Analyzing the App Generation

The rapid innovation of digital media and its impact is as big as the introduction of the written word or printed messages.

This is according to Harvard psychology professor Howard Gardner, and I couldn't agree more. Gardner made this statement as he and co-author Katie Davis discussed their new book "The App Generation" at a packed First Baptist Church in Harvard Square.

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But what interested me most aside from the riveting back and forth between Davis and Gardner was the demographic of those in attendance. The crowd was dominated by baby boomers, all stepping up to the microphone and asking: Why?

"Why does my grandson Google more than he plays with toys?"
"Why do my students feel the need to complain when I don't allow electronic devices in in the classroom?"
Or my personal favorite: "How is my six-year-old granddaughter more skilled at using my iPhone than I am?"

The answer lies in the title of their book, "The App Generation."

I guess I have never really thought of being part of "the app generation," as the world of social media and digital nuances are second nature thanks to my millennial birthday. But what makes the app generation unique is that there are two types of paths to be explored: a path of app enablement and a path of app disablement.

To be "app enabled" means that you have an understanding of your apps, use them when convenient and really make an effort to have a life outside of your online presence. For those who are "app-disabled," these tech-savvy gadget hermits know nothing other than how many shares their Instagram photos have or how many Facebook friends they've acquired. The digital age has disrupted them, and to quote Gardner, "They are alone together with other people."

But what about the effects of apps in general? Yes, I use Facebook regularly, but I'm also immersed in Google Now and Feedly, where I can get real-time updates of news, sports, weather and other things that matter to me. In their talk, Davis and Gardner said they believe that the App Generation revolves around the three I's: Identity, Intimacy and Imagination. Depending on how you use apps, each of these three are affected. My take on the app generation is that it isn't limited to millennials. Yes, we have a better understanding of apps and the social realm that is now at our fingertips, but grandparents and toddlers are now utilizing this as well.

I believe we are all a part of the app generation and I'm interested to see where technology and apps in particular will take us. Will they make our lives easier, allowing for more travel and leisure? Or will they inhibit our ability to truly connect with those around us, as we may see the connectedness of digital media actually isolate its users.

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