Research Project – Solo SOS: Social Ecology MAPPING And Consumer Patterns

The first project topic introduced is about consumer behavior and culture of Single Youth Households. The project illustrates an ecosystem of Studentification in city of London. The title of the illustration below is “The Studentification in London”. Describing the youths’ urban experiences in the city, and how they are linked with the city (in this project, TFL service is intendly missing) (This project is held by Sun-Young HA, 2016-17).

The Studentification in City of London
Illustration by: Sun-Young HA


Due to the increase of international students and visitors in the UK (17% growth; Euromonitor 2010), the higher education institutions have been focused on the phenomenon, so called “Studentification” (Smith 2002; Universities UK 2006; Munro et al. 2009). It has been influenced by gentrification from 1960s (which has been described as a fundamental reason of the Brexit). However, the recent argument is how to make this student market better in terms of the internationals’ urban experiences. There are many limitations of students living in the large city, especially Single Youth population.

In this research project, named Solo SOS, I deal with the single youths’ consumer behavioral disorder issue, such as (a) housing problem living in a large city and (b) problems coming from low income. Further, I research this topic with the local connection concept using city creative business infrastructure to resolve. To do so, first, I define some terms and arguments and second, I discuss with how suggested issues are linked into creative business with social innovation research projects.


In the City of London, there has been a tremendous increase of one-person households (OPHs; Single Households). As the alternatives, there are flats for share housing or co-living concept apartment; student accommodation. Not only many single youths feel lonely, but also the well-systemised accommodations are in lack or expensive.

The goal of this research projects are followed:

(1) to rescue single youths are not lonely anymore alone, (2) to guide single youth to obtain various local information for living in a large city, (3) to change the perception about single youths’ spending habit in a large city, (4) to search a medium from the local’s supplies and single households’ demands.

Studentification In The City of London

The term Studentification was established by Smiths (2002) to describe the growth of high concentration of students within the localities of Higher Education Institutions (MacMillan Dictionary). Dictionary meaning is; “the social and environmental changes caused by large numbers of students living in particular areas of a town or city.”

Demographic research

Again, what single youths needs and wants? They want smart consumption, reducing useless spending, visualising their habitual expenditure, and suitable spending and saving to living in large city like London. Most single youths are Millennials, Generation Y. The figure below shows the articulation of the single youths’ desired behaviors on selective affinity. Single youths have different selective affinity depends on their independency level.

How Single Youths’ Independency effects on selective affinity

Correlation of Spending Patterns and Single Households

Research Question: How might we change single youths’ perception about their buying habits living in the large city? What can city service suppliers (e.g. institutions, universities, organizations) help and guide for single youths’ networking and allow them to efficient living in London (specifically which fields)?

I interviewed to Money-Kit text population with the following questions; (1) How was it different before and after use Money-Kit? (2) What was the main spending? Did you get any external impact? (3) How did you find your buying patterns change while you participate in the Money-Kit challenge and what was different in your mind? (4) How do you think the success factors in the Money-Kit? (5) Self-reward spending versus Self-reliance cost? (6) How do you think the most positive or negative of the single youth households? And how does this influenced in your single living?

From the Money-Kit test population interview: “It is difficult to know if it is reasonable purchase. But it is true that I’d like to know where I spend my money in a right way. However, the Money-Kit is helping me to know my daily spending.”, “Money-kit experience was a challenge by myself to bring a limitation on my expenditure. This rash challenge quite helpful to reduce my purchasing habits, because of simple use experience, and free to write my own contents.”

Small Findings

From the Money-kit Challenge experience, I could learn more about where students money problems arise. For instance, many respondents spend much money on the weekends to meet their friends. For the rest of the week they then felt stressed to save more money. Single youths have a strong influence from the advertisement contents which can help their reducing budget, like coupon book or magazine (e.g. TimeOut London). Money-kit Challenge induced for single youths to limit their money expenditure, and help them organize their expenditure. Also, the purchasing rate is increased with their SNS usage in a day. The expenditure ranking result was shown like this: Ranking 1: Food and groceries consumption, Ranking 2: Renting house, Ranking 3: Education, Ranking 4: Travel (by the stats of single youth fifty (50) households in London).

Within this group, there are three purchasing types shown. It is described below:

Type A. Better Cheap: This type of people has a big satisfaction on spending a small consumption. They make a limit of consumption, calculating the whole product purchasing price. (Effective purchasing / value consumption rate: 52%, rational consuming behaviour)

Type B. Self-Bourgeois: This type of people invest freely on themselves. They put a large value for their qualitative living. (Consumption > Check the price, prefer self-rewarding consumption)

Type C. Empty Hands: This type of people prefers one-time (quicktime) consumption, so called buying experiences. (Experience-focused consumption / e.g. movie, camping, eating out, etc.)

Sun-Young HA | Trained as an industrial design engineer at South Korea and researched about innovation research in design management at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has worked as a designer and project manager in design firms and has researched about designers’ firm performance. Sun-Young is a strategic designer, innovation management researcher, and writer.


Adnett (2006). “Student finance and widening participation in the British Isles: common problems, different solutions” Higher Education Quarterly 60 296–311

Allison (2006). “Over-educated, over-exuberant and over here: the impact of students on cities” Planning Practice and Research 21 79–94.

Chamie. (Feb, 22, 2017). The rise of One-Person-Households.

Garmendia, M., Coronado, J. M., & Ureña, J. M. (2012). University students sharing flats: When studentification becomes vertical. Urban Studies49(12), 2651-2668.

Mosey. (2017). Studentification: the impact on residents of an English city”

Munro, M., Turok, I., & Livingston, M. (2009). Students in cities: a preliminary analysis of their patterns and effects. Environment and Planning A41(8), 1805-1825. (2017). BBC NEWS | Education | Move to end ‘student ghost towns’. [online] Available at: [Accessed 9 Mar.

Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2014-2020). Number of International Visitors to London.

Sage J, Smith DP, Hubbard P (2012) The rapidity of Studentification and population change: there goes the (student)hood. Population, Space and Place, 18, pp: 597–613.

Universities UK. (2006b). “‘Studentification’: a guide to opportunities, challenges and practices”, Universities UK, London

Applying McLuhan’s Tetrad To The UX Business Model Design

UX Interaction via Medium

Today’s modernists have been led to make a decision with multiple choices in a complex situation. Namely, it becomes ambiguous to distinguish whether this decision is right (fit) or not. I, as a creator, provide commodities with a point of view that I am a customer/user/end-user. Therefore, the fundamental meaning of McLuhan’s Tetrad is what will we offer our contents (=medium) to viewers (=customers/users).

McLuhan’s Tetrad Model is famously applied to analyze the functions and benefits of a medium, such as television or the telegraph. His main argument was that a medium does not just cover a message, but that a medium IS a message itself. Naturally, this does not just apply to traditional media, but also applies to every product, platform, and service to some extent. Therefore, this article explains how we can use McLuhan’s Tetrad Model to analyze and understand the effects a product brings to consumers, i.e., to design business models.

McLuhan’s Tetrad: Medium effects
(adapt from McLuhan & McLuhan, 1988)

McLuhan’s Tetrad (Marshall McLuhan, 1988); describes tetrad of media effects. Applied in a tetrad to examine the effects on society of any technology/medium by categorising its influences into four dimensions and displaying them at the same time.

Four axises: (1) Enhancement (figure): What the medium amplifies or intensifies – What does the medium enhance? (2) Obsolescence (ground): What the medium drives out of prominence – What does the medium make obsolete? (3) Retrieval (figure): What the medium recovers which was previously lost – What does the medium retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier? (4) Reversal (ground): What the medium does when pushed to its limits – What does the medium reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?

Digital Prophecies – The Medium as the Internet
Marshall McLuhan, 1977, “Medium is Message”


What it amplifies?

The preliminary assumption; ‘My life quality will be better via ‘this’ service (or product, platform itself, etc)‘ is one of the decisive factors finalised by the level of its quality. For instance, current social platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram) allow for people to reflect and share their living artifacts into a small digital screen. Every content is collected via hashtags leading automatic positionings, a core value. Re-defining the term “platform” in the author’s knowledge; it is a certain service journey frame for consumers (end-users) to collect different experience. Hence, social value, “what do I and we provide to you and myself,” is a matter to amplify our life quality.

“Medium is a message.”

Through this, what McLuhan’s message about the medium is about the emergence of the media and the perception change of society and humans, not only about the contents. Also, ‘tetrad’ is a schematic representation of these.


What does it make obsolete?

The flow of context, situation transition, and trend analysis, etc. These terms are referred when the products and services need to be positioned in a certain domain. To do so, it is crucial to prepare a keen key performance indexes (KPIs) for certain products. For key indicators, analysis of success and failure factors should be picked out, emphasizing the special individuality, so called personal singularity. Normally, the common problems of laggard of providers is always the absence of ‘how to‘, which do not have contexts of success and failure, in specific, there is no factor. However, this is totally different with obsolescence area.

“… the medium by which a human sense has been extended to the external environment and the existence which causes internal changes.”

McLuhan (1962; 1964; 1994) insists the process of reorganizing the medium and the structure of human senses and experiences, rather than the socio-cultural fluctuations of the external environment surrounded by media. Thus, McLuhan’s medium is not only set up in a simple environment and effects on one direction.


What original idea or ground is being brought back?

Recently, agile management and design thinking methodology have been argued in terms of getting a success on behalf of quick failures. Here, the McLuhan’s Tetrad model is contextually similar to the description of agile organisational behaviour in today’s management trend. In other words, the resurrection (or retrieve) strategy creates some challenges against as a result of strategic failure. Compare to the past, various failure and success cases of organisations have been extracted and the retrieve strategy’s diversity is being pursued through the redefinition of current firms.


What happens when pushed it to limits?

Innovation has double edged swords (Christensen ). No one can anticipate whether human’s challenge versus technology is reckless or innovative .

Universally, when we push human to their limits, a burnout happens which might be seen as overheated potato. However, as human, we never set aside this state. Learning from the failure experience, we set up the reverse planning. It is the era that new technologies replace what we used to do. For instance, AI technology produces countless creative outputs. Designers do not need to “design” anymore. What human can design is “how to use”. The medium, depended on how we define it, allows for human to flip into innovation.

Sun-Young HA | Trained as an industrial design engineer at South Korea and researched about innovation research in design management at Goldsmiths, University of London. She has worked as a designer and project manager in design firms and has studied of designers’ firm performance. Sun-Young is a strategic designer, innovation management researcher, and writer.