Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Net Gen and Web 2.0

Here's more evidence that suggests the need for skepticism when it comes to the hype about the Net Gen and technology use.

This article in The Social Computing Journal suggests that the growth in use of social networking technologies like Facebook, Twitter and Linked-In is not among the Net Generation but among older users:

"Baby boomers... are embracing popular consumer technology applications nearly 20 times faster than younger generations. Compared to a year ago, Gen Y consumers between the ages of 18 and 24, are decelerating their use of consumer electronics and related services including social networking, blogging, listening to podcasts and posting video on the Internet. Yet, there was a 67 percent increase among baby boomers reading blogs or listening to podcasts."

The article suggests three explanations for this:
1. The Net Gen are not early adopters but rather followers waiting to see what the older, more experienced peers latch on to before they jump in.

2. The Net Gen has an innate sense that too much connectivity and too much time online is unproductive

3. The Net Gen is all about being cool, and these tools are no longer leading edge, and therefore cool.

But maybe the real explanation is that this isn't a generational issue. Bennett et al. (2008), for example, suggest there may be as much variation within generations as between. So perhaps analyzing technology use in this way isn't very helpful. Certainly making educational technology decisions based on generation is not useful.

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