Friday, April 20, 2012

The New Net Generation Myth

I guess it was bound to happen. As new technologies develop and spread, new myths are created.  We have had 10 years of unfounded hype about the "net generation" which we were told was fundamentally different than previous generations because of its exposure to digital technology. Never mind that most of these claims are not supported by research. Now we have many of the same claims being made but about the specific impact of mobile technologies and as a result we have new generational labels like the "mobile generation" or the "re-generation".

According to Tammy Erickson, in How Mobile Technologies are Shaping a New Generation, "the "Re-Generation" began to take shape around 2008. Individuals at the formative ages of 11 to 13, those born after about 1995, were part of a substantively different world than the one that had shaped 11 to 13 year olds over the preceding fifteen or so years...they are the first unconscious participants in an era when everyone has access to everything, everywhere, at every time. This is the generation of mobile technology, wireless communication, and clouds of constant content.

And what are the characteristics of this generation?

A pervasive sense of connection
Options (not obligations)
Anonymity and the ability to hide
Confidence and control . . . to be an initiator, designer, problem-solver

Sounds familiar. It is too easy to look at statistics on use and make all sorts of inferences but what good research has shown is that using a computer, tablet or smart phone for one task doesn't necessarily translate to others, doesn't make the user a sophisticated user of the technology and doesn't necessarily have any impact on other skills and traits.

Yes, the data clearly show widespread use of digital technology and mobile technology but it is a big leap from this to claims like,  " a generation of  unconsciously competent users of both computers and of the Internet. " or "a generation that is used to asking big questions — and is confident of finding answers. ... They have had the experience of digging deeply into a burning
question because they have access to a mountain of information."

We have only just managed to debunk the net generation myth. Let's not start again with a "regeneration" myth.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"They have had the experience of digging deeply into a burning
question because they have access to a mountain of information." Wow, what a whopper...what are the burning questions? How do they know? has their been any studies on the dynamics of creating a 'generational mind'? I always think of re-creation myths like this are really driven exclusively by Madison Avenue thinking.