madrid, Boston, the Netherlands, London, and Barcelona. “For me, home is really nowhere,” she told It’s Nice That. So, she spliced together two distinct versions of a font in slender and bold shapes. “The merging of the typefaces together portrays the aesthetics of movement, of frontiers, of the old and new, a split personality that is slightly jarred, and a merged beauty results from that,” she said.
In another kind of multilocal art project, New York City’s Caribbean Culture Center African Diaspora Institute is working to preserve the creativity and history of their diverse, re-rooted community. Their new augmented reality app, Mi Querido Barrio (My Beloved Community), walks users through the city’s streets, showing them the lost art and landmarks of a vibrant multilocal community that has being displaced once again, now by gentrification.
Just as a multilocal identity and art are — at their hearts — about local experiences, today’s multilocal traveler seeks out authentic encounters in unique places. Most would rather spend money on slower, deeper travel than material goods or trips to crowded tourist destinations. According to the research firm Skift, consumers are increasingly seeking meaningfulness, simplicity, and transformation when they travel.
It’s a trend that connects a growing sense of global consciousness with the wellness movement (alongside yoga, mindfulness meditation, clean eating, and other tools of self-realization). A new Lonely Planet Guide, “The Place to Be,” reflects this trend perfectly. It organizes destinations by mood so travelers can tailor their itineraries to the emotional states they seek — from serenity to euphoria, or even enlightenment.
To cater to the multilocal, globally conscious seeker, luxury travel brand Black Tomato launched Blink. Blink creates private, temporary accommodations like tents, yurts, and treetop houses in remote places, promising customers an experience no one else will ever have, without leaving behind a trace on the environment.
According to Andy Smith, a U.K.-based photographer and Adobe Stock contributor, these trends toward more unique, remote travel are part of the bigger movement in visual culture: “People’s desire to escape the tech-driven world has increased, so I think we’ll continue to see visual trends that move away from owning material objects, and we’ll see more and more tactile images of making, doing, experiencing, and feeling.”
Photographing multilocal worlds
Adobe recently worked with Andy on a project to document everyday life in London. He photographed a diverse group of small business owners and gathered photos of people on city streets. The collection, a mixture of portraits and documentary-style images, is a window into the many layers of a single multilocal city.
Capturing a complex city in a respectful, authentic way, Andy explained, taps into one of photographers’ key strengths: “Photographers are generally curious and observant by nature, so we’re all ‘experts’ in our own local areas and can show what it’s like to live where we live at this point in time.”
Multilocalism: The takeaway for designers and brands
Stock collections can help buyers keep up with the growing consumer desire for globally-aware, authentic moments. As Andy noted, “A stock collection is the perfect vehicle because contributors are familiar with their own localities, yet widely spread around the world.”
For designers and brands, the multilocal trend requires striking a delicate balance. Images need to embrace true, local moments without appropriating them, and to celebrate the local while elevating our shared global connections.